By The Tribune-Review
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
The starters don't expect to play much -- if any -- Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers. Right tackle Max Starks, however, definitely will sit out the exhibition finale because of a left knee injury that was sustained against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
"He should be fine, but he will not play or dress," coach Bill Cowher said.
Starks has not practiced the past two days. Rookie Willie Colon is listed as the second-team right tackle, but second-year lineman Trai Essex is expected to start in place of Starks.
• Essex made four starts at left tackle last year when Marvel Smith was injured. He also played left guard this preseason against the Minnesota Vikings. Moving to the right side will be an adjustment, but Essex is confident he handle it.
"I have to be comfortable on the right side," Essex said. "I'm playing against the best, and I don't want to be the weak link in our offensive line."
Essex also thinks playing one more position will increase his chance of getting on the field.
"When the coach has confidence that you can play multiple positions, it definitely helps in the long run," he said. "It helps you dress on Sunday."
• Despite the changes up front and an inconsistent running game, Cowher said he is comfortable with his offensive linemen.
"I don't know if I'm concerned. We've been a little bit inconsistent there," he said. "Those guys have worked with one another, and I know what they can do. I would like to think we'll be fine there."
• Also sitting out the game against the Panthers because of injury will be wide receiver Hines Ward, tight end Jerame Tuman and defensive back Anthony Madison. All three players have hamstring injuries and did not practice again yesterday. Linebacker Joey Porter returned to practice after missing Monday's session because of tonsillitis.
• Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger watched some of Carson Palmer's preseason debut Monday night for the Cincinnati Bengals. In his first action since tearing up his knee eight months ago in a playoff loss to the Steelers, Palmer threw three touchdown passes against the Green Bay Packers.
"That's Carson Palmer, he's one of the best quarterbacks in the game right now," Roethlisberger said. "I know he doesn't like the Steelers, but I don't have a problem with him. I'm glad he's back, glad he's doing well. I hope he continues to do well all year, except when he's playing us."
• With a loss Thursday, the Steelers would finish exhibition play 0-4. The last time they had a winless preseason was 1987. They went 0-5 in 1965.
"I'm not worried about this team from a confidence standpoint if we go through this season 0-4," Cowher said. "If you're coming off a losing season or a couple of losing season and there's a culture you're trying to establish, it may play a factor. I'm not concerned with that with this football team. We've made some progress. Would I like to see us further ahead in some areas? Yes, I would. But we aren't."