By Mike Bires
PITTSBURGH _ Lawrence Timmons will not be in the starting lineup Thursday when the Steelers open the 2009 season against the Tennessee Titans.
Timmons, an inside linebacker, is still recovering from an ankle sprain. He was hurt in the Aug. 29 preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
Taking Timmons’ place in the starting lineup will be Keyaron Fox, a sixth-year pro who played only special teams last season when he joined the Steelers via free agency. Fox played very well when playing linebacker the past several weeks at training camp and in the preseason games.
Timmons was the only member of the 53-man roster who didn’t practice Monday.
WASHINGTON HOPES TO PLAY AGAINST EX-TEAMMATES
Last year, Nate Washington helped the Steelers win the Super Bowl as their No. 3 wide receiver. This year, he’s trying to help the Titans win in it all as one of their starting receivers.
Washington, who signed with the Titans during the off-season as un unrestricted free agent, just hopes he’ll be able to play Thursday. He’s questionable with a pulled hamstring.
”It feels pretty good. It actually feels more than pretty good,” said Washington, who sat out the final two preseason games. “Being that this is my first real pull, they sidelined me. They are trying to take every precaution. I have just been trying to listen to the coaching staff and training staff and go off what they think is best for me.
“I want to play so bad that I am trying to stick it in my head that the season is much bigger than just this game. But this game means a whole lot to me. Not just having an opportunity to start this game but to be playing against some guys who helped raise me. It’s going to be a major opportunity for me, and I’m excited about that.”
When asked if he will play, Washington said, “I am not allowed to answer that at this point in time.”
STEELERS DOWNPLAY WHITE’S “TERRIBLE TOWEL” STOMP
The Steelers have remained relatively mum the past few days when asked about Titans running back LenDale White, who disrespected the “Terrible Towel” after Tennessee beat Pittsburgh last year in Nashville.
The Steelers and Titans meet again Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at Heinz Field.
“You guys (in the media) can write stories about it, but it’s not going to make us hit any harder or play any harder,” Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said. “We’re going to play hard and play tough because that is what we do.”
Last year with time winding down in the fourth quarter of that 31-14 win over the Steelers last season, White and linebacker Keith Bullock were caught on camera stomping on a “Terrible Towel.”
On Sunday, White told reporters in Nashville that, “If it happens to be there, I’m going to stomp all over that, man. If (Steelers fans) throw a towel in my face, I’ll kick it and stomp all over it.”
Still, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says he couldn’t care less about such antics.
“The reality is that this is a big game because it’s our opener, and we want to be a quality football team,” Tomlin said. “What happened last year for us is in our rearview mirror. That’s all, quite frankly, about that.”
KICKING OFF THE NFL’S KICKOFF WEEKEND
Since 2004, the reigning Super Bowl champs have hosted the first game of the NFL’s regular-season schedule on a Thursday night. This year, the Steelers are doing it for the second time in the past four years, and they’re excited about it.
“We’re playing on prime time … it’s on a Thursday night … everyone will be glue to see how the world champions start off this year,” wide receiver Hines Ward said.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” added quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, “because you know all your peers are watching, everyone else in the league is watching. You’re the only game. It’s the first game of the year. It’s so exciting. We’re excited. It’s a five-star match-up. What better way to start the year.”
Three first-year players who survived the final cut have changed jersey numbers.
Wide receiver/kick returner Stefan Logan has switched from No. 41 to No. 11.
Wide receiver Shaun McDonald has traded in No. 87 for No. 81.
Rookie cornerback Joe Burnett will wear No. 27 instead of No. 40.
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