By Mike Bires
PITTSBURGH _ Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons returned to practice Thursday, but he didn’t sound like he’s ready to play football Sunday in Chicago.
After missing the Sept. 10 season opener against Tennessee with a high ankle sprain, Timmons has not yet fully recovered.
On Monday, Timmons predicted he’d play when the Steelers (1-0) take on the Bears (0-1) at Soldier Field.
But after Thursday’s practice, Timmons admitted that “I’m not 100 percent.”
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau agreed.
“He’s not game ready,” LeBeau said.
So there’s a very good chance that Keyaron Fox will make his second straight start in place of Timmons.
After missing practice Monday, Timmons returned Wednesday only to leave after aggravating his ankle. He did make it through Thursday’s practice but expressed concern for his availibility Sunday.
Only two Steelers missed Thursday’s practice. One was strong safety Troy Polamalu, who’s out three-to-six weeks with a sprained knee. The other is wide receiver Limas Sweed, who suffered a mid-foot sprain in the 13-10 overtime win over the Titans.
Sweed will not suit up Sunday in Chicago.
The No. 4 wideout will be Shaun McDonald, who didn’t dress against the Titans.
STEELERS EXPECT CUTLER TO REBOUND
On Sunday, the Steelers will face quarterback Jay Cutler for the first time in a Bears’ uniform. But they’ve faced him once before and lost.
That’s why they’re expecting to see a different Cutler than the one who served up four interceptions this past Sunday in a 21-15 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
“We were talking about it the other day,” Steelers safety Ryan Clark said. “The Jay Cutler we saw Sunday in Green Bay, that’s not the same guy we saw two years ago in Denver.
“I know that we’re expecting Cutler to play better this week. He’ll be at home. He’ll have the home crowd behind him. He is now their franchise quarterback. I expect to see the Pro Bowl Jay Cutler.”
Cutler, the 11th overall pick of the 2006 NFL Draft, played well against the Steelers in ’07. In leading the Broncos to a 31-28 win at Invesco Field at Mile High, he completed 22 of 29 passes for 248 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and an exceptional 106.7 a passer rating.
“Yeah, he did throw four interceptions. But I think a lot of that was first-game jitters, Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. “Cutler is a weapon. He does a lot of great things that you want from your quarterback. I can almost guarantee that he won’t hrow four interceptions Sunday.”
The Bears acquired Cutler in a trade in April. They sent QB Kyle Orton, two first-round draft picks and a third-roudner to Denver in exchange for Cutler.
HARRISON SKIPS PRE-GAME COIN TOSS
When outside linebacker James Harrison skipped the Steelers’ White House visit in May, his agent said, “That’s just James being James.”
Well, Harrison beat to his own drum again on Sept. 10 when he skipped the pre-game coin toss. Five of the Steelers’ co-captains went to midfield for the flip. But not Harrison.
“I don’t feel like I need to,” said Harrison, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year last season. “It’s a coin toss. We got three or four other captains who can go out there and do that. I don’t feel any need to go out there.”
The Steelers’ co-captains are quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Hines Ward for offense, Harrison and linebacker James Farrior for defense, and Fox and kicker Jeff Reed for special teams.
AFC HONORS REED
By connecting on two field goals in the win over Tennessee, Reed has been named the AFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week.
Reed’s first field goal, a 32-yarder, tied the score at 10-10 late in the fourth quarter. Then in overtime, his 33-yarder gave the Steelers their seventh straight opening-day win.
It was Reed’s ninth game-winning kick since joining the Steelers in 2002.
ROETHLISBERGER TRASHES BETTIS
Apparently, Roethlisberger doesn’t approve of the way ex-Steelers running back Jerome Bettis has made the transition from player to media type.
The star quarterback basically bashed Bettis for his comments in his debut Internet column on SI.com.
“Jerome knows he’s in the media, so I’ll laugh in his face, too,” Roethlisberger said.
Roethlisberger ripped Bettis for comments he made regarding the Steelers’ poor running game in the season-opening win over Tennessee.
Bettis also called the Steelers “a mediocre running team on their best day.” Bettis also said he “hasn’t seen much” from running backs Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall and that rookie fullback Frank Summers “doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on.”
Other Steelers, however, didn’t have a problem with Bettis’ comments.
“That’s what’s he paid to do now,” wide receiver Hines Ward said.