By Teresa Varley
Head coach Mike Tomlin has yet to indicate who will start at defensive end for Brett Keisel on Sunday in Philadelphia, but whoever it is won't be expected to carry the load alone.
Expect a rotation with Travis Kirschke, Nick Eason and Orpheus Roye to pick up the slack for the absence of Keisel, who suffered a calf strain against the Browns.
"We followed the rotation principle at the defensive line," said Tomlin. "We have suited six guys and played six. Now is an opportunity for Orpheus Roye to step up into the rotation. It won't be one guy; it will be a collection of guys that get an opportunity to play in his spot. As always our standard of expectation won't change. We expect those guys to play and play at a high level."
Kirschke knows that the defense will miss Keisel's presence, but he is hoping that it won't show on the field.
"That's my job, when a guy goes down to hop in there and hopefully don't miss a beat," said Kirschke. "We are going to miss a special guy. He is a great player, great person off the field. But between myself, Nick and Orpheus we have a big job to fill and we look forward to that. Any time you have depth and can keep guys fresh that is an advantage for us. It's nice to have guy that are capable of doing. "
Kirschke and Eason shared playing time after Keisel left the Browns game and it's a role that Eason is ready for as well.
"I've felt better, more comfortable," said Eason. "By being more comfortable in this defense I'm able to play a little faster and with more confidence,"
Defensive end Aaron Smith said one of the keys is that nobody takes too much upon themselves and tries to overcompensate for the loss of Keisel.
"That would be the worst mistake you could make," said Smith. "The guys we have backing us up are very capable. On a lot of teams they will be starting. We will move on without missing a beat."
That will be a key as they face a tough challenge on Sunday against an explosive Eagles offense led by quarterback Donovan McNabb.
"He is tough. He is a great player," added Smith. "The way he gets creative with the ball he makes it hard. You don't want him to sit back there because he will pick you apart. You have to try to pressure him, but you don't want to pressure him too much so that he can run around and play free-lance football. It's kind of a catch 22 and you have to find a happy medium."
Practice Update: Linebacker James Farrior (back) guard Chris Kemoeatu (ankle) and wide receiver Hines Ward (no injury) participated fully in practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. Nose tackle Casey Hampton (groin) was limited on Wednesday but went full strength on Thursday. Cornerback Deshea Townsend (heel) and linebacker Donovan Woods (hamstring) did not practice for the second straight day.