By Teresa Varley
Things are looking up for the Steelers as far as injuries go, with several players expected to return to action this Sunday against the Bengals in Cincinnati.
Defensive end Brett Keisel will be back in the lineup after missing the past three games and running back Willie Parker is expected to return after missing two games.
"Willie practiced (Monday) and he is going to continue to get better with confidence as we push forward toward the weekend," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "He's not 100 percent. He looked pretty good and we will push forward."
Nose tackle Casey Hampton missed the last two games and it's possible that he will also be back in the lineup against the Bengals.
"We'll see how he does," said Tomlin. "He ran and looked pretty good. He'll probably run again (Wednesday) and we'll target Thursday as a practice day for him and see where he is."
Left tackle Marvel Smith sat out practice on Monday due to back spasms and will be monitored during the week. If he can't go, Max Starks would get the start in his spot.
Fullback Carey Davis (ankle sprain), linebacker Keyaron Fox (hamstring) and wide receiver Dallas Baker (shoulder sprain/separation) are all out for Sunday's game.
After a scare against Jacksonville it looks like kicker Jeff Reed won't miss any time and that the bye week came at the perfect time for him.
"Jeff better go," said Tomlin. "That is my mentality. I don't want to think about Jeff not going."
The team will consider using punter Mitch Berger on kickoffs if Reed isn't 100 percent, but that won't be determined until closer to game time.
"That's something well take a look at," said Tomlin. "Jeff's recovery as the week progresses will determine the direction we will go in regards to that. Jeff is a veteran player. That is something that can be decided as late as Sunday."
Tomlin was asked if the team considered signing another kicker after Reed was injured and it's something he hated to even think about.
"I don't want to consider those things," said Tomlin. "I looked at Jeff, crossed my fingers and told him to get well. I think the biggest thing is how he felt the day after the game. There was a marked improvement in him. I think we had intentions of potentially (looking at a kicker), but he immediately felt better the next morning after the Jacksonville game. It put us at ease and we knew he would be headed in the right direction."