PITTSBURGH -- With Steve McLendon out due to a recurring right-shoulder injury and Brett Keisel banged up, the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line could see a major shakeup this week.
Veteran Cam Thomas, who has been the starter at right end, likely will move to nose tackle to replace McLendon. That's where he practiced Wednesday, while rookie Stephon Tuitt is expected to get considerably more playing time behind starter Keisel. And rookie Daniel McCullers, listed at 6-foot-7 and 352 pounds, should get more time as Thomas' backup on the nose.
"I'm just going to continue to do what I've been doing here on an everyday basis,'' Tuitt said Wednesday. "(But) it all depends on what the coaches think. I have to show them my talents and prove to them that I can do the job when I'm in there. So, I'll keep working hard and try to do the best that I can to help this team.''
Tuitt probably had his best practices last week when, among his many plays, he picked off a pass and also spent a majority of the sessions in the backfield.
"Every week, I choose to get better at something,'' Tuitt said. "I try not to overwhelm myself, so this defense is starting to be understandable to me. And I'm getting better every day. ... There's a lot to learn, especially for my position. And I'm playing both sides.
"So, you've just got to be able to be focused and understand your assignment and who's coming with you. You know, everything happens for a reason. When my opportunity comes, it's going to come. But the only thing I can control in my future is what I do on an everyday basis. So, I'll keep working at it.''
So, does Tuitt believe he can make plays if called on?
"Of course, you feel like that on the inside, but it's still up to me to prove to the coaches that I can do that,'' Tuitt said. "And the way to do that is to show them in practice that I can do that. Coach Mitch (defensive line coach John Mitchell) says the way that you practice is the way that you play in a game. That's our motto, so I need to have a good week of practice.''
Thomas believed Tuitt was ready to increase his playing time.
"Whatever the coaches want me to play, I'll do it,'' Thomas said. "I'm ready to play nose tackle or end, whatever they need me to do. So, I'm ready to do it, and he's ready (pointing to Tuitt at a nearby locker). I feel like he's ready.''
McCullers is listed as the backup nose tackle, but he has been inactive for every game. He most assuredly will be active this week.
"I've just been working hard, learning all the plays that we have and learning all the defenses,'' McCullers said. "That's the biggest thing for me. It took a while for me to get this whole defense down, but now I feel like I know it, for the most part. So, I'll just continue to work, and we'll see what happens.
"I'm excited. I might now show it, but I'm excited. And I'm trying to stay focused on what I need to do to get on the field. Anything can still happen this week, so I have to keep working and maybe I'll get a chance to play more often. It all starts with this first practice, and I have to work on my technique.''
A key for the nose tackle in the Steelers' 3-4 defensive scheme is to occupy blockers. That way, the linebackers can fill the holes and make plays.
"I'm getting better at it,'' McCullers said. "I'm not at the full greatness that I can be, but I'm getting better every week with my technique. So, I'll keep working on my craft and try to get better as much as possible. I'm not there yet, but I'm going to keep working at it. And I'll get there.''
And there's a good chance that McCullers' first NFL game will be on the league's biggest stage, Monday Night Football.
"I think there's a good chance, and it's a great opportunity for me,'' McCullers said. "I'm really looking forward to it. With Steve going down, you never want to see that, but it's an opportunity for me. And I'm going to take advantage of it.
"The best thing I can do right now is have a good week of practice. That's the biggest thing and what will determine how much I play this week. So, I'm going to keep working hard to get there.''
Notes: There was no practice report Wednesday because the Steelers will practice Saturday due to the Monday night game. So, a report will be provided Thursday through Saturday. Veterans Brett Keisel, Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell got the day off.