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Steelers Steeler Report, 8/31/01

Friday, August 31, 2001

From local dispatches

Healthy Bettis takes a seat on the sideline

Jerome Bettis was the only healthy starter Coach Bill Cowher did not play last night, figuring The Bus had nothing to prove.

This has been Bettis' best preseason with the Steelers, although he has not played much. He carried only 16 times in three games for 68 yards and a touchdown.

"My body feels good," Bettis said. "I've been jumping around, flying around. The guys are asking me what's going on, what are you doing? I feel pretty good. The trainers have been taking care of me, making sure my knee doesn't swell up. They're kind of being real careful with me. It's been fine."

Keeping five WRs

Kevin Colbert, the team's director of football operations, indicated the Steelers might keep only five wide receivers on their 53-man roster, not six as in past years.

Colbert said the team would deactivate a wide receiver for regular-season games if it kept six on the roster. Because of that, he said the Steelers might elect to keep only five receivers and put at least one on the practice squad.

"We could keep only five and use that [extra] spot at another position," he said on a pregame radio show.

That means the final spot could come down to four players -- veteran Will Blackwell, first-year receiver Demetrius Brown and rookies Chris Taylor and Tim Baker.

Colbert said each player offers something a little different. Brown is 6 feet 3, 210 pounds and caught a 33-yard touchdown last week against the Lions; Taylor, the team's seventh-round choice, is the fastest receiver; and Baker, an undrafted free agent, has played very well on special teams.

Blackwell is also the team's top kick returner, but the Steelers have experimented using Hank Poteat and Troy Edwards in that role, just in case.


For weeks, Troy Edwards kept saying how much he wanted to score -- something he failed to do throughout the 2000 regular season and the final two games of his rookie season. Against Buffalo, he sidestepped an approaching Kenyatta Wright and sped down the left sideline for a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown midway through the second quarter.

He finished with three punt returns for 86 yards and a kickoff return for 19 yards.

"I'm just trying to be a team player," he said. "I think I have gotten better since last year, by far. I just want to be on the field. I'll play running back, I don't care. I'm tired of the sideline. I'm frustrated there."

Poteat gets playing time

Dewayne Washington played only one series and was replaced at right corner by Poteat. Washington had not played since sustaining a concussion in the second preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Washington was on the field for the start of the second defensive series when Poteat was sent in from the sideline. Washington waved to the bench as if to say he didn't want to come out, but it didn't matter. Poteat stepped in and played there the rest of the first half.

Defensive coordinator Tim Lewis said Poteat, a second-year player from Pitt, has improved steadily in his coverage skills and has merited more playing time. But the Steelers would like to get him more action because their backup corners, Deshea Townsend and Jason Simmons, are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.

Protection troubles

Right tackle Marvel Smith allowed his fourth sack in the past three games when defensive end Bryce Fisher slipped inside of him and spilled Stewart for a 7-yard loss on the second series.

Quick hits

Simmons left the game in the second quarter with what was described as a "stinger," sustained when he collided with Buffalo running back Sammy Morris, who also limped off. ... Fullback Jon Witman was dressed in full gear along the sidelines but it was announced before the game that he would not play. Witman and fullback Dan Kreider might resume practicing Monday. ... Reports that the NFL has been training replacement officials in Latrobe were incorrect. ... Tight end Corey Geason's left foot was sprained in the second quarter. ... Brown left game in the third quarter after sustaining a hamstring strain. ... For the second consecutive game a crowd of less than 58,000 turned out at Heinz Field, which holds 64,450. Last night's attendance was 57,899.

Post-Gazette sports writers Ed Bouchette, Gerry Dulac and Chuck Finder contributed to this report.

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