By Teresa Varley
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat out practice on Thursday for a second straight day, still hampered by a sore right shoulder that he suffered in the season-opener against the Houston Texans. In his absence Byron Leftwich got the snaps with the first-team offense.
"He felt a little better today," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "In a nutshell he wasn't quite well enough to go. It was another opportunity for Byron to get some reps and we proceeded on.
"It's the same situation he has been dealing with. It got better last week and he was able to practice on Thursday. He wasn't able to practice this Thursday. Is that any indication of where it is, probably not? But it's an opportunity for Byron to get some snaps and drive the bus if you will."
Despite the lack of activity for Roethlisberger this week Tomlin still feels that he will be ready to go on Sunday night when the Steelers travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars.
"Like in recent weeks I think he is going to be fine," said Tomlin. "But we have all of the confidence in the world in Byron if that should happen as well."
The news might not be as good for defensive end Nick Eason, who missed practice again on Thursday with a groin injury.
"It's not looking good for him this week," said Tomlin. "We'll see. He hasn't gotten any better pushing him toward game readiness. We're hopeful, but that's where we are with him right now."
The Steelers are already without nose tackle Casey Hampton (groin) and defensive end Brett Keisel (calf) for the Jaguars game and if Eason can't go it will leave them with just four defensive lineman – Aaron Smith, Chris Hoke, Travis Kirschke and Orpheus Roye.
"We're going to have to mix and match a little bit," said Tomlin. "We'll get somebody in there, I promise you that."
Mewelde Moore will start at running back against the Jaguars, but he won't be the only one seeing action.
"We are prepared to be a running back by committee if you will," said Tomlin. "You know the contributors."
Najeh Davenport and Gary Russell, both signed to the roster this week, will provide relief for Moore as Carey Davis has not practiced yet this week after suffering a sprained ankle against the Ravens.
"We're hopeful, but we don't have any evidence he will be prepared to play," said Tomlin. "Such is life."
There hasn't been any decision who will start at right guard for Kendall Simmons, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a ruptured Achilles. Darnell Stapleton and Trai Essex are both in the mix, but Stapleton has seen more reps with the first team this week.
"He has more recent history at the position in terms of practice," said Tomlin. "Trai has been concentrating on swing tackle. Both guys will get work. We haven't made a final decision there. We really don't have to until Sunday night."