LATROBE – Anthony Smith was at it again, this time with a surprise forearm shiver that knocked Hines Ward to the ground during the Steelers’ 7-on-7 passing drill Wednesday afternoon.
Ward got up slowly as offensive coordinator Bruce Arians shouted an obscenity at Smith. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau walked over to talk to Smith, who was pulled from the field and sat on his helmet on the sideline. Smith did not appear to acknowledge LeBeau, and moments later, during team scrimmage, found himself running third team with undrafted rookie safety Roy Lewis.
Smith was not available for comment, but his teammate and friend Ryan Clark said the perception did not match the reality.
“You mean Kill Shot?” said Clark, referring to Smith. “Really, he didn’t hit him all that hard. It just looked that way from the sideline. And to tell you the truth, Hines flopped a bit.
“Now, I know you’re not supposed to be hitting Hines, but he really didn’t hit him that hard. Y’all are looking to make a bigger story out of this than it is.”
What about the seeming lack of respect Smith showed LeBeau?
“It wasn’t anything like that,” Clark said. “When you’re in that situation, you just sit there and listen, and that’s what he did. If you talk, or try to defend yourself, it just becomes a bigger deal.”
The practice was Smith’s first since injuring his hamstring early in camp. Earlier in the day, he was ruled out of Friday’s preseason opener at Heinz Field by Coach Mike Tomlin, as was tight end Cody Boyd (shoulder).
ROETHLISBERGER TO START
Ben Roethlisberger’s been bothered by a groin injury since Friday night, but Tomlin said he’ll start Friday’s game at quarterback and will play one series. Roethlisberger will be followed at the position by Charlie Batch and rookies Dennis Dixon and Mike Potts. Tomlin said all four quarterbacks are scheduled to play.
Still looking for the next Antwaan Randle El, the Steelers will use Mewelde Moore, Jeremy Bloom and Eddie Drummond on punt returns, and Rashard Mendenhall and Willie Reid on kickoff returns. Tomlin doubts that any of those players will return both punts and kickoffs against the Eagles.
PUPs GETTING CLOSER
Troy Polamalu and Casey Hampton remain on the Physically Unable to Perform list. As reported yesterday, Hampton is due back in the middle of next week.
“I think he’s progressing pretty well,” Tomlin said. “This process is running its course. He is closer to being ready to contribute.”
“Like Hamp, he is getting closer,” Tomlin said. “Hopefully he’ll be ready to go as early as next week.”
Punter Dan Sepulveda underwent surgery on his left knee Wednesday. Because he’s not a vested veteran and would have to be put on waivers first, Sepulveda won’t be placed on Injured Reserve until after the Steelers cut down to 75 players.