Steelers notebook: Big Ben honored, center Wallace fined
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Friday was named the Steelers' 2013 Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Roethlisberger qualifies for the league's national award, which recognizes a player's community service as well as his playing excellence. The winner will be announced during Super Bowl XLVIII.
Roethlisberger started the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation, which gives grants to police and fire departments with an emphasis on K-9 units and service dogs. The foundation has given 123 grants totaling more than $1 million to 117 police and fire departments and several youth organizations.
His foundation in November made its second-annual donation — increasing to $30,000 from $25,000 — to Make-A-Wish of Greater Pennsylvania and West Virginia to help grant more wishes.
He also does charity work for Salvation Army Bundle-Up and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania and holds an annual football camp, which is attended for free by numerous Boys & Girls Clubs members.
Past team award winners include Ryan Clark, Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, Brett Keisel and Max Starks.
Roethlisberger was honored only four years after being suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his off-field behavior.
The NFL on Friday fined center Cody Wallace $17,875 for two different incidents in his first career start Sunday against Miami.
According to the league office, Wallace was fined $10,000 for spearing Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi late in the fourth quarter on a play in which Wallace came in late and dived into Misi's back.
He also was fined $7,875 for punching defensive tackle Randy Starks in the groin during a pile-up in the second quarter that followed a Roethlisberger fumble. Starks recovered the fumble.
Wallace had played only 40 snaps in six seasons, all this year with Pittsburgh, before starting Sunday because of an injury to center Fernando Velasco. Velasco replaced the injured Maurkice Pouncey early in the season.
The fines represent nearly half of the estimated $37,000 that Wallace made for playing Sunday, based on his $630,000 salary.
Polamalu likely to play
Safety Troy Polamalu practiced Friday for the first time this week and is expected to play Sunday night against the Bengals.
Polamalu sat out practice Wednesday and Thursday with a previously undisclosed shoulder injury. Coach Mike Tomlin did not mention him on the injury report during his weekly news conference Tuesday.
Defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) did not practice all week and is out for the Sunday night game, the fourth he will sit out in the past five games. Since the Nov. 10 game against Buffalo, Keisel has been limited to less than one quarter of play Nov. 28 in Baltimore.
Keisel, who is in his 12th NFL season, is unsigned past season, and he has only two more games in which to get back on the field before the season ends. He is fighting through plantar fasciitis, an often painful foot condition.
Nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) is listed as questionable.
Also listed as probable are left tackle Kelvin Beachum (knee), who is expected to return to the lineup after missing one game that Mike Adams started in his place. It was Adams' first start since being benched a month into the season.
Receivers Emmanuel Sanders (foot) and Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), right guard David DeCastro (foot), right tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and defensive end Ziggy Hood (ankle) also are probable.
Cincy TEs pose challenge
The Steelers have committed to keeping an eye on Bengals tight ends Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham after Miami tight end Charles Clay scored twice in the Dolphins' 34-28 victory Sunday at Heinz Field.
Safety Will Allen and left outside linebacker Jason Worilds likely will draw the tight ends, especially if they follow a pattern of lining up together on the right side of the formation. “We have to be conscious of those guys making plays,” Allen said.
Cotchery a threat
The Bengals kept the Steelers' top receivers — Antonio Brown, Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery — out of the end zone in their first meeting.
Derek Moye scored for the Steelers' only touchdown, but Moye is now on the practice squad. Cotchery has become the most effective receiver in the red zone.
“It's what we want as an offense to create that kind of dilemma,” Cotchery said. “In the past, everyone has been watching Antonio and (Heath) Miller. ... Ben's been throwing the ball my way, and we've developed a trust. It feels good in the sense that we've played some good red-zone teams.”
Cornerback Ike Taylor acknowledged the Steelers would rather Cincinnati be forced to put the game into quarterback Andy Dalton's hands.
“When they have the option of run and pass, it's not a good look for us,” Taylor said.
Taylor said Dalton has become a more efficient passer, partly because “he's taking his check-downs instead of trying to force the issue.”
The Steelers can't afford to let running back Giovani Bernard go uncovered. The rookie took a check-down pass and sprinted 27 yards for a touchdown against the Steelers in Week 2.
“They've never had a running back catching the ball out of the backfield,” Woodley said. “Bernard is like (Baltimore's) Ray Rice.”
Working his way back
Cotchery was the odd man out when the New York Jets brought in Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes. Now Cotchery is thriving while Edwards is gone and Holmes has struggled with injuries.
Cotchery opened the 2009 season as the Jets' No. 1 receiver. By Game 5, he was No. 2. In 2010 he was bumped to No. 3.
“I kept going down the line,” said Cotchery, who leads the Steelers with nine touchdown receptions. “I didn't have a good year, and the next thing you know I'm in Pittsburgh. It's been a blessing to contribute to this offense.”