On the mend

The reinforcements that are starting to arrive project to be ready for Cleveland if not Carolina.

"It felt good today," left guard Ramon Foster reported after practice this afternoon. "It's still one of those things where you have to evaluate, see how it reacts tomorrow.

"We're moving in the right direction."

Foster (knee) hadn't practiced since he was carted off the field on July 28 at Saint Vincent College, the third practice of training camp and the first conducted in shoulder pads.

He said he's been shooting for a return for the regular-season opener on Sept. 9 at Cleveland ever since learning he wouldn't need surgery.

Foster said he split first-team reps this afternoon.

The Steelers prepare for the Week 4 preseason matchup against the Carolina Panthers.

"We still have time until next week, there's no rush," he said. "There's no need to push the envelope and try to be Superman today.

"If I was in a pressed situation to play this week (in the preseason finale on Thursday night against Carolina), I could. But there's no need, we still have time."

Wide receiver Antonio Brown also participated in 11-on-11 drills, a relatively rare occurrence in what has been an uncharacteristic preseason for Brown due to a quad injury sustained in training camp.

"Good to see him out there, he looked good," tight end Xavier Grimble observed. "All I know is when it comes time for game time (in Cleveland), he'll be ready to go."

Tight end Jesse James practiced today after sustaining a back injury on Saturday afternoon against Tennessee.

"Jesse's fine," head coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's back out there working."

Grimble (thumb) said he's "very close" to being able to do the same.

"I'm trying not to take any steps back," he said. "If I had to go right now, I'd tape it up and do whatever I had to do. I'm trying to get it to a healthier state so I can keep going and I won't have any bumps in the road.

"I'll be good."

Outside linebacker T.J. Watt is apparently already there.

"Yeah, I feel great," said Watt, who has missed much of the preseason with a hamstring injury. "I feel really good right now."

Outside linebacker Bud Dupree felt really good about Watt's return today.

"The first two periods the whole defense was back except (strong safety) Morgan (Burnett)," Dupree said. "We have (almost) all our (starting) pieces back, so we're just trying to move forward."

Dupree added nickel cornerback Mike Hilton (foot) will "probably be back next game (in Cleveland). They probably won't rush him back for this game (against Carolina)."

As for what might happen when Burnett returns for Cleveland, as Dupree anticipates, "Terrell (Edmunds) has been doing a great job in Morgan's spot," Dupree observed. "It'll be good to see the rotation that they have.

"Everybody will be ready and we'll see what everybody does."