The Cardinals’ banged-up players are getting better but their playing status won’t be determined until Friday, at the earliest.
Receiver Anquan Boldin performed exercises instead of practicing and said his sore hip “is better, a lot better than it was yesterday.”
Center Al Johnson practiced for the first time since hurting a knee in the season opener.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the “possibility” exists Johnson could start over rookie Lyle Sendlein, though Johnson said only that he thinks he can play “if I need to.”
Tackle Levi Brown (ankle) had a limited practice. He had an MRI Wednesday that revealed no structural damage. The Cardinals will see how he feels Friday.
Rookie nose tackle Alan Branch continues to practice with a cast on his broken hand. He could see his first action Sunday.
For the Steelers, receiver Hines Ward, who is listed as doubtful for the game with a knee injury, did not practice.
COACH AS COMEDIAN
Whisenhunt waited for the right moment to tell a joke he’d pondered for a long time.
He found that moment on Thursday.
He responded to a question about Boldin, whether – after watching him up close for a couple of months – the receiver was better than he’d realized.
Whisenhunt talked at first in straight coach-speak: “He’s good. And I thought he was good.
“A lot of people outside the team or outside the conference don’t know a lot about Anquan. But when you study him on tape and you see him, it’s pretty apparent quickly he’s a good football player.”
Then he paused ever so slightly and said, “So he is what we thought he was.”
Whisenhunt started chuckling, then bent over laughing so hard that he couldn’t stop for several seconds.
“I couldn’t decide whether I could go with that. … I’ve been waiting for so long for that one.”
Elton Brown found himself on the firing line, with no warning, when he was inserted at right tackle Sunday vs. the Baltimore Ravens.
What’s more, Brown had never played tackle in the NFL, and he was lined up against Terrell Suggs and the other Ravens’ outside rushers.
He hadn’t even practiced much at the position.
“I can’t imagine a more difficult situation,” Whisenhunt said. “He is playing with a lot more speed and confidence.
“We feel certainly a lot more comfortable with Elton in that role now that he was forced into it and we saw him be successful with it.”
Brown said the assignment was tough “but that’s my job as a backup. When I’m called, I go in.”
“You’re dealing with faster guys (at tackle). You’re kind of on an island. It was tough, but my teammates helped me through. I have a week to prepare, so I’ll be better prepared.”
3 CHEERS FOR 3 LINEMEN
That the offensive line held up Sunday pointed to a number of improvements.
In addition to bringing in some new players, the Cards’ line has gotten much better because of the off-season conditioning program and the coaching of Russ Grimm, Whisenhunt said.
“You can look on tape and see they’re different guys in the way they’re playing,” he said.
In addition to Elton Brown, the Cardinals used a rookie at center in Sendlein and a second-year player at right guard in Deuce Lutui.
Said Whisenhunt, “To go in against those guys with a rookie center, a young right guard and a right tackle who had never played the position, and not give up a sack in the second half? That’s good for the future.”