By Teresa Varley
With injuries mounting in the secondary the Steelers were forced to look outside the organization and sign cornerback Fernando Bryant as they prepare to take on the San Diego Chargers this Sunday at Heinz Field.
Bryant, a 10-year veteran, was originally drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999 and played for them and the Detroit Lions.
"We worked him out a couple of weeks ago and he had a very good workout," said Tomlin of Bryant. "We wanted to be prepared if injury set in we had a name to go to. It did happen and we were able to get him.
"He is trying to learn in a hurry. I am optimistic about his ability to do that. He is a sharp guy, a veteran football player. He will spend some time with our staff today and tomorrow and practice Wednesday and hopefully help us this weekend."
Bryant has started 109 games and has recorded 509 tackles and has seven interceptions.
He was signed because injuries will keep both Deshea Townsend and Bryant McFadden on the sidelines this week. Townsend suffered a hamstring injury against the Colts while McFadden is on the road to recovery after suffering a broken arm against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The running game could get a boost with the return of Willie Parker this week. After missing games earlier in the season because of a knee injury, Parker sat out the Colts game with a shoulder injury. It was reported that he had a torn labrum, but both Parker and Tomlin said that is not the case.
"To my knowledge Willie Parker has a shoulder subluxation," said Tomlin. "That is his understanding of it, mine and the staffs. The shoulder popped out briefly during the Redskins game and popped back into place. Adrenaline, or what have you, didn't allow him to recognize it during the course of the game. We came in (last) Tuesday and took a look at it. It was painful and sore at that time."
Parker was at the team's practice facility this Tuesday to work out and Tomlin is hopeful that he will practice on Wednesday and be ready to play by Sunday, although he will likely have to wear a shoulder harness to protect it.
Offensive tackle Marvel Smith could return to practice this week after missing several weeks with back spasms. Smith has not played since the Jacksonville game and has also missed practice during that time, so he will have to prove he is ready to go before he gets the nod to return to game-action.
"He has to show us quite a bit," said Tomlin. "He has missed some time. Not only in terms of health, but technically he has to be up to speed. He has to knock the rust off quickly if he is going to play this weekend."
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley is expected to return to the field this week, but Heath Miller is questionable.