Bracing for the Patriots

RYAN'S HOPE: Linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee) was upgraded from limited to full participation in practice and anticipates being able to return to the lineup on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.

"I expect to play," Shazier said. "I did everything out there today that I normally do.

"At the end of the day the coach still gives the 'yes' or 'no,' I feel great. We're just going to have to see what he says."

Shazier has missed the last three games after being injured on Sept. 25 at Philadelphia.

He wore a knee brace in practice that he may or may not wear in games.

"We're just testing it out," Shazier said. "I went without it yesterday and with it today.

"I feel like I'm still 4.3 (in the 40-yard dash) with the brace. I think I was still 4.3 when I had the injury, I just couldn't go side to side as well."

Shazier is eager for another shot at the Patriots after last season's season-opening, 28-12 loss in New England.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had five catches for 94 yards and three touchdowns.

"They just tied to get him in space and get him in mismatches," Shazier. "They got us in a few tough situations last year. We didn't communicate as well as we normally do.

"They got the best of us last year but we definitely have dotted all of our i's and crossed all of our t's for this year and we're ready to play them."


The Steelers prepare for the Week 7 matchup against the New England Patriots.

STILL ON HOLD:** Tight end Ladarius Green (ankle) is eligible to come off the Reserve/PUP list and begin practicing this week but hasn't yet.

"I didn't practice today," Green said. "I just did some routes and some blocking stuff, that's it, not a lot.

"It's a day-by-day thing, it's up to the coaches. They see what I can and can't do. I think any competitor would say he can go. I feel like I could but it's up to them."

Green had been thinking about returning to practice at the outset of this week.

"It was a hope but it's not up to me," He said.

He's uncertain about how much practice time he'll need before he can play in a game.

"I feel like I could play (relatively quickly) but it's different when you get out there," Green said. "When I get out there I might need weeks to practice. I think the coaches are trying to do what they think is best for me and best for the team, so we'll just stick with that."


SIZE MATTERS:** Gronkowski is 6-foot-6, 265 pounds and tight end Martellus Bennett is 6-6, 275 and Steelers cornerback Stephon Tuitt has noticed.

"They are definitely big athletes," he said. "I think it's something that is rare even in the NFL, to see guys of that size and speed and the way they move, they can shift their weight. But this is the NFL, you're going to see guys like that. You're going to see guys like (Jets wide receiver) Brandon Marshall. You're going to see guys like (Bengals wide receiver) A.J. Green. You;re going to see guys like Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski."

Cockrell said the Steelers also have some size at their disposal to deal with quarterback Tom Brady's array of targets.

"I think it just goes back to being disruptive," Cockrell said. "A guy that has my size (6-0, 191), a guy that has Artie's size (cornerback Burns, 6-0, 197), (safety) Sean Davis (6-1, 202), guys that can move well that are a little bit bigger, we're going to be able to put our hands on some of these guys and disrupt them and disrupt their timing."

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