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Steelers notebook: RB Dwyer carrying the load — for now

| Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, 7:12 p.m.

Running back Jonathan Dwyer is expected to receive extended duty Monday night at Washington now that Le'Veon Bell (knee) and Isaac Redman (pinched nerve) practiced sparingly in recent days.

Bell carried the ball during practice for the first time since aggravating his knee Thursday, while Redman watched from the sidelines.

The team practiced in shorts and without pads.

“It was crazy. At one point, we were all together,” Dwyer said. “Now, all of a sudden, the running backs are leaking again.”

Coach Mike Tomlin is confident Dwyer is ready to go.

“He is a guy that is, of course, pushing the play and not taking a backseat to anyone, and I like that about his demeanor,” Tomlin said.

Allen feeling healthier

Cornerback Cortez Allen said he's still day to day but added he feels confident about how his knee has progressed.

“I'm positive about getting on the field,” said Allen, who had an interception Saturday.

Allen and oft-injured cornerback Curtis Brown have returned to practice.

“It's tough when you lose a guy, especially when the reps have to increase for other guys,” Allen said. “I feel bad when I have to sit out and people have to take extra reps on my behalf. It's good that everybody is healthy as we get closer to the regular season.”

Wheaton good to go

Rookie receiver Markus Wheaton said his bruised left knee won't sideline him in Washington.

“I just tweaked it a little bit,” he said. “I iced it and was good to go. It tightened up and was a little swollen.”

Wheaton again worked overtime with veteran Jerricho Cotchery to improve his route running and ability to recognize coverage schemes.

“I'm learning how to see coverages, and Jerricho has really helped me with a lot of little thing such as losing guys at the top of my routes,” he said. “We learned a lot about reading defense in college, but here they hide the looks and coverage schemes a lot more.”

Back to returning

LaRod Stephens-Howling was lured to Pittsburgh partly because the Chris Rainey Project failed.

While he looked good running the ball in the preseason opener against the New York Giants, Stephens-Howling expects to return kicks Monday.

“I'm definitely excited about being able to get back there and give it a shot,” Stephens-Howling said. “It's going to be fun.”

Gay's guess? 10

Cornerback William Gay predicts the Steelers' cornerbacks can total 10 interceptions this season. But Tomlin will settle for more opportunities at creating picks.

“I really think when it comes to interceptions it's not about the number you get. It's about what you do with the opportunities that you get,” Tomlin said. “I base my opinion in regards to interceptions on the number of opportunities.”

Home sweet home

Receiver Emmanuel Sanders said it's been fun hanging at St. Vincent, but he looks forward to returning to the South Side next week to resume practice. “It'll be good to sleep in my own bed,” he said.

Dual responsibilities

David Paulson and Jamie McCoy are the only tight ends on the roster familiar with Todd Haley's offense. Paulson said only now does he fully understand his role.

“I do understand the concepts better,” he said. “I think in any offense, you have to be a receiving threat and a run-blocker. It's difficult sometimes because you're expected to do it all.”

Inside the ropes

Cornerback Terry Hawthorne, a fifth-round pick, tested his ailing knee during 11-on-11 drills for the first time in training camp. He gave defensive back coach Carnell Lake hope that he'll make a complete recovery when he swatted away two passes. But it's uncertain when he'll play because he continues to have a noticeable limp. ... Tight end Michael Palmer got everyone's attention as he outmuscled safety Robert Golden to pull in a jump ball 30 yards downfield. Palmer nearly came up with a one-handed grab but couldn't hold on as he stumbled backward.

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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