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Steelers Steelers Notebook: St. Pierre will play a lot vs. Lions

Friday, August 08, 2003

By Ed Bouchette, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Rookie quarterback Brian St. Pierre will showcase his right arm for Steelers fans tomorrow for the first time since he and Boston College almost engineered an upset of the Pitt Panthers last fall.

Steelers rookie QB Brian St. Pierre will see his first action tomorrow. (Peter Diana, Post-Gazette)

This time, he'll drop back in the Steelers' pocket when they open the exhibition season against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

Coach Bill Cowher said yesterday he will play his first teams on offense and defense in the first quarter. Starting quarterback Tommy Maddox will yield to Charlie Batch, who will play the second quarter and probably start the second half. The rest of the game will belong to St. Pierre, drafted on the fifth round by the Steelers.

"He has a good presence about him," Cowher said. "He does not seem overwhelmed by everything. He makes good decisions, his anticipation is good and he has good mobility. I think his arm is plenty strong enough. He has flashed some good things, and at times he looks like a rookie. I like how he has handled everything, and the confidence with which he handles himself."

St. Pierre completed 18 of 34 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown in Heinz Field last year in an overtime loss to Pitt. But as a junior in 2001, he completed 14 of 21 for 241 yards and three touchdowns in Boston College's 45-7 thrashing of the Panthers.

Backups show

With Amos Zereoue out and Jerome Bettis playing for only one quarter, the coaches will get a good look at their other three tailbacks, Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, Verron Haynes and rookie Dante Brown.

Brown has been somewhat of a training camp success story through the first two weeks. He's 6 feet 1, 218 pounds and went undrafted, probably because he was only the second-leading rusher with 562 yards at Memphis.

He was the one player Cowher singled out when asked which youngsters have made an impression on him in camp.

"The one guy who flashes is Dante Brown," Cowher said. "This kid has shown some toughness, some speed. He has been able to hit holes. I keep saying, 'What is the hole in this guy? Why was he a free agent?'

The main practice field at St. Vincent College in Latrobe was covered with water from storms yesterday, forcing the Steelers t practice in the school's field house. (Peter Diana, Post-Gazette)

"You look at these guys, some of the free agents who may be fighting uphill battles, and these are the games that are important. The preseason games give guys like that a time to shine."

Comfortable secondary

Cowher isn't as concerned about his secondary as others might be after his pass defense slipped to 20th in the NFL last season.

"I am very comfortable with our secondary as a whole."

He praised the camp strong safety Mike Logan is having and noted that cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Nashville Dyer have stepped up with Hank Poteat missing time with a shoulder injury. Cowher also praised the response of second-year safety Chris Hope to being bumped from the dime defense Monday in favor of rookie Troy Polamalu.

"Maybe he was offended when Troy was put in there ahead of him," Cowher said. "I like the way he has responded. He hasn't said much, he is just going to go out there and play."

Quick slants

A heavy downpour that flooded the basements of some dorms at St. Vincent College in Latrobe caused the Steelers to move their only practice yesterday indoors on campus. ... Had they practiced outdoors, Bettis would have watched from the sideline. After getting kicked in the head Wednesday night, Bettis woke up with a stiff neck. Cowher said he will play tomorrow. ... Cowher declined to say who will start at tight end against Detroit. ... Cowher predicted that Poteat (shoulder) would return to practice Monday after missing more than a week. ... Quarterback Tim Levcik, who has missed the past week with a torn knee ligament, "is probably a little more than a week away," Cowher said. ... Tomorrow's game marks the debut of Lions Coach Steve Mariucci. ... It also officially opens the trash-talk season and wide receiver Hines Ward has heard it all. "They get personal with trash-talking, trust me," Ward said. "I've heard some bad things."

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