LATROBE, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Steelers punter Daniel Sepulveda tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee for the second time in three years and is expected to miss the season, a major loss for the defending AFC Central champions.
"I wouldn't be human if I didn't say I wasn't disappointed for us and for Daniel, but we can't spend a lot of time dwelling on it from that standpoint, we've got work to do here," coach Mike Tomlin said.
Sepulveda averaged 42.4 yards and placed 28 of 68 punts inside the 20 as a rookie last season, so the Steelers didn't bother bringing a second punter to camp as they often did under former coach Bill Cowher.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Sepulveda is expected to have surgery in the next few days. He first tore the ligament while playing pickup basketball at Baylor in April 2006, but returned -- too early as far as his doctors were concerned -- to punt in the school's season opener that September.
Even if Sepulveda were to make such a fast recovery this time, he probably couldn't return any earlier than the postseason, and it seems likely the Steelers will place him on the injured reserved list.
Sepulveda knew immediately Monday something was wrong.
"I don't know what's going on in there, I'm not a doctor, but it didn't feel right," he said.
According to Tomlin, Sepulveda "experienced some discomfort, to say the least."
"He's a veteran guy who's been in the league," director of football operations Kevin Colbert said.
Ernster also appeared in a game for Denver last season, averaging 35.6 yards on five punts against San Diego, after being waived by the Broncos late in training camp.
Tomlin hasn't ruled out bringing in a second punter.
"We're paid to be light on our feet, and react in this business, and that's what we'll do," Tomlin said.
Notes: DB Troy Polamalu (hamstring) didn't wear a protective wrap but was again held out of practice. ... WR Limas Sweed stood out in coverage drills during a morning special teams practice. ... With Sepulveda out, backup QB Charlie Batch filled in as K Jeff Reed's holder. ... Tomlin on dealing with injuries: "The teams that rise in the end are the teams that are capable of dealing with distractions and things like this."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press