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Cotchery confident he can fill Ward's role

| Friday, June 1, 2012, 7:32 p.m.

Jerricho Cotchery has been with the Steelers for only a year, but the veteran receiver said he believes he can step into the role Hines Ward filled in the locker room.

“I am the veteran of the group,” said Cotchery, who is entering his ninth year. “I've seen a lot of things in this league, whether it is game experience, contract situations, I've seen it all. I am a guy in that regard that they can come to and ask questions of how it was handled.”

But before that, Cotchery wants to learn Todd Haley's offense so he can contribute on the field.

“I want to get myself established so I can get out on the field and help this team win football games,” Cotchery said.

Cotchery signed a two-year deal in the offseason worth $3 million. He caught 16 passes for 237 yards in 13 games last season.

• Antonio Brown would love to return punts and kicks again this season, but the Pro Bowl special-teamer knows his chances are going to be few and far between. “I am always available,” Brown said. “Whenever Coach needs me out there, I will be ready. But it is a smart move by Coach. It will probably extend my career and give me a chance to master the wide receiver position.” Emmanuel Sanders is in line to return punts and kicks.

• When Sanders injured his foot last season, it left a door open for Brown to grab a starting spot. Sanders is hoping that he can do the same this year with Mike Wallace not expected to show up for offseason practices. “It is definitely a door that is open, but at the end of the day it is not about Mike; it is about me,” Sanders said. “My main focus right now is to stay healthy, and I am talking about the entire year.”

• Defensive end Cameron Heyward went up against rookie left tackle Mike Adams numerous times while at Ohio State. But Adams has yet to be allowed to join the Steelers for offseason practices because of school commitments, putting a hold reliving some battles they had while with the Buckeyes. “I am curious to see how he blocks,” Heyward said. “I haven't seen him in a year. It is going to be fun to go against him.”

• The Steelers will start their third and final week of organized team activities this week. They have practices scheduled Monday through Thursday. Mandatory minicamp is scheduled for June 12-14. That will be the last time the team is together until training camp, scheduled to begin July 25.

— Mark Kaboly

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