G David DeCastro might have actually smiled this week.
The stonefaced, quiet Steelers first-round pick has reason to be happy -- he's on track to make his first NFL start Sunday in Dallas. DeCastro practiced Wednesday at right guard and acquitted himself well, by all indications. Barring something unforeseen, DeCastro will line up on offense for the first time in a regular-season game Sunday against the Cowboys.
"Getting a chance to affect the outcome of the game and help the team, that's what you want when you play this game," DeCastro said.
That's about the most colorful quote DeCastro offered Wednesday, which is typical for him. The Stanford product said he's learned a lot from watching over the past three-plus months since tearing knee ligaments in a preseason game at Buffalo. He said his knee has gotten better every week and that he knows his body well enough to recognize that it's ready to handle the rigors of play.
DeCastro said he was not part of the decision-making that put him at right guard -- necessitating the move of OL Ramon Foster to the left side -- but that it "probably" is because of the fact the bulk of his experience in college was on the right side.
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"David is doing a nice job," OL coach Sean Kugler said. "He's coming around each day and has really worked hard to get back to where he's at right now."
Out to get Wallace: WR Mike Wallace said he's "100 percent good" and not bothered by being booed by home fans, as he was during the Steelers' loss to San Diego on Sunday.
"It's not like they did anything wrong; it's something I did," Wallace said. But when a reporter remarked that all those who are booing will go back to cheering the instant Wallace makes a big play, Wallace disagreed.
"Some would, some won't," he said. "I think they're out to get me a little bit."
Not a strange year: NT Casey Hampton, like most Steelers who were asked Wednesday, downplayed any notion that the team is out of control or that this is an atypical "non-Steelers" kind of season. Two players have been suspended this season, the Steelers have lost four games to teams with losing records and after Sunday's loss, DE Brett Keisel mentioned that he wondered if the players were focused enough.
Hampton, in only a way he can, shrugged off the criticism.
"It's crazy (only) because you all know about some of the things going on behind the scenes," he said. "You're all just hearing about it now, but it's been crazier stuff that went on (in past years), but you all just didn't know about it. So I don't think it's any crazier than any other year."
Earth's Team: QB Ben Roethlisberger did his best to stick up for Steeler Nation-- er, um, Steelers World -- when asked about Cowboys QB Tony Romo.
"He plays for 'America's Team,' right?" Roethlisberger said. "I think the Steelers are the world's team."
Injury report: LB LaMarr Woodley practiced for the first time since an ankle injury knocked him out of a loss at Cleveland on Nov. 26. He was a full participant, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that he will play Sunday but not a full complement of snaps.
Of the eight Steelers who did not practice Wednesday, G Colon, T Mike Adams and CB Ike Taylor have already been ruled out for Sunday. S Troy Polamalu is excused from Wednesday practice the rest of the season (and maybe beyond), and WR Emmanuel Sanders is temporarily being given the same treatment because of his shoulder injury.
The cornerbacks who are scheduled to start against the Cowboys, CB Keenan Lewis and CB Cortez Allen, did not practice. Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that each had a hip flexor, but the official injury report listed Allen's ailment as a groin.
LB James Harrison missed practice, and the team said it was due to illness.