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Steelers notebook: Homer-Center native McAdoo, now coaching Giants, expects fan support

| Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, 12:12 p.m.

When Homer-Center graduate Ben McAdoo looks into the stands for friends Sunday at Heinz Field, he expects to see many colors — not just the customary black and gold.

He anticipates fans from his hometown sporting an equal amount of blue and white.

“You may see some hats and jerseys cut in half,” said McAdoo, the New York Giants' first-year coach. “That's what they did for the Super Bowl when I was with Green Bay (in 2011). I think they'll be split.”

McAdoo, 39, is trying to treat his first visit to Heinz Field as an NFL head coach as just another game, but he knows it will be difficult.

He said his wife, Toni, also a Homer-Center native, will handle ticket requests and phone calls this week.

“I've got a ballgame to prepare for,” McAdoo said. “I try to remove myself from any drama when I can. Easier said than done.

“I'm sure there will be a good turnout from Homer-Center. It will be good to see some faces, but I have to make sure I do my job first.”

McAdoo is coaching a Giants team that, at 8-3, has surpassed last season's win total (6-10). The Giants are the only team to defeat the Dallas Cowboys this season and will put a six-game winning streak on the line against the Steelers.

McAdoo is proud of his roots. He spent four years coaching as an assistant at Homer-Center and Indiana High in the 1990s. He graduated from IUP with a degree in health and physical education.

McAdoo's father worked in a coal mine, as did his wife's father.

“You know, you learn that blue-collar work ethic right away,” McAdoo said. “It's ingrained in you.”

On McAdoo's staff is former IUP assistant and Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr.

Colorful cleats

This week, Antonio Brown and other Steelers players can wear colorful cleats and not worry about getting fined for it.

NFL players are permitted in Week 13 to wear custom cleats to show their commitment to charitable causes.

Among players participating in the “My Cleats, My Cause” program are Brown, Sammie Coates, William Gay, Cam Heyward, Jesse James, Arthur Moats, Ben Roethlisberger, Stephon Tuitt, Greg Warren and DeAngelo Williams.

“It's an awesome opportunity for people to showcase a foundation, a cause, whatever it is,” Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger will wear one red and one blue cleat that honors his foundation, which raises money for police and fire rescue organizations. He said the cleats will have a “special little tribute” to K9 Rocco, who was killed in the line of duty in January 2014.

Brown will sport purple and white cleats for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. Brown was fined for wearing baby blue cleats in the season opener and was told to change shoes honoring Muhammad Ali in Week 5. The NFL permitted Brown to wear cleats honoring Arnold Palmer in Week 4.

Moving up?

Brown was rested from practice Monday, giving practice squad player Demarcus Ayers a chance to get more work with the first team. Ayers, a rookie seventh-round draft pick, confirmed it was the second day in a row he played on the first-team offense.

Ayers said he was told by coaches to prepare for a promotion to the 53-man roster.

“I got close the last couple of games when guys got banged up,” he said. “They said they like the way I'm progressing.

“The arrow is pointed toward me getting moved up soon, hopefully sooner or later.”

Two weeks ago, when Markus Wheaton was placed on injured reserve, running back Daryl Richardson was activated. Since injuries to Wheaton, Sammie Coates and Darrius Heyward-Bey have thinned the receiving corps, the Steelers have used Cobi Hamilton opposite Brown with Eli Rogers in the slot.

Coates continues to recover from two broken fingers on his right hand but has just one catch in the past six games.

Ayers, normally a slot receiver, said he has been practicing at both outside spots, the past two days occupying Brown's “X” position.

“Coach (Todd) Haley told me to learn both spots,” Ayers said. “It's an opportunity for me to get on the field whether it's blocking or catching the ball. It feels so good just to be in the game plan. I'm sure my time will come.

“We talk about next man up, but it also shows the credit and work I've put in for them to even trust me to go in there.”

Injury report

Tight end Xavier Grimble (quadricep) and special teams player Shamarko Thomas (groin), who each missed the past two games with injuries, were full practice participants.

Heyward-Bey (foot sprain) and Williams (knee) did not practice.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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