Coach Mike Tomlin is proceeding cautiously with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, limiting his work in practice but still planning on him playing Sunday night against the Cleveland Browns.
Roethlisberger returned to practice yesterday but did little more than attempt handoffs because of a sore right shoulder that was injured against the Houston Texans. However, he is expected to do more today.
"He's pushing toward game-readiness," Tomlin said. "We have to take it day by day. Sunday we'll go out and play and he'll be a part of that and there will be no excuses."
While Roethlisberger and left tackle Marvel Smith (groin) returned to practice, cornerback Deshea Townsend (heel contusion) missed his second day in a row. Tomlin said he doesn't know if the 11-year veteran can play Sunday.
"I really don't have an answer to that right now," Tomlin said. "He wasn't good enough to go today. As of right now, he's not game ready."
Sean McHugh is getting a crash-course in the offense and is expected to dress as the third tight end against the Browns.
McHugh, who played at Penn State and spent the past three seasons with the Detroit Lions, was signed last week to the 53-man roster.
"We're not throwing the entire playbook at him, that would be unrealistic, but he is functional in terms of the packages we're asking him to perform," Tomlin said.
Backup linebacker Andre Frazier was one of the players who got to witness the elusiveness of Browns kick returner Joshua Cribbs. Not that he enjoyed the experience.
Frazier was the last player to touch Cribbs along the sideline when he scored on a 100-yard kickoff return at Heinz Field last season -- a play in which Cribbs initially muffed the squib kick and escaped from four players who seemingly had him penned inside the 5, near the pylon.
Frazier and his special-teams mates have watched film of that play this week as they prepare for Cribbs, who is expected to play after missing the past three games with a high ankle sprain.
"We've watched it a lot," Frazier said. "We have to do a lot better this year. Everybody has to focus in and do their job."
Cribbs also had a 90-yard kick return in that Nov. 11 game that set up a Browns touchdown. He finished the season with the league's top kick return average (30.7) and was picked for the Pro Bowl.
"He has great vision and he's a full-speed player," Frazier said. "You don't see many stutter steps or too much reading with Josh Cribbs. That's why he's so dangerous."
Rookie RB Rashard Mendenhall has signed a three-year endorsement deal with Champion athletic apparel. He is the first professional athlete to sign with Champion in a decade, a company spokesman said.