By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers got through a second practice session Wednesday in preparation for their matchup against the Baltimore Ravens Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Heinz Field, and Mike Tomlin said the club has begun working on situation football with the finishing touches added Thursday.
“I feel pretty solid about our base plan in all three phases, but it’s a process that you go throughout any week,” Tomlin said. “Whether it’s the divisional playoff rounds, the regular season or preseason, for that matter.
“So, I feel very good about where we are. But we have more work ahead of us, of course, but it was a good day today.”
It certainly was good for cornerback Bryant McFadden (abdomen) and safety Troy Polamalu (ankle), who are a day closer to returning to full action. While Polamalu sat again, adhering to his schedule of only practicing on the final day, McFadden and defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps) worked out on a limited basis. However, it must be noted that neither did much.
“If B-Mac can’t go, somebody has to step up,” Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor said. “We all know what’s at stake here. If you lose, you have to go home, and we definitely don’t want to go home yet. As soon as you lose, you have to pack up. That’s the worst feeling, and we don’t want to have that feeling.”
Willie Gay and Anthony Madison are next in line with McFadden out, as Gay takes his corner spot and Madison is in the slot in the nickel. Tomlin added that while McFadden has shown improvement, he’s erring on the side of caution.
“He’s a veteran player, and this is the third time that we’ve played this opponent,” Tomlin said. “So, we’re not going to take any steps backward from now until Saturday afternoon. I think that’s the most prudent approach to take, and he’s been readily agreeable to that.
“But he’s champing at the bit to go, because he’s a detail and preparation guy. However, I’m comfortable with where he is.”
Tomlin added that McFadden and Polamalu both were expected to practice Thursday. Smith won’t get an MRI until Friday, and his fate will be determined after that.
“That’s the litmus (test) for him,” Tomlin said. “This is not his first rodeo, and this isn’t the first time that he’s dealt with an injury. So, he’s a veteran player who’s seen about everything that this profession has had to offer, and he’s dealing with it appropriately.
“We take an iron sharp as iron approach when we get a bye week, so we go Steelers against Steelers. And we had a very productive week a week ago. There’s always issues with time off, but I’d rather have them than play during wild-card week.”
New Kickers Going Strong
The Steelers replaced both kickers this season and added Shaun Suisham as a place-kicker when Jeff Reed was released and Jeremy Kapinos as a punter when Daniel Sepulveda was placed on injured reserve.
Suisham has missed just one field goal in 15 attempts, with a long kick for 52 yards and several others more than 40 yards. He also has made all 19 extra points. Kapinos has averaged nearly 42 yards per punt.
“(Suisham) has banged just about every kick that we sent him out to kick, and it starts there,” Tomlin said. “Not only that, but … he’s done specialty things as well on kickoffs with directional kicks and hang time. So, he’s been really good for us. We haven’t given him many opportunities to show his strong leg, of late, because of guys like Cribbs who we’ve faced, but he’s done a great job.
“(Kapinos) has done real well, too. Like Shaun, he’s been a real rock-solid addition, and you know that because we haven’t thought about their presence too much. We’ve gone about our business, and they’ve gone about there’s every day as well.”
Ravens Injury Report
Center Matt Birk (knee) and wideout Donte’ Stallworth (illness) did not practice Wednesday, while cornerback Chris Carr (thigh) was limited. Linebacker Tavares Gooden (shoulder) and safety Tom Zbikowski (back) were full participants.