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Steelers Steelers Notebook: Simmons will play vs. Eagles

Friday, August 15, 2003

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Less than a week after returning to practice, Kendall Simmons discovered he will be doing something tomorrow night he didn't expect: Playing against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Simmons, who has been diagnosed with a diabetic condition and was taken off the physically unable to perform list Monday, is expected to play at least a couple of series in the Steelers' home preseason opener against the Eagles, Coach Bill Cowher said.

Cowher did not say if Simmons will start at his normal right guard position, which has been manned by Keydrick Vincent in Simmons' absence.

"Ideally, I'd like to get him 18 to 20 snaps," Cowher said. "He's holding up well. I think he's sore. He's where those other guys were two weeks ago. He's had three days of practice, his first three days of hitting."

Simmons was diagnosed with hyperglycemia right before training camp and has been trying to regain the strength he lost when he dropped 30 pounds. He said the other day he did not expect to play against the Eagles, but that has changed.

"He's been monitored and hasn't had any adverse effects," Cowher said.

Levcik still out

Center Jeff Hartings (knee) and No. 4 quarterback Tim Levcik (knee) are the only players who will not play against the Eagles. Cowher said the starters will play the first half, but no longer. The quarterback rotation will remain the same as last week, with Tommy Maddox starting and Charlie Batch coming in either late in the second quarter or to start the second half. Rookie Brian St. Pierre will play in the fourth quarter.

"We want to get Charlie in there and make sure we got a good group with him," Cowher said.

Levcik, who played at Robert Morris, was injured in the first week of practice and has not returned. Cowher said he did not know when Levcik would return.

Levcik was signed as a first-year free agent in the off-season to compete for the No. 3 quarterback spot. But his chances grew slim when the team drafted St. Pierre in the fifth round.

"It's hard to evaluate a guy who's not practicing," Cowher said.

Weathering a storm

Cowher said the bad weather that plagued camp and forced the Steelers to use alternate practice sites has hindered his team's performance. And he said it showed in their preseason opener in Detroit.

Even yesterday, despite not having any rain, the Steelers had to practice on the upper fields because the lower fields were saturated with water.

"We are definitely not where we need to be at this point," Cowher said. "I thought we got a good start to camp, but last Wednesday night, when we were down at Offutt Field [in Greensburg], that was really the last productive practice we had up until [Wednesday] when we had to practice at Penn Trafford.

"With all due respect to these high schools, it would be nice if we could stay here and conduct practice here, but we haven't been able to do that because of the weather and condition of the fields. I think it's put us back. It's set us back a little bit.

"You have a practice Wednesday night, you get rained out and you're in the gym Thursday and in the gym Friday and you're trying to play a game on Saturday. I think we played a game just probably like that -- very sporadically and our timing was off. We came back [to camp], Monday was still not conducive to having a good practice, and Tuesday we have a storm for the first time in 35 years, according to Dick Hoak, that comes out of the mountains. Dick says everything that's over there will stay over there, and it didn't stay over there.

"We are behind. We are not where we need to be right now."

The Steelers have been forced to practice inside the St. Vincent College gym or move to another site five times since starting camp July 25. Cowher said he did not consider cutting camp short to return to the team's South Side indoor facility.

The Steelers break training camp next week, before their Thursday night home game against the Dallas Cowboys.

"We have some resources to go to if the rain continues, but it doesn't look like there's anything in the forecast," Cowher said. "I think we have some options and we have to utilize them."

Steagles to be honored

The Steelers will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Steagles, the 1943 team that was a temporary merger of the Steelers and Eagles, in pregame and halftime ceremonies tomorrow.

Six of the nine surviving members of that team will be honored at halftime -- quarterback Allie Sherman, defensive back Ernie Steele, center Ray Graves, tackle Al Wister, tackle Frank "Bucco" Kilroy and tackle Vic Sears.

The Steagles were formed when the National Football League had to limit rosters and cut back to eight teams because of World War II.

The Steelers will recreate the era in their "Turn Back the Clock" ceremonies, including broadcasting in black and white on the Jumbotron and airing World War II footage during the national anthem. All live entertainment will be done to reflect the 1940s.

Quick kicks

The heat index for the afternoon practice was 104, highest of camp. The only heat casualty was defensive end Brett Keisel, who had to leave midway through practice. ... RB Jerome Bettis got an unexpected, but welcomed, surprise from wide receiver Hines Ward. Ward doused him with a Gatorade bucket filled with ice water.

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