WEDNESDAY’S POST-PRACTICE BUZZ
By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — While team captain Ben Roethlisberger was contrite and apologetic Wednesday for his actions after the loss at Dallas, running back Rashard Mendenhall displayed neither characteristic.
Back on the practice field for the first time Wednesday since his week-long suspension for not attending the Steelers’ Dec. 9 home game with San Diego, spoke to the media after practice and said he didn’t want to discuss the suspension, his reasons for missing the game or if he talked with his teammates about it.
“It’s good to be back,” Mendenhall said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I’ll just take it day by day (his go-to response). … I talk to these guys every day. These are my teammates. This is my family, and I talk to them all the time. So, they were very supportive.”
After rushing for more than 1,100 yards in 2009, nearly 1,300 in 2010 and 928 last fall, Mendenhall has played just four games and rushed for 113 yards on 34 attempts this season. He had 29 rushing touchdowns the past three seasons combined, but none this year.
Mendenhall missed the opening three games while recovering from offseason knee surgery, and an Achilles injury cost him three more. He was inactive three games and suspended last week. So, some might call this a nightmarish season for the fifth-year veteran.
“I can see why it appears to be that way, but no,” Mendenhall said. “Not at all. Nothing has changed this year for me with the way that I’ve worked, the way that I’ve prepared and the way that I’ve grown. It’s been the same. Outside circumstances have been different, but for me nothing has changed at all.
“I don’t know what decisions were made up there, and how they’re made. It’s just for me, from the day I got here, just continue to work as hard as I can and do everything I can and with that I’m OK and I’m happy and I can look at that and be pleased with that. So, I’ll just continue to work, and whatever happens — whatever opportunity’s in front of me — it’ll show itself.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who makes the decisions up there, believed that Mendenhall was just frustrated with being deactivated so often.
“I wouldn’t use that word,” Mendenhall said. “There’s a lot of thought that goes into anything that I do, so it’s just that for me I’m just glad to be back and taking it one day at a time. I don’t know what chances or opportunities that I’ll get, but I’m going to work every day and help wherever I can.
“I’ve felt great this whole time, and I worked out this whole time. So, I’ll be all right. I felt like I’ve gotten better every week since my (Achilles) injury, so I want to continue to do that.”
King for a day
Fourth-year veteran cornerback Justin King, signed this week by the Steelers and added to the 53-man roster, believed he could make an immediate impact.
“I think I can help immediately, on special teams and some other things,” King said. “The defense, it’s just a matter of picking up the schemes and learning the different terminology and communicating with the other guys. So, I’m confident in my abilities and myself, and we’ll see what happens.”
King attended Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pa. and Penn State.
“Being from Pittsburgh, I think I’ve come full circle now by signing with the Steelers,” King said. “I got released by Indianapolis in Week 7, and I had a workout with the Steelers about a week and a half ago. They called me back this week, so it’s just a blessing to be here.
“And I want to contribute in any way that I can. I thought the workout went pretty well for me, and I’m here now. I was coming from a workout in Houston, and I came to Pittsburgh on a Wednesday. There was a lot of emotion that week, just being back here, and now signing with the Steelers is great.”
King will wear No. 37.
The last time the Steelers played the Bengals, cornerback Ike Taylor covered standout Cincy wideout A.J. Green like a blanket. Green had a touchdown catch, but it was his only reception. Taylor did not practice Wednesday and will miss a third straight game with an ankle fracture.
“It’s definitely going to be me and A.J.,” cornerback Keenan Lewis said. “You all know what the matchup is going to be. So, I decided to take on that challenge, to see where I’m out and see where he’s at. He’s one of the best in the league at what he does, and I’m looking forward to the matchup.”
Lewis (hip flexor) practiced on a limited basis and said he’s still sore, but quickly added that he’ll be ready to go Sunday.
The best practice news was that cornerback Cortez Allen, who missed the last game with a groin injury, was a full participant and is expected to play. Along with Lewis, wideout Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) and offensive Mike Adams were limited in practice.
Adams said that he’s moving OK right now, but he didn’t sound too optimistic about his status. He just returned to practice after missing the previous three games with a sprained ankle. Adams started six straight games at right tackle.
Along with Taylor, defensive end Cam Heyward (not injury related), strong safety Troy Polamalu (not injury related) and defensive end Al Woods (illness) did not practice Wednesday.
For the Bengals, defensive end Carlos Dunlap (illness) did not practice, and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion) was a full participant. Place-kicker Mike Nugent (right calf), running back Cedric Peerman (ankle) and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (concussion) were limited.