TAMPA — Starting C Jeff Faine, a critical member of the line given Sunday's matchup against the Steelers' stout defensive front, did not practice Wednesday and is dealing with an unspecified leg injury.
Faine's absence was filled mostly by Jeremy Zuttah, the third-year player who split reps with Keydrick Vincent at left guard on Sunday. Coach Raheem Morris said he was optimistic about Faine playing Sunday, calling his status "day to day."
Still, Zuttah and QB Josh Freeman were squeezing in extra shotgun snaps after practice to prepare for the possibility of Faine missing the game.
Also being watched by the staff is RB Cadillac Williams, limited Wednesday by a hamstring injury.
There was some good news. Kellen Winslow practiced a few days after Morris said the tight end was suffering from a sore right knee. Winslow, who usually doesn't practice on Wednesdays, played well Sunday at Carolina after seeing almost no practice time last week.
Asked whether Winslow's return was a sign of progress, Morris said, jokingly, "He didn't like you (reporters) talking about him all last week."
Morris added, "He's a mentally tough guy. We know Kellen Winslow loves practice. So if he needs to sit out or something's going on or we need to hold him back and be smart with him as an organization, we will be. We get him to Sunday. That's the most important thing."
Also, RB Kareem Huggins (groin) practiced after missing Sunday's game and appears ready to play against the Steelers.
BLACKOUT LOOMING? Sunday's game was not sold out as of Wednesday, and the Bucs have until 1 p.m. today (72 hours before kickoff) to sell the remaining tickets if they are to avoid another local television blackout. The club said Wednesday that there were several thousand tickets left but did not give a specific number.
GRAHAM'S GRABS: The Bucs didn't set out for FB Earnest Graham to lead the team with five receptions on Sunday. But in taking what was available, Freeman went to the man who repeatedly managed to get open, and the team benefited.
"It was the natural flow of the offense," Graham said. "I think in any given game, you try to score with the looks that you get. We have a lot of capable receivers on the team. I think we're seeing the maturation of Josh at quarterback. He's just taking what the defense gives him."
Among Graham's 33 receiving yards was a 14-yard touchdown in the first quarter, a play on which Graham caught the ball in space and eluded a couple of defenders. For a guy who has only nine carries this season, it's a nice reward when the quarterback finds him open and he's able to make plays in the open field.
"I'm on a linebacker most of the time," said the seventh-year running back out of Florida. "It's the same thing as being a running back except you don't have to get through all the (traffic) first. I really like it."
BUCS BITS: The Bucs will practice at Tropicana Field today in their continued efforts to escape the heat. … Steelers WR Hines Ward said returning to Raymond James Stadium, site of the Steelers' last Super Bowl victory in February 2009, won't be on their minds Sunday: "It brings back memories. But we're going into hostile territory."
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]