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Old 11-25-2005, 12:40 AM   #1
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Thumbs up Good news !! Marvel will play on monday nite

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05329/612229.stm

On a day for giving thanks, the Steelers did just that and more when Marvel Smith, their injured left tackle, returned to his usual spot on the offensive line.

Talk about a big helping of optimism: Smith's return, which was sooner than expected, all but assures he will be ready to play Monday night in Indianapolis against the league's best pass-rushing defensive end, Dwight Freeney.

"I want to play," Smith said. "I don't want to miss any games. I don't feel right if I'm not out there and I feel I can fight through the pain."

That is a welcome relief to the Steelers, who were prepared to face the unbeaten Colts (10-0) Monday night with a rookie left tackle protecting the blind side of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will return after missing three starts because of knee surgery.

But it was more than just that. The game is in the RCA Dome, where the noise level will be the loudest the Steelers will hear all season and the offensive line will have to operate with a silent count. And the player applying the most pressure on Roethlisberger will be Freeney, who has 54 sacks and 25 forced fumbles in 3 1/2 seasons with the Colts.

Only one player in NFL history has accumulated more sacks than Freeney (47) in his first three years in the league, and that's Reggie White (52).

"If I'm sitting on the sidelines, there's nothing I can do to help the team," Smith said. "That's why they brought me here -- to come in and dominate each week."

Smith sat out Sunday's 16-13 overtime loss in Baltimore because of a high ankle sprain, an injury incurred a week earlier against the Cleveland Browns. He was replaced by rookie Trai Essex, a third-round draft choice who had never even dressed for an NFL game.

It was a tough assignment for Essex: Playing on the road against the league's No. 3 defense and defensive end/linebacker Terrell Suggs, the 2003 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. And it would have been even tougher against Freeney, a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end who had a league-high 16 sacks in 2004 -- the only Colts player to lead the NFL in sacks.

"That's as tough as it gets," said All-Pro guard Alan Faneca.

A high-ankle sprain usually would keep a player out at least four weeks, if it is a first-time injury. But Smith had the same injury to his ankle in college, which makes it easier to return in one or two weeks.

Because of playing Monday, the Steelers have an extra day of practice this week. But Smith didn't choose to wait another day to return, joining his teammates yesterday for a morning practice.

Barring some kind of setback, he will start against the Colts, who are second in the AFC with 32 sacks.

"He's a tough son of a gun," said offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.

"I feel like I can play through enough pain," said Smith, who was selected to the Pro Bowl last season. "Pain is a part of football."

Until Smith did not play against the Ravens, the Steelers had not had an offensive lineman miss a start since the end of the 2003 season -- when Smith missed the final four games with a neck/shoulder injury. Smith missed 10 games that season, forcing the Steelers to move Faneca to left tackle and causing plenty of juggling on the offensive line.

The Steelers tried more combinations than a safe-cracker to compensate for Smith's injury, and the performance of the offensive line suffered as a result. Coach Bill Cowher said Smith's injury was probably the biggest reason for the team's 6-10 record in 2003.

Cowher did not want that to happen again, especially after the Steelers' running game sputtered and quarterback Tommy Maddox was sacked six times against the Ravens. Essex got off to a slow start -- allowing Suggs to get around him twice on the first three plays -- and eventually settled down, but even Cowher acknowledged "there is room for improvement."

"I told him he could have played better," Cowher said.

The Steelers had to make some adjustments to help Essex, like lining tight end Heath Miller on the left side and using him to help in pass protection. Miller caught five passes against the Ravens, but many of those were late releases off the line of scrimmage, resulting in minimal gains.

It also made Faneca more aware of what was happening on his left side.

"I definitely need to pay a little more attention to things I take for granted with a guy like Marvel, a guy that knows everything," Faneca said. "I have to say a few more things to help [Essex] out and make sure he's on the same page, whether he might know it or not. It might just be a reminder or a reassurance."

The reassurance came yesterday.

And just in time.

"You always want to play against the best," Smith said, referring to Freeney. "He's relentless. He uses his God-given abilities on every play -- his speed and his quickness -- and he's on artificial turf with the noise. He might not be real big, but he's quick off the ball and he comes low around the corner. He uses all he has."
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Old 11-25-2005, 12:42 AM   #2
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Default Re: Good news !! Marvel will play on monday nite

Awesome news!!!
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Old 11-25-2005, 12:44 AM   #3
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Default Re: Good news !! Marvel will play on monday nite

Yippppppppppeeeee
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Old 11-25-2005, 12:48 AM   #4
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Default Re: Good news !! Marvel will play on monday nite

Yeah this is HUGE news considering the way Freeney loves to use his speed to get past the LT. Marvel is a pro bowl type player and he's got quick feet so we're gonna need him.
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Old 11-25-2005, 01:30 AM   #5
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Default Re: Good news !! Marvel will play on monday nite

This is great news.
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Old 11-25-2005, 02:13 AM   #6
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Default Re: Good news !! Marvel will play on monday nite

Is Big Ben in or out? I haven't had a chance to look yet.
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Old 11-25-2005, 08:16 AM   #7
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Default Re: Good news !! Marvel will play on monday nite

They are coming back , one at a time!
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Old 11-25-2005, 09:40 AM   #8
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Default Re: Good news !! Marvel will play on monday nite

Ben is in!! Smith is in!! Fast Willie is in!! I am feeling better everyday about this game monday night! Even if we do not win, they will have all the rust shaken off for next week (probably the most important game for the rest of the season!) against the Bungles!
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Old 11-25-2005, 09:45 AM   #9
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Default Re: Good news !! Marvel will play on monday nite

This is very good news... Essex would have had his hands full with Freeny.
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Old 11-25-2005, 10:07 AM   #10
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Default Re: Good news !! Marvel will play on monday nite

Sounds like Farrior will be back...I'm wondering if we will have the full compliment of RB's as well?

Regardless, I like it. They line their best up against our best on National TV with a captive audience (and surely the highest MNF ratings of the year) and we hammer away at each other for 3 hours, their finesse style against our punch-you-in-the-face physical style, and may the best team win!
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