Role reversal


END GAME:** Ricardo Mathews came to the Steelers as a veteran defensive end with an agenda.

"To fill a role and win a seventh championship, that's the main goal," Mathews said.

The specifics of Mathews' role have been altered, at least temporarily, in the wake of the ankle sprain suffered by defensive end Cam Heyward last Friday night in New Orleans.

Heyward has vowed to be back for the Steelers' regular-season opener on Sept. 12 at Washington.
In the meantime, "My role is to step up and fill that space," Mathews said.

Mathews, a seventh-year pro, came to the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent from San Diego.
He had one sack with the Chargers last season.

"If you ask me to be cutthroat, I didn't produce enough," Mathews said. "I was in on all passing downs."
He sensed "another opportunity" upon signing with the Steelers.

"And a better opportunity," Mathews added. "With the offense that we have, the defensive caliber of players we have, we really have a chance of going all the way.

"That's what our focus is."

LEFT, RIGHT, RIGHT: Ryan Harris opened training camp alternating with Alejandro Villanueva at left offensive tackle.

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

But Villanueva has started all three preseason games at left tackle.

Harris started at right tackle for Marcus Gilbert on Aug. 18 against Philadelphia and took over when Gilbert went down with a hyperextended elbow against the Saints.

Gilbert, like Heyward, has said he'll be ready for the Redskins.

The Steelers are asking Harris to fill the void in the interim.

"Today they did," Harris said. "I'll continue to do what they ask."

To that end, Harris is unconcerned about being asked to play left tackle, right tackle or swing tackle in a reserve role.

"I'm happy to be here in Pittsburgh right now," he said. "The Super Bowl is 25 weeks away. If that's what we're going to do, a lot can happen between now and then. The more I can help in any way, the better for the whole team, and that's what I'm about."

Harris won a Super Bowl with Denver last season, then signed with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent.

"It's better than I thought it was going to be," he said. "It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't been on a different team but the atmosphere here is great. It's very enjoyable, the guys on this team are just awesome guys and incredibly talented, especially on offense.

"It's been a lot of fun."

LOOKING AHEAD: No. 2 pick Sean Davis, a Washington, D.C. native and a product of the University of Maryland, acknowledged he's already looking ahead to the Redskins game.

"A little bit," he said. "It's going to be a blessing, a dream come true, playing back at home, starting as a rookie, with family, friends. It really is going to be a dream come true to be back at home for my first NFL game."

Davis has been "starting" as the nickel cornerback in the five-defensive backs "nickel" defense.

It's a position he intends to maintain.

"Once I get something, I don't give it back," Davis said. "I'm the starting nickel and my expectations are I'm going to be the starting nickel for the rest of the season. That's how I feel and I'm going to continue to prove that and put that on tape."

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