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Center battle gets it first test


By Teresa Varley
One of the hottest battles in training camp this year has been at the center spot where Sean Mahan and Justin Hartwig are competing for the starting spot.

Mahan, who started all 16 games last season, will get the start against the Eagles at Heinz Field tonight and Hartwig will also see plenty of action.
"I think it's been one of the more highly competitive battles," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "I think both guys have shown some good things thus far in camp. I think that as we push more into the pre-season games that will give us more of an indication of how this thing is going to go." 

Running back Willie Parker will see his first game action since he suffered a broken right fibula against the St. Louis Rams last season.

"Willie is a really tough guy," said Tomlin. "I know visually he looks like Willie Parker. On the practice field he is Willie Parker. He has been good and we intend to use him briefly at the beginning of the football game as well.

Rookie wide receiver Limas Sweed should see some significant playing time against the Eagles and he is looking forward to showing Steelers fans what he brings to the table.
"I feel like I'm capable of doing a lot of things and come Friday night I finally get a chance to show what I can really do," said Sweed.

Punter Daniel Sepulveda has surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. While Sepulveda is done for the season, he will not be placed on injured reserve until the team reduces their roster to 75 since he is not a vested veteran.

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Casey Hampton remains on the physically unable to perform list, but Tomlin does feel that the Pro Bowl nose tackle is making progress.

"I think he is progressing pretty well," said Tomlin. "This process is running its course. He is closer to being ready to contribute and we will continue to monitor it."

The Steelers and Heinz Field will emphasize a fan code of conduct designed to create a safe, comfortable and enjoyable sports entertainment environment for all fans. The code of conduct was created by the NFL and its 32 clubs, and addresses behavior that detracts from a positive game day experience.

Tomlin loves the enthusiasm of Steelers fans, and hopes that they remain that way, while abiding by the code.
"As far as I know, our fans are great," said Tomlin. "They cheer for us and cheer for us appropriately. It's a great atmosphere to play in. I think it's something when you walk into the stadium as a visitor that you know it is going to be a hostile crowd. But you know, we are looking for hostile in the right way and I think our fans provide that. I'm excited about making that drive across the bridge to the North Side on Friday evening. That feeling doesn't get old and I'm looking forward to doing it on Friday night."

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