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Monday, November 30, 2009

Steelers-Ravens thoughts

If I'm a member of the Baltimore Ravens, I don't know that I'm all that happy after beating the Steelers, 20-17, in overtime at M&T Stadium Sunday.

OK, sure, I'm happy because I got the win, but let's be honest, Pittsburgh was playing its third-string quarterback.

Should you be happy that you had to go to overtime - at home - to get the win against a third-string quarterback who had thrown all of one career pass before Sunday's game?

Baltimore's defense isn't what it once was and we're seeing the decline of Ray Lewis, who doesn't look like the Ray Lewis of old.

He's still a good player. He's just not a great one any longer.

© By the same token, if I'm a member of the Steelers' defense, I'm pretty upset.

Your third-string quarterback got you 17 points on the road, but you allowed Baltimore to convert a third-and-22, albeit in two plays, into a first down to go in for a game-tying field goal.

And the Ravens rolled up 393 yards, including 132 on the ground on 29 carries. That's 4.6 yards per carry, more than a yard per carry more than what the Steelers had been giving up.

© While waiting for the bus to take us to M&T Stadium, I noted that the first three players I saw get on the buses were guys who weren't with the team in Kansas City.

And not only were they now on the active roster, they were all dressing. That was a bad sign.

© The Steelers broke their string of an NFL-record eight consecutive games with a return touchdown allowed.

They tried to add a punt return to the list - something they had not done this year - but Baltimore's Chris Carr fouled things up by stepping out of bounds on a 34-yard run.

© That was the kind of game plan that Steelers fans were used to seeing from the team five or six years ago when Ben Roethlisberger was a rookie.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians called 38 running plays and 26 passes.

Rashard Mendenhall looked very good running against the Ravens and the Steelers appear to have a budding star on their hands at the position.

Though this is not the Baltimore defense of old - as I already noted - Mendenhall ground out 95 yards on 24 carries and looked powerful doing so.

© The Steelers' pass rush really had Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco flustered by the end of that game.

After not getting to him in the first half, the Steelers got home five times in the second half.

Now, about that coverage.

© Hines Ward's said he was misquoted when he said the locker room was split 50-50 regarding Roethlisberger not playing.

He then proceeded to talk about how other guys have played with concussions and how it would have been nice to know that Roethlisberger wasn't playing before Saturday.

It will be interesting to see if this effects Ward's relationship with Roethlisberger.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Steelers-Ravens inactives

Roethlisberger is the No. 3 and is dressed.
Batch, Keenan Lewis, Polamalu, Urbik, Kemoeatu, Sunny Harris and Nick Eason are down for the Steelers.
Eason's a surprise. I guess they're sure Kirschke can make it through a whole game.

Antwan Barnes and Suggs the only notables for the Ravens.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Roethlisberger may not play

I'll admit when I'm wrong and in this case, I was. The NFL Network's Jason La Canfora's report Friday night that Ben Roethlisberger may not play Sunday against the Ravens was correct.

Roethlisberger apparently is suffering from workout-related headaches and will serve as the No. 3 QB behind Tyler Palko, who will be added to the active roster.

Wide receiver Shaun McDonald will be released.

It's a surprising turn of events, especially considering the Steelers don't have backup Charlie Batch available.

But the Steelers will do some things that are specific to third-stringer Dennis Dixon's talents.

Against Baltimore's defense, however, that's not likely going to be a winning combination.

Because of that, I also have to change my pick in this game. Despite Baltimore's defensive injuries, the Ravens should be able to win this one, 20-10.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Who I like, dispelling Roethlisberger report

I've gone back and forth all week long with the Steelers game against Baltimore this week, one day liking Pittsburgh, the other liking the Ravens.

But that usually seems to be the case in this matchup, in which the games are usually decided by five points or less.

But one thing changed my mind this week to tilt me in Pittsburgh's favor. There had been some question as to whether Terrell Suggs would play or not.

Suggs suffered a sprained knee just two weeks ago against Cleveland on a hit from Brady Quinn that drew a fine. But he had been targeting the game against the Steelers for a return.

Remember, this is the guy who had two sacks against the Steelers in the AFC Championship playing pretty much with one arm. And he had four sacks in three meetings with Pittsburgh in 2008.

But Suggs was unable to practice all week and is listed as doubtful to play. Couple that with Fabian Washington's placement on injured reserve this week and the fact that both Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are nursing injuries as well and I'm leaning back toward the Steelers winning, 20-17.

© Jason La Canfora is back at it again with some truly ridiculous rumors.

You'll remember that La Canfora, who works for the NFL Network, reported in late August that the Steelers were considering releasing Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton.

Now, La Canfora is reporting that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may not play Sunday against the Ravens despite being cleared medically to do so.

La Canfora goes on to report that Roethlisberger will inform the team Saturday morning whether he'll play or not.

Roethlisberger "may" also grow wings and fly to Baltimore on his own, but I doubt it.

The Steelers are quite certain that Roethlisberger will play. How do we know this?

They've only got one other quarterback on their roster, second-year man Dennis Dixon.

If they thought for a moment that Roethlisberger might not play Sunday, they would have signed another QB immediately.

They didn't.

And, because of the respect he'd lose in the locker room, Roethlisberger most certainly wouldn't wait until Saturday morning – when the team is leaving for Baltimore a few hours later – to inform the coaching staff if he intends to play.

So where did something like this come from?

La Canfora cites an unnamed source. But unless that unnamed source is Roethlisberger or head coch Mike Tomlin – and it isn't – this report holds as much water as the Hampton report, which was laughed off by both Hampton and the Steelers.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Steelers working out a pair of vets

The Steelers are reportedly working out a pair of veteran quarterbacks today in Todd Bouman and Patrick Ramsey.

It's likely, however, that it's a precautionary thing just in case something happens in Sunday's game against Baltimore to either Ben Roethlisberger or backup Dennis Dixon.

Dixon will be the team's only backup QB to Roethlisberger against the Ravens and possibly beyond.

Veteran backup Charlie Batch suffered a fracture in his left wrist last Sunday against Kansas City and had surgery on the wrist Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Roethlisberger practices Wednesday

Ben Roethlisberger practiced Wednesday for the Steelers, but backup Dennis Dixon took more than 50 percent of the snaps.

Roethlisberger wasn't talking Wednesday as he recovers from a slight concussion, but it's likely the Steelers were getting Dixon more snaps just in case he were forced into action Sunday in Baltimore.

With No. 2 QB Charlie Batch out for two to four weeks with a broken left wrist, Dixon is the only QB behind Roethlisberger on the roster.

Roethlisberger took a knee to the head in last Sunday's 27-24 overtime loss at Kansas City but has been medically cleared to play against the Ravens.

© Guard Chris Kemoeatu (knee) and safety Troy Polamalu (knee) did not practice due to injuries Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday with Tomlin, licking the wounds

After back-to-back losses, Mike Tomlin was in pure Tomlin mode today as he discussed what the Steelers need to do to turn things around heading into a critical game against Baltimore.

Tomlin said he expects Ben Roethlisberger to be his quarterback when they play the Ravens on Sunday night, with Dennis Dixon as the team's primary, and only, backup.

Charlie Batch will have surgery Wednesday and is expected to miss two to four weeks. Former Pitt star Tyler Palko is expected to be signed to the practice squad to give the team an extra quarterback for practice purposes.

Meanwhile, linebacker Donovan Woods and defensive back Keiwan Ratliff were the latest to be released as the team tries to solve its special teams coverage problems.

They were replaced on the active roster by veterans Rocky Boiman and Corey Ivy.

Travis Kirschke is expected to practice this week and the team hopes he'll return to play against the Ravens.

Troy Polamalu remains questionable, while guard Chris Kemoeatu is out.

As for the excuse from some members of the secondary that they were unaware of the play call for the 61-yard catch-and-run in overtime by Chris Chambers in the 27-24 loss to Kansas City, Tomlin said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau called the third-down play before the players took the field, then reiterated the call following second down.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Steelers should adjust game plan

With Charlie Batch out with a broken wrist, many Steelers fans are in a panic.

Who will start next week against the Baltimore Raves with Batch out and Ben Roethlisberger having left Sunday's game against Kansas City after taking a knee to the head?

Don't worry, Roethlisberger is fine.

But let's be honest here. It's likely that Roethlisberger will be a little more susceptible to a full-blown concussion after taking the knee from linebacker Derrick Johnson Sunday.

With that in mind, now would be a good time for the Steelers to dust off an older playbook, one that won't require so many passes from the unquestioned leader and best player.

Rashard Mendenhall is proving capable of carrying the load and Willie Parker looks as if he's as close to 100 percent as he's been in two months.

Baltimore's defense is also not the Baltimore defense of old. The Ravens can be run on - even though the real weakness is at cornerback.

Plus it would make far more sense to have Roethlisberger hand off 35 times than drop back and throw into a secondary that includes Ed Reed.

He may have passed all of the cognitive tests the team gave him Monday, but testing Reed too much is tempting fate, especially if Roethlisberger is even the slightest bit slow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Post-Kansas City thoughts

How in the world do you lose a game in which you roll up more than 500 yards of offense?

Yeah, I know, three turnovers and a special teams touchdown.

But, seriously, that was pretty pathetic to lose to Kansas City's popgun offense.

Put it this way, Lance Long had a big catch against the Steelers in the fourth quarter, picking up 30 yards down the middle of the field on third down from the 10.

Lance Long for cripes sakes. Dude with a name like that should be making porn, not catching 30-yard passes.

© As things stand, the Steelers would be the No. 2 wildcard in the AFC playoffs. But I'm seeing nothing from this team that would suggest it could make it through a playoff run as a wildcard as the 2005 team did.

Then again, a healthy Troy Polamalu would help.

A number of national reporters have said Polamalu will miss a month.

Don't believe it. Polamalu is closer than that and could play this week against Baltimore.

© I would expect to see Ben Roethlisberger as well.

He seemed pretty lucid in the locker room after the game.

© Four kickoff returns in the past five games has left this team shellshocked. That's also eight consecutive games with a return of some type against this team, an NFL record.

It's stat akin to the 'fat, dumb and stupid is no way to go through life' line from Animal House.

© Rashard Mendenhall ran hard Sunday and blocked well in blitz pickup.

Willie Parker ran hard Sunday and even looked good catching a pass out of the backfield.

Yet it was Mewelde Moore, the slowest of the three, carrying the ball on a critical sweep on third-and-two in overtime.

Genius. I've defended Bruce Arians quite a bit this season, but I can't defend that.

Moore also blew a couple of blitz pickups late in the game.

I'm sorry, but Mendenhall should be on the field full-time from here on out. If he needs a breather, Parker has shown he's healthy enough to effectively spell him.

Moore would be my last resort at this point.

© Ike Taylor, you've got to come up with that interception if you want to make the Pro Bowl.

Taylor had an interception on the play before Matt Cassel threw a six-yard pass to Chris Chambers that turned into a 61-yard catch-and-run to set up Ryan Succop's game-winning field goal.

But Taylor lost control of the ball as he rolled over.

It would have been a nice interception. Instead, it's a footnote to a sorry day.

Taylor was also one of the guys who missed Jamal Charles on the opening kickoff.

© Nobody will be blaming Jeff Reed for missing any tackles this week.

Steelers-KC gameday thread

I'm already here at Arrowhead and the field looks bad. Spotty grass with plenty of brown spots.

I love this stadium - it's one of my favorites in the league - but people in Pittsburgh would be complaining about this grass.

© This is a must-win game for the Steelers, more so than next week's game at Baltimore.


You have to make your layups - to steal a term from another sport - and this game is one of them.

© The Steelers have Carey Davis, Polamalu, Urbok, Hills, Sunny Harris, McDonald and Kirschke down this week.

Mike Vrabel and guard Andy Alleman, a couple of starters, are down for the Chiefs.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Who I like, Week 11

After getting burned last week by the Bengals, the Steelers should be smarting a bit this week against Kansas City.

The Chiefs just aren't very good offensively and even though Troy Polamalu and Travis Kirschke won't play for the Steelers, their defense should have no trouble locking them down.

Defensively, Kansas City is very young in the secondary and that's something the Steelers will exploit, Kansas City also has just 12 sacks this season.

Take Pittsburgh, 31-10.

© Linebacker James Harrison was fined $5,000 by the NFL for his personal foul Sunday against Cincinnati offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kirschke suffers setback

After going through some individual drills on Wednesday, defensive end Travis Kirschke sat out Thursday as he continues to attempt to come back from a calf injury that has sidelined him the past two games.

Kirschke, of course, had been thrust into a starting role after Aaron Smith was lost for the season.

Nick Eason has started the past two games at defensive end with Smith and Kirschke out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Polamalu in knee brace

Strong safety Troy Polamalu was at the Steelers practice today, but was wearing a large knee brace and did not participate.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said Polamalu is "very questionable" to play this week against Kansas City. By the looks of things, Polamalu may be out even longer than that.

Considering the Steelers play in Baltimore in two weeks, that's not a good thing for Pittsburgh, which is 2-2 in games that Polamalu has missed.

© I keep hearing the stat that the Steelers haven't won this season without Polamalu. Paul Alexander said it following the Mike Tomlin press conference Tuesday. It was repeated on an ESPN 1250 radio show Wednesday afternoon as something that's a fact.

I'm sure they probably read it somewhere, even though it's false. Don't these people do any research of their own?

© Carey Davis and Travis Kirschke were back at practice on a limited basis today and look like they could be back against Kansas City.

© Mike Wallace was out today with an undisclosed illness.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kansas City's Bowe suspended

As if the Steelers needed any more help defeating the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend, now wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, the team's top receiver, has been suspended by the NFL for four games for violating the performance enhancing substances policy.

This leaves the Chiefs very thin at wide receiver.

Tuesday with Tomlin-Polamalu update

Mike Tomlin said the injury to All-Pro strong safety Troy Polamalu is not as serious as the team feared when he left Sunday's loss to Cincinnati.

Tomlin said Tuesday that Polamalu's injury is a PCL strain as opposed to a re-injury to the MCL that forced him to miss four games earlier this season.

"Troy's status for this game is questionable, at best," said Tomlin as the Steelers prepare to play at Kansas City Sunday. "Although we have had some favorable information in regards to where he is from a health standpoint. We're going to take it day-to-day with him."

In other injury-related news, Tomlin said defensive end Travis Kirschke will work in individual drills Wednesday, as will fullback Carey Davis.

Both have missed the past two games, Kirschke with a calf injury, Davis with a hamstring pull.

© The Steelers have also signed linebacker Donovan Woods from their practice squad, releasing linebacker Arnold Harrison.

Woods is expected to help the team's kickoff coverage problems.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Post-Cincinnati part II thoughts

Give credit where credit is due, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer coached himself a heck of a ball game Sunday.

Individually, Cincinnati's defenders aren't all that good. In fact, they're largely the same group that has lined up for the Bengals the past few years - with a few notable exceptions.

But people have said that about the Steelers for years as well.

Sometimes scheme can outperform ability.

It did Sunday for Cincinnati.

© Cincinnati's offense didn't do a whole lot again against the Steelers, picking up 218 yards.

That's why it's kind of funny that quarterback Carson Palmer spoke after the game about how they outschemed the Steelers in the run game and in the play-action game.

Hey Carson, you outschemed the Steelers to the tune of 61 rushing yards, 157 passing and four field goals.

No, this day belonged to Zimmer.

© Ben Roethlisberger was off all day long in this one, overthrowing open receivers on a number of occasions.

Many of his throws were high. Again, credit Zimmer for keeping Roethlisberger in the pocket and for some well-timed delayed blitzes that kept Roethlisberger from stepping into his throws.

© The injury to Troy Polamalu is troubling.

Including Sunday's loss in which he played exactly one defensive series, the Steelers have won 13 of of the past 15 games he's started.

They're 2-2 when he doesn't play.

There's no word yet on Polamalu's status, but he pulled himself out of the game, so obviously he felt something wasn't right.

© That's seven consecutive games the Steelers have allowed a return touchdown, including three-straight home games that they've given up a kickoff return touchdown.

The defense has allowed 11 touchdowns all season.

Mike Tomlin joked following the game that he'd put himself out there if he thought it would help the kickoff coverage team.

But a call to Anthony Madison, who's unemployed right now, might be in order.

Keiwan Ratliff was inactive Sunday and rookie Keenan Lewis went down with a rib injury.

Ratliff could be released or Lewis could go on IR to make room for Madison, who was the Steelers' leader in special teams tackles in 2008.

© Chris Kemoeatu was the only Steelers player named to Sports Illustrated's midseason All-Pro team by Peter King.

Sunday, Kemoeatu gave up a pair of sacks to somebody named Johnathan Fanene. He also was penalized once for holding Fanene.

I'm pretty sure Fanene was not on King's All-Pro team.

Just saying.

© I'm sure Steelers fans are hitting the panic button right now after being swept by the Bengals.

But really, the Steelers still control their own destiny.

Sunday's loss will likely cost the Steelers any chance of a bye in the playoffs and could mean they might have to settle for a wildcard spot, but outside of Indianapolis and New England, who in the AFC playoff picture scares anyone?

Don't think for a second the Steelers wouldn't welcome a third game with Cincinnati.

Steelers-Bengals inactives

Keiwan Ratliff, Carey Davis, Urbik, Hills, Sunny Harris, Shaun McDonald and Travis Kirschke are inactive for the Steelers.

Keith Rivers is down for Cincinnati.

Brandon Johnson will start in his place.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Who I like

Really, this is one of the easier picks I've made this season. The Bengals are a legitimate playoff contender, but they aren't coming into Heinz Field and winning. It's just not going to happen.

And if you think back to the first meeting, the Steelers dominated it for about 3 1/2 quarters. Even with Cincinnati's two late TD drives, the Steelers still outgained the Bengals by 100 yards.

An interception return for a touchdown caused by Santonio Holmes and botched snap on a PAT made a big difference.

How did the botched PAT make a difference. Had the Bengals made the PAT after the interception return in the third quarter, they'd have been behind 20-17 and facing fourth-and-11 with under a minute remaining. Marvin Lewis would have kicked the tying field goal instead of going for the first down.

And who knows what happens after that.

Add in Limas Sweed's dropped touchdown pass and a Jeff Reed missed field goal and you just had the perfect storm for the Bengals.

Won't happen again this time.

Take Pittsburgh, 27-13

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Timmons back at practice

Linebacker Lawrence Timmons was back at practice Wednesday and looked good moving around on his sprained ankle.

All signs point to Timmons returning to play after sitting out the Steelers' victory over Denver.

Travis Kirschke and Carey Davis sat out.

© Chad Ochocinco wrote on his Twitter page that he was going to send the Steelers defensive backs mustard in the mail this week because, "they weren't going to be able to ketchup" on Sunday.

It's really not that big of a deal for the Steelers, who seem to like Ochocinco's playful little digs.

Ochocinco is just 5-12 in 17 career games against the Steelers, so I guess they get the last laugh.

Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis, though, apparently nixed Ochocinco's plans and told him not to send the package.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Post-Denver thoughts

Sorry these are so late, but after spending all night in the air and getting in at 5:30 a.m., the need for sleep took over.

© I loved how the Steelers consistently attacked Denver All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey again and again.

Bailey has the reputation as a shut-down cornerback. But the Steelers tested him over and over.

Bailey finished with a team-high 12 tackles, which is not a good thing if you're a cornerback.

© I asked Brett Keisel as we walked out of the stadium if the hometown officials - they're not really, but it works for this note - wanted to give him the sack trifecta with that ridiculous call late in the game on the pass he batted backwards.

But the fact was that Keisel's play helped set the tone in this one as Kyle Orton got less and less comfortable in the pocket.

Keisel's two sacks were the only ones the Steelers had, but they were in Orton's face from the second quarter on once Dick LeBeau realized the Broncos were not going to – could not? – test the Steeler deep.

© Denver is a fraud. That will be a team that will be fortunate to finish this season with nine wins.

They're not bad, but they're also not going anywhere with Kyle Orton at quarterback.

I could be wrong about that since Denver gets four gimmee wins because of the division in plays in, but San Diego is going to win the AFC West.

© Rashard Mendenhall is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and just hit the 100-carry mark for the season Monday night.

Many people will focus on his long runs, but I was much more impressed when he hammered the ball into the line early in the game, getting positive yards each time.

He still goes to that spin move a little too often, but he's starting to get it.

© Troy Polamalu continues to amaze me.

On one play late in the game, he lined up outside of the left tackle and at the snap took off across the field and covered wide receiver Brandon Stokley in the right flats, covering a good 50 yards before Orton could get the ball there.

It was something only Polamalu does.

© What makes the Steelers so good?

Three defensive starters were out and it looked like the exact same defense that has taken the field in the first seven games this season.

In fact, the replacements perhaps outplayed the usual starters.

Keyaron Fox, starting for Lawrence Timmons, was everywhere helping shut down Denver's running game and finished with a team-high seven tackles.

Tyrone Carter, starting in place of Ryan Clark, picked off a pair of passes at free safety, taking one of them to the end zone.

And while the stat line says that Nick Eason and Ziggy Hood combined for just one tackle subbing for Travis Kirschke at defensive end, they were very disruptive.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Pittsburgh-Denver inactives

As stated, Ryan Clark is down for the Steelers.

Also down are Sunny Harris, Urbik, Hills, Shaun McDonald, Kirschke and Timmons.

Peyton Hillis, Ryan Harris and McBean are inactive for Denver.

Sunny Harris is a bit of a surprise. It leaves the Steelers with three DEs, but Hoke can play there in a pinch.

No surprise, Clark won't play

In a move that should surprise no one, safety Ryan Clark will not play in tonight's game at Denver against the Broncos.

Doctors cleared Clark medically to go against the Broncos, but head coach Mike Tomlin decided to err on the side of caution rather than play Clark.

Clark, of course, has a rare blood disorder that caused his blood to sickle after Pittsburgh's last game here. He had his spleen removed, which was supposed to solve the problem, but there are no guarantees it would not have happened again.

If this were a playoff game, Clark and the Steelers may have come to a different decision. But since it is not, they decided it would be best not to play.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Who I Like, Steelers at Denver

This one really isn't as difficult as many would think.

The Steelers are 2 1/2 or three-point favorites against the Broncos, depending on what service you use.

But Pittsburgh's offense is way more dynamic than Denver's and that should be the difference.

The Steelers will get after Kyle Orton and force him to make those quick short throws that really aren't going to hurt Pittsburgh.

Playing this game in Denver will keep it reasonably close, but the road team will win it in the end, take Pittsburgh, 20-16.

© Lawrence Timmons and Travis Kirschke still have not practiced this week. That's no surprise for Kirschke, who has a slight tear in his calf. But Timmons will need to practice Saturday if he's to play in Denver.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ward the dirtiest player? I don't think so.

The fine people at Sports Illustrated have put together their annual list of the dirtiest players in the NFL and the Steelers' Hines Ward ranked No. 1, while safety Troy Polamalu was ninth.

Ward plays hard and he has drawn a couple of fines during his career, but he's not dirty.

A dirty player is one who goes for an opponent's knees. A dirty player is one who is out to hurt people. A dirty player has likely been suspended a time or two.

Ward is none of that. The same goes for Polamalu.

In fact, of the players on the list, the only ones I would consider dirty are Richie Incognito of the Rams, Harvey Dahl of the Falcons and Roy Williams of the Bengals.

Incognito is well known for his less-than-legal play, while Dahl is a cut-blocking specialist. Williams is so dirty that the league had to make horsecollar tackling illegal because of him - though it hasn't stopped him from doing it.

Albert Haynesworth of Washington and Kevin Mawae of the Titans are also on the list and I've heard from different players that they do some dirty stuff. But they are also very good players.

The thing to remember about these polls is that SI sends a lackey out to each training camp and polls 15 or so players - usually not starters because they're too busy – asking them a number of questions.

Many of the players polled really have no idea what to answer because they are end-of-roster guys or rookies. So they come up with what they've seen on the highlight shows. It's hardly a scientific process.

But kudos to SI for getting people to talk about it.

© As expected Travis Kirschke did not practice again Thursday as he continues to rehab his slightly torn calf muscle.

Linebacker Lawrence Timmons also sat out, though the team has two more practice days before leaving for Denver Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tuesday with Tomlin

Not much news out of head coach Mike Tomlin's press conference today.

As he said Monday, Tomlin reiterated that a decision about safety Ryan Clark's status would not be made until Thursday.

Linebacker Lawrence Timmons and defensive end Travis Kirschke are both questionable. Timmons, with an ankle injury, is more likely to play than Kirschke, who has a calf strain.

Willie Parker missed practice Monday with an illness. His status at this time is up in the air.

One thing of note that Tomlin did talk about Monday was that wide receiver Santonio Holmes, like Clark, also carries the sickle cell trait. But, Tomlin also noted that a couple of Denver's players also carry it as well.

Clark's illness after playing there, while tied into his carrying of that trait, was not soley based on that. There were some other determining factors as well.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Next three weeks could decide AFC North

The next three weeks may very well decide who wins the AFC North title this season.

While Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are off, Baltimore hosts unbeaten Denver in one of the marquee matchups of Week 8.

A loss by the Ravens, which would be their fourth in a row following a 3-0 start, would all but bury them in the division race.

Week 9 will send the Ravens to Cincinnati, while the Steelers head to Denver.

Again, given that Baltimore has already lost once to the Bengals at home, a loss at Cincinnati would severely damage Baltimore's playoff hopes, even if it defeats Denver this weekend.

A loss by the Steelers in Denver would drop them to 5-3 and would, more importantly, be the team's second AFC loss.

It wouldn't be a killer, but it would hurt.

Week 10 then sees Cincinnati visiting Heinz Field, while Baltimore heads to Cleveland for what should be a cakewalk over the Browns.

Having already lost in Cincinnati, the Steelers have to beat the Bengals at home to have a chance to win the division, particularly with two games remaining against the Ravens.