THE GOOD INJURY NEWS
Steelers OLB LaMarr Woodley made it through a full practice on Wednesday after missing two games, and much of a third, due to an ankle injury.
Woodley, who has been criticized by even his own position coach Keith Butler for being out of shape at points this year, made sure to emphasize that this injury was unavoidable.
"Somebody fell on my ankle," Woodley said. "That's something you don't have control over."
AND THE BAD
Not participating in practice Wednesday were CB Cortez Allen (groin), CB Keenan Lewis (hip), CB Ike Taylor (ankle), WR Emmanuel Sanders (shoulder), S Troy Polamalu (day off), LB James Harrison (ill), and T Mike Adams (ankle).
For this week's opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, they were missing WR Dez Bryant (finger), CB Morris Claiborne (concussion), G Nate Livings (concussion), RB DeMarco Murray (foot), S Charlie Peprah (foot), DT Jay Ratliff (groin), and LB DeMarcus Ware (elbow).
FOSTER THE (LEFT GUARD) PEOPLE
Steelers multi-purpose offensive lineman Ramon Foster says hadn't worked at left guard since the preseason in August, but that he "got in there today & did well" as he gets set to replace the injured Wille Colon at the position for the foreseeable future. Foster also took a "couple sets" at right tackle, preparing for what he called "emergency situations."
Foster, whose locker sits between those of Colon and DE Brett Keisel, had his winter hat hanging from a strange looking piece of artwork above Keisel's stall.
"I don't know [what it is] but I love it," said Foster as he tried to describe the item. "My hat is hanging there right now. This is a mantle on it with antlers, with Brett Keisel's shoes as a head that's not there. And I'm hanging my hat on the antlers. Follow me [on Twitter] @RamonFoster later to see what it looks like."
Foster said that Willie Colon's notoriously smelly shoes from adjoining locker would not be part of the artwork because "they are currently in the garbage."
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
One other strange item in Steelers room was a poinsettia sitting on the ground near NT Casey Hampton's locker. When asked who gave it to him Hampton said, "That's not mine, man". Hampton said if it had been given to him, he'd have re-gifted it.
THE HAMPTON IS INN
Post-practice Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Steelers facility has become a weekly chat session with always-entertaining Hampton.
This week, Hampton returns to his home state of Texas as the Steelers take on the Dallas Cowboys. Although Hampton is a Galveston native, he was raised by fans of the 'Blue Stars'.
"All my family grew up Cowboys fans," Hampton said. "I was a [Houston] Oilers fan. I wanted to go against the grain. Warren Moon, those were my guys. Everybody in my family knows I wasn't a Cowboys fan [although] I liked Michael Irvin and Leon Lett, those were my two guys [from Dallas]."
With all those Cowboys fan relatives, Hampton has spent the week acquiring tickets to the game from his teammates and Steelers staff. Exactly how many, Hampton wouldn't say.
"I can't say that," said Hampton. "We're still working that out. I'm going to try to keep that under wraps because a lot of [teammates] are from Texas and Louisiana and they're going to be mad at me. I can't really tell you how many I'm really getting. I have people I know in high places around here. They told me not to say."
Hampton, who played college football in Austin, said his ticket take wouldn't hit triple digits, but admitted the number is high.
"My mom has 11 brothers and sisters, I've probably got 80, some 100 cousins first and second," Hampton said. "It's a dog fight for 'em. My momma's gonna choose. I'm going to let a lot more kids go this year. They don't get a lot of opportunities to go. I've got quite a few '98' jerseys, but my family represents man. If they don't have a jersey they're going to have it painted on. They'll be in full effect, ain't no question about that."
It's been a year filled with drama for Hampton's team, capped this week by the news that running back Rashard Mendenhall was suspended for not showing up at the most recent game. But according to the 12th-year man Hampton, drama around the Steelers is more normal than the public knows.
"You never know what's going to happen, man," said Hampton. "It's crazy because you guys all know about some of things that are going on behind the scenes, but there's been crazier stuff that y'all didn't know about. So don't think it's been any crazier than any other year."
Asked to provide an example, Hampton wouldn't budge.
"I can't tell you, that's secret information," said Hampton. "Believe me, there's a lot more crazy stuff that's [gone] on that we kept under wraps."
STEELERS – COWBOYS, THE LAST MEETING (2008)
The last meeting between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys, December 7th, 2008 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, was a pivotal one for both franchises.
The Steelers won the game 20-13 to improve their record to 10-3, keeping their lead in the AFC North en route to the franchise's sixth Super Bowl win.
The Cowboys blew a 13-3 fourth quarter lead in the game and fell to an 8-5 record, eventually missing the playoffs with a 9-7 mark and thus failing to win a playoff game for the franchise's 12th consecutive season.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw three interceptions in the defeat on that day in 2008, but said today on a conference call with the Pittsburgh that four years is a long time in the NFL.
"I don't think I've played them for a while," Romo said. "I remember it was a tough game up there, they ended up getting us. Two good ballclubs. It's different. They have a couple of the same guys, but they have some new pieces, some different guys in. Schematically they're a little bit different. They still run their same system but you can see they've evolved in a couple of new schemes. They're just going to be very difficult with the pressure they get. We just have to have a lot of stuff up to handle the pressures, and we're coming up with a lot of different things."
Four years ago, Romo's third INT ended up in the arms of Steelers' CB Deshea Townsend, who read an intended pass for tight end Jason Witten and jumped it for a 'Pick-6' that decided the game with just 1:40 remaining.
That INT was set up when the Steelers called a timeout at the 1:51 mark as Dallas had run for just 2-yards, seemingly playing for overtime with the ball at their own 17-yard line.
According to James Harrison, during the timeout Romo mocked the Steelers defense for calling the stoppage.
''[Romo said], 'who called a timeout? You guys called a timeout?''' Harrison said after the game. ''Yeah, we called a timeout. And you go and throw a pick to Deshea so we can win.''