By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — For all those who believe the Pittsburgh Steelers should rest quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and center Maurkice Pouncey on offense, don’t hold your breath.
Roethlisberger and Pouncey, who both suffered left high-ankle sprains, were full participants in practice Wednesday. Linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring) and wideout Emmanuel Sanders (right foot) also got through a full practice.
“It felt great out there with all the guys around, working hard, getting a good sweat in,” Pouncey said. “It was awesome today. I seemed to jump right back in there, but I know I’ve got to get a little more conditioning in before this game. I really didn’t do anything the past couple weeks.
“But I feel great now. So, I have to turn it up a notch now. Not that I’m not in shape. I’ve been in great shape all season, so it won’t take me long to get back into it. It’s been a long two weeks, but I’m ready to play a game.”
Roethlisberger was unavailable after practice, but prior to going onto the field he had plenty to say about how he felt going into this week’s preparation.
“We’ve gotten a little better every day, so we’ll give it a shot today and see how it feels,” Roethlisberger said. “I’d like to play just because I like being out there, but I don’t know that I necessarily need it. It would be nice to get another week of rest, but I prefer to play.”
Roethlisberger and Pouncey will continue to wear the plastic-molded braces for their ankles to keep them stabilized. Pouncey said his worked well, as he was unable to turn the ankle with it on. Roethlisberger still has some issues.
“The pain is always going to be there, but I can deal with that,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s not setting myself to get hurt or do anything more to my ankle. It’s gotten a lot better in this past week, but the big thing is the weight-bearing on top of my toes. That goes with running and throwing and stuff like that.
“So, strengthening it for those things is what I’ve tried to do the most. … Coach Cowher always said that I complain too much (about the injuries). But I don’t care if people think I’m tough or not. I just care if the guys in this room know that I’ll go out there and give it all that I have for them every week.”
Pouncey said he felt good before practice and after it.
“I’m fine,” Pouncey said. “I feel good, and I’m pain-free right now. … I’m most definitely going to play this week. You have to believe this one. I re-tweaked it this year. It’s the same ankle that I hurt before the Super Bowl. I couldn’t walk before the Super Bowl, but I can walk now. So, it’s not as bad.
“But it’s the same type of injury on the same ankle. I tried to practice early last week, and it didn’t feel right. So, I didn’t think I could go. We’ll see how things go this week, but I plan on playing at Cleveland. I thought I’d be back before now, so it hasn’t come back to me as quickly as I thought it would be.”
Among those limited in practice Wednesday were outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (left hamstring) and wideout Mike Wallace (right ankle).
“This is an injury that’s going to be around for a while, probably not going to completely heal for the rest of the year,” Woodley said prior to practice. “And even though you know it’s not 100 percent, you’ve got to go out there and try to push it. But you might have minor setbacks, so I’m trying to be smart with it now and not do anything that will keep me out of the playoffs.
“I went out there in San Francisco and played into the third quarter, and a lot of people didn’t expect me to play that long coming off a hamstring injury. So, I think I did a great job, rushing the quarterback and dropping into coverage, but then it got a little fatigued. That can happen when you get so many reps after not getting those reps in practice or other games. So, I expected it to happen.
“I was supposed to be on a snap count in San Francisco, but that didn’t really happen,” Woodley added. “I never want to limit myself at all. You want to be there for all the quarters, not just the fourth quarter, because they all count. It’s up to the coaches and whatever they want to do, we’ll do it, but if it’s up to me I’m staying out there and playing the whole game.”
Woodley still believes he could be an effective player for the Steelers even if he’s not at 100 percent. He could test that theory Sunday at Cleveland.
Rookie right offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert believed he would be back in the starting lineup this week after a one-game suspension from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for being late to a team meeting.
“This is something that I want to move forward from and put it behind me,” Gilbert said. “I wasn’t on time for a meeting, so I had to deal with the consequences. Now, I’m just trying to get ready for the Browns. I usually showed up early for a meeting, but this was just a mistake that I made.
“And now I want to focus on the Browns. This is something I don’t want to comment on too much, but we’ll just take it day-by-day and see what happens this week. I was in the building an hour before the meeting, so like I’ve said it was a mistake and it’s something that I’m trying to get past.”
Gilbert was asked if he was embarrassed by the incident.
“Not for myself, but it’s something where you feel like you let your teammates down,” Gilbert said. “Coach Tomlin did what he had to do, and I had to put up with the consequences, so I’m just trying to move forward. I feel fortunate to play for a team like the Steelers, and now I’m concentrating on the Browns.”
Four Steelers did not practice Wednesday: OLB James Harrison (neck), OG Doug Legursky (right shoulder), RB Mewelde Moore (right knee) and SS Troy Polamalu (knee). Legursky and Moore are expected to be out this week, while the status for Harrison and Polamalu is day-to-day.
QB Colt McCoy (concussion), WR Jordan Norwood (concussion), OT Tony Pashos (ankle, illness) and LB Quinton Spears (concussion) did not practice Wednesday. Those who were limited included WR Josh Cribbs (groin), RB Peyton Hillis (elbow), LB Kaluka Maiava (hand), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (foot) and DT Scott Paxson (hand, calf). However, OG Shawn Lauvao (ankle), RB owen Marecic (ankle) and CB Dimitri Patterson (hand) got through a full practice.