PITTSBURGH - Mike Wallace thinks he's ready to face the Denver Broncos. The Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver says Monday there's no need to hold him back for Sunday's season opener in Denver despite a lengthy holdout that didn't end until last week.
"I felt pretty good out there, and coach gave me a lot to look at today," Wallace said. "But he's good about that. He knew that I wanted to work, and I was able to get in a lot of extra time."
The Pro Bowl player insists he's nearly up to speed on new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's playbook.
"I like where I'm at so far this week, but they shouldn't have to limit me at all," he said. "We'll see how it goes the rest of the week. But I'm very excited for this season, and I don't think they'll have to hold back too much."
Wallace, a restricted free agent, skipped all of Pittsburgh's offseason activities and the first month of training camp while trying to get a new deal. He didn't sign his one-year tender worth about $2.7 million until last Tuesday and wasn't cleared to practice until last Friday while sitting out a mandatory three-day acclimation period.
The 26-year-old spent some extra time in the team's practice facility over the weekend while his teammates received a brief break before the start of the regular season.
Who: Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
When: Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
While he insists he's ready to go, some other Steelers aren't so sure they'll be available when they head west to the same stadium where their 2011 season ended with a stunning 29-23 overtime loss to the Broncos.
Linebacker James Harrison practiced on Monday and reported "very little discomfort" in his right knee. The four-time Pro Bowler underwent surgery on the knee Aug. 15 and went through every period but one on Monday, though Harrison said he'll wait to see how the knee responds to such a heavy workload before figuring out if he can play in Denver.
The same goes for linebacker Jason Worilds, who is still recovering from offseason wrist surgery. Worilds didn't play at all during the preseason but practiced with his wrist heavily bandaged on Monday.
"It's not my decision, but if it was my decision I would tell myself that I was going to play this week," he said. "So, today was a great day, and hopefully each one will get better this week. And if I continue to progress, I'll definitely be ready to go."
If Harrison and Worilds can't go, a thin defense gets decidedly thinner. Safety Ryan Clark will sit out due to a sickle cell trait that makes playing at high altitudes dangerous.
Facing Peyton Manning shorthanded isn't exactly the way to start a season, though defensive end Brett Keisel - who was chosen a co-captain on Monday along with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger - believes the Steelers can play at a high level even with the new faces.
"We had the No. 1 ranking last year, but we can improve ourselves by getting more turnovers," Keisel said. "That's been a point of emphasis, and we need to stop people from scoring touchdowns in the red zone. But I think we have to guys to be capable of doing that."