By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged that there are several differences to both his Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals since the two teams met in Super Bowl XLIII Feb. 9, 2009, in Tampa, Fla.
When the Steelers (4-2) and Cardinals (1-4) meet again Sunday at 4:05 p.m. at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., the most significant is that the home team has a different offensive and defensive coordinator.
Ray Horton, formerly the Steelers secondary coach, is the D-coordinator. He joins a bevy of players and coaches who used to be with the Steelers. That should make it easier for the club’s scout team to mimic the Cardinals’ defense during practice this week.
“There are some similarities, no doubt, in terms of what he is doing out there schematically, and with what we are doing,” Tomlin said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. “But Ray is a very sharp coach. We have a great deal of respect for what he is capable of. He always had strong opinions when he was here, and you see some of those things on tape.
“It is Ray Horton and the Arizona Cardinals’ defense. There will be familiarity. It will help us a little bit in preparation, because the guys on our offense will be able to get a better, more quality look. They will probably play faster because of the similarities, not that it is going to provide some schematic advantage for us in the game or even from a preparation standpoint.”
The same thing, obviously, could be said for the Arizona defense in its preparation to face the Steelers’ offense this week.
The Steelers got some good news, as safety Troy Polamalu passed a concussion test and met with team doctors, who have cleared him to practice Wednesday.
Right offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (shoulder) is expected to return after a one-week absence. Gilbert has been hampered by this problem for several weeks now and re-injured his shoulder against the Titans. Jonathan Scott started for him last week and would get the nod again if Gilbert can’t play.
Left offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu (left knee) has missed three games, including the past two, after being sidelined throughout training camp with a knee injury. He started camp on the PUP and did not play until the final two preseason games. He is expected to return this week.
Doug Legursky, however, is going to be out several weeks with a dislocated toe. He’s wearing a walking boot to protect the toe, but it will not require surgery. He replaced Kemoeatu the past two weeks, so Trai Essex will be the backup and likely starter if Kemoeatu cannot play.
Several others are closer to playing and could get a shot depending on their progress this week. That group includes wideout Mike Wallace (hamstring), who could be limited early on. Running back Mewelde Moore (ankle) and outside linebacker Jason Worilds (quad) also are in that contingent.
Even if Worilds can play, Lawrence Timmons likely will continue to start at right outside linebacker with Larry Foote taking his spot on the inside. The outside linebacker spot is still in contention because James Harrison (eye) will miss a third straight game after surgery on his fractured right eye socket.
Two other players who have been out and will continue to stay on the sideline are nose tackle Casey Hampton (right shoulder) and defensive end Aaron Smith (ankle). Chris Hoke (stinger) started the past two games for Hampton, but could not finish. He is backed up by Steve McLendon, who would start if necessary.
Ziggy Hood has played the past two games for Smith, like he did the majority of last season after the 13-year veteran was injured. Brett Keisel gets a third straight start at right defensive end after missing two games with a knee injury, while rookie No. 1 pick Cam Heyward is the backup at defensive end.
The Steelers are 1-2 on the road this season with losses at Baltimore and Houston and a victory at Indianapolis. They have two huge home games following the Cardinals matchup, as the New England Patriots (Oct. 30 at 4:15 p.m.) and Baltimore Ravens (Nov. 6 at 8:20 p.m.) visit Heinz Field.
The Steelers made two moves to their practice squad. Running back Tristan Davis was cut to make room for returning safety Damon Cromartie-Smith. And linebacker Mortty Ivy was released and replaced by defensive lineman Elisha Joseph. He was on Green Bay’s practice squad. Ironically, his twin brother, Elijah Joseph, is on the Packers 53-main roster
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