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Steelers notebook: Miller reports no discomfort after second full practice

| Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 8:00 p.m.

Tight end Heath Miller (knee) practiced without restrictions Thursday. Miller appeared optimistic about playing Sunday night against Chicago at Heinz Field.

Miller, wearing a brace on his reconstructed right knee, said he didn't experience any significant discomfort during his second full day of practice.

“To make progress, you have to add a little more to see how you respond, whether positively or negatively,” Miller said. “I guess that will let you know if you're ready to take the next step. Obviously, today was a heavy day. So, we'll see how it feels (Friday) and go from there.”

Cornerback Cortez Allen (ankle) sat out practice, and linebacker Jarvis Jones (heel) was limited. Defensive end Brett Keisel (calf) returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday. Cornerback Curtis Brown (illness) and defensive tackle Steve McLendon (hamstring) practiced.

Polamalu to cut hair

Troy Polamalu, who sports the most recognizable hairdo in the NFL, apparently will take on a new look on Veterans' Day. The Steelers' All-Pro safety wrote on Facebook that he will donate his locks to charity to benefit the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Polamalu, who said last year that he considered joining the military before enrolling at USC, is scheduled to have a haircut as part of the VFW's “Mane Event.”

According to a Sporting News report, Polamalu's hair once was insured for $1 million. An advocate of veterans programs, Polamalu administers a charitable veterans foundation that honors his wife's grandfather who served in World War II.

Challenge for receivers

Antonio Brown seemed relieved to focus on his matchup against Chicago cornerback Tim Jennings, who led the NFL with nine interceptions in 2012.

“I relish the opportunity against a guy like that who plays the ball instead of covering the receiver,” said Brown, has 11 receptions.

Jennings can afford to gamble because the Bears play mostly zone. Jennings and Charles Tillman seldom will be in man coverage with Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.

“You know those guys are going to be ball hawking, so you can't double-catch the ball,” Brown said. “You can't give away your routes because those guys are judging where they think you're going.”

Backs will be involved

Isaac Redman concedes it'll be tough running against Chicago, which allowed 123 rushing yards to Minnesota. But he's convinced the Steelers' running backs could play a significant role in the pass game.

“All through the OTAs and training camp we were trying to emphasize getting the ball to the running backs,” Redman said.

“We've implemented some good schemes to get the ball out quickly so (quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) isn't getting hit as much.

“We are good outlets for him if he can't find anything downfield, especially when you consider how they like to rush the passer.”

Creating turnovers

The Steelers know they can't drop their guard against Chicago's defense, which forces turnovers in bunches.

The Bears have three interceptions and two fumble recoveries during a 2-0 start.

“We've got to tuck the ball away to protect it,” Redman said. “Those dudes go after the ball.”

Velasco confident

Center Fernando Velasco is set to start only his second game at center for the Steelers, but he said that inconsistency is all that plagues the offense.

“We all five (offensive line) have to be on the same page for the run and pass games to click,” Velasco said. “We have talented running backs and one of the best quarterbacks in the league. If we give him time, the sky is the limit for this offense.”

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

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