Wednesday, August 16, 2006
By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
On his third day back at work, Joey Porter not only made his presence known, but he introduced a new variation to his trademark get-that-stuff-out-of-here celebration.
In 11-on-11 drills midway through practice yesterday afternoon, Charlie Batch attempted to throw over the Pro Bowl linebacker, who is gradually returning to play on a surgically repaired knee. Porter promptly reached up and snagged the middle-length seam pass meant for Willie Parker and returned the football about 15 yards. Then, right in front of Steelers coaches and teammates standing behind the line of scrimmage and on a Saint Vincent College field surrounded by thousands of onlookers, Porter dropped the ball and gave it The Boot.
The crowd thundered its approval.
"You saw it," Porter barked at the media afterward. "There's only one 55 out there. I know you saw it.
"I knew they were going for Willie. I had an opportunity to make the play.
"I'm getting better each day. I'm tired. I'm definitely not where I want to be. It's only my third practice or so. I got a long way to go before I get in shape."
Whether he's able to play at 8 p.m. Saturday against Minnesota at Heinz Field remains to be seen. ... or decided by coaches.
Coach Bill Cowher said only, "He's doing fine. He's doing more and more each day."
Starting outside linebacker Clark Haggans was excused from practice at his request.
"Dismissed for personal reasons" was how Cowher termed it. "He should be back [today.]"
Sturdy backup James Harrison took Haggans' place with the first-team defense.
Not ready, not set
"I thought it was a good practice," Cowher said afterward. "Probably our best practices since we've been up here. There was hitting and a good pace. I liked it."
But, of course, there remain three exhibitions to play and plenty of practice to endure.
"We're not there yet," he added. "We're not that close to being there. But I thought we took a step there today."