Cornerback Cortez Allen returned to the lineup for the first time in the preseason against the Kansas City Chiefs, and he did so with a vengeance.
Allen was sidelined for most of training camp and the first two preseason games with a knee injury that required minor surgery, but returned to the field with the attacking, physical style that is expected from Steelers' defenders.
"When you have Ryan Clark and Troy (Polamalu) back there and linebackers that don't mind hitting anything moving, you have to take on that personality even if we do play corner," said Ike Taylor. "When you see those guys put their face in the fan every play, it makes you want to do it. It rubs off."
The Steelers are working on an abbreviated schedule this week as they prepare for their final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. Players began Monday by watching film from the Chiefs game, but by the afternoon focus switched to preparing for the Panthers, a final shot for some young players to show what they are capable of.
"It's a big week for a lot of men and for our football team," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "A lot of work needs to be done this time of year, individually and collectively. I liked the manner in which they went about it today. It needs to be quicker and faster tomorrow. I let those guys know that."
Among those missing practice were linebacker Jarvis Jones (chest) and receiver Reggie Dunn (shoulder). Tomlin said Jones was sent to the hospital on Saturday night after he was injured in the Chiefs game not because they thought the injury was serious, but to play it safe.
"We just exercised caution under the circumstance and wanted to take very good care of him, and we did," said Tomlin. "He's going to be fine."
Offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum, who consistently lined up as a tackle eligible against the Chiefs with a shortage of blocking tight ends, twisted his ankle in practice but Tomlin didn't think it was serious.
Thursday night's game will be the final preparation for the regular season, and while the starters aren't expected to see much time, Ike Taylor isn't concerned about the defense being game-ready.
Taylor feels there are a few adjustments that still need to be made, but the most important thing is eliminating penalties, something that has dogged the team this preseason.
"Not giving them yards with the penalties, but making them have to earn yards," said Taylor. "We all know that. It will be difficult for them to just drive. You have to play some good teams and that is going to happen sometimes, teams are going to be able to drive on you. But when you give them yards, Christmas gifts early, it makes it easy on them and tough on our team. As long as we eliminate some of those things, we will be straight."