Friday, December 31, 2010

Polamalu practices

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu practiced for the first time in three weeks on Friday, meaning its likely he could play Sunday in the team's regular season finale at Cleveland.

Polamalu has missed the last two games with a right Achilles’ tendon injury. The team’s medical staff wants to see how he responds to Friday’s practice before deciding whether he can play Sunday.

Polamalu was selected this week by his teammates as the Steelers’ most valuable player, the first time in his career he was chosen. He also was picked for his sixth Pro Bowl.

Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis, meanwhile, missed his third consecutive practice with a rib injury.

Both of those things make this week's pick pretty straightforward.

Take the Steelers, 27-13

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday news and notes

Despite not playing in the past two games, safety Troy Polamalu was voted by his teammates as the Steelers MVP this season.

The award is well-deserved for Polamalu, who leads the Steelers with six interceptions and has seemingly made every big defensive play the team has had this season.

n Polamalu did not practice Thursday as he continues to rest his sore Achilles' tendon, but that was expected.

Friday is the big day for Polamalu.

n Also sitting out Thursday were running back Mewelde Moore (knee), offensive tackle Chris Scott (personal) and defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps).

Linebacker Jason Worilds (knee) was a partial participant after sitting out Wednesday, while linebacker LaMarr Woodley was a full particpant after being limited Wednesday.

© California University of Pennsylvania quarterback Josh Portis has been invited to the NFL combine.

Portis, the cousin of Washington Redskins' running back Clinton Portis, is the first player in Cal U history to be invited to the combine.

Before playing his final two seasons at Cal, Portis was at Florida, where he saw time as a backup to Tim Tebow, and Maryland.

n The NFL has reduced the fine levied on Harrison for his Oct. 17 hit on Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi from $75,000 to $50,000.

The league’s appeals officer, Ted Cottrell, reduced the fine because he said Harrison understands the player safety rules and has made an effort to adjust his technique to play within those rules. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell supported the reduction.
Harrison’s four fines this season for dangerous hits now total $100,000.

Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, also plans to appeal a $25,000 fine Harrison was assessed for a hit on Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on Nov. 28.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chief/Joe Greene awards coming today

The Chief Award, given to the Steelers player who best represents former owner Art Rooney's cooperation with the media will be handed out today. It's voted on by the local members of the Pro Football Writers of America, of which I am one.

The winner of this year's award will be something of a surprise.

The Joe Greene rookie of the year award was something of a no-brainer, even though the Steelers have a number of good candidates. It wasn't that long ago that we gave it to Patrick Bailey for his special teams contributions.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Three Steelers earn Pro Bowl honors

Three Steelers were named to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, including rookie center Maurkice Pouncey.

Pouncey was named to the team as a backup to starter Nick Mangold of the Jets.

Also making the team for Pittsburgh were strong safety Troy Polamalu and outside linebacker James Harrison.

Both have been selected to the Pro Bowl in previous seasons.

Polamalu a possibility

Here's the injury run down from today's press conference with Mike Tomlin:

Troy Polamalu’s improving. The Steelers will hold him back from practice until Friday to give him as much time off as possible.

Cornerback Bryant McFadden has a hip pointer that may limit him in the early part of the week.

Linebacker LaMarr Woodley has some swelling on his left knee that could limit him early in the week.

Rookie linebacker Jason Worilds has some swelling on his knee that will likely limit him early in the week. If he can't practice by Thursday, he likely won't play at Cleveland.

Running back Mewelde Moore has a right knee sprain. He is questionable to play.

Aaron Smith underwent another scan on Monday and is "healing nicely." It does not sound, however, that Tomlin has any intention of playing him against Cleveland, particularly with how well Ziggy Hood has been playing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Steelers 2011 opponents

With Kansas City’s clinching of the AFC West title on Sunday, the Steelers’ 2011 opponents have now been set – barring an expansion by the league to an 18-game schedule.

The Steelers will host Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Tennessee, New England, Seattle and St. Louis.

They will travel to Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, San Francisco and Arizona.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Watching Sunday's games

The Browns are attempting to do the same thing against the Ravens that they did to New England, drop eight into pass coverage and rush three - two from the extreme outside and one guy up the middle who is more of a spy than anything.

That won't work against Baltimore.

You have to rush Joe Flacco hard. He doesn't feel pressure well and Baltimore's receivers will eventually get open. There's also the Ray Rice factor.

© We're seeing some chinks in the armor with Colt McCoy as well. He's forced a couple of passes deep and paid for it.

McCoy is pretty accurate on the underneath stuff, but his arm strength is lacking on the deep passes.

© I told my wife I wanted to watch the CBS pre-game show to see an indignant Bill Cowher deny that he put out any rumors about what teams he'd like to be coaching next year.

Cowher didn't disappoint.

© That was quite the choke job by the Chargers in Cincinnati Sunday.

That's also two wins in a row for the Bengals, who have suddenly become dangerous without TO and Ochocinco's Show.

Go figure.

Remember, too, that the Bengals have won at least three in a row against Baltimore.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Post-Carolina thoughts

The outcome of Thursday night's game was about as much in doubt as the Republicans taking control of Congress in the most recent elections.

You knew both were going to happen, it was only a matter of how big the wins were going to be.

© Mewelde Moore and Jason Worilds both suffered knee injuries, the extent of which is not yet known.

© It was good to see James Harrison finally get to the quarterback again for a sack. Harrison had gone three games without one, his longest stretch this season.

The guy works way too hard and had been too close too many times not to get at least one more to close out the season.

© It's getting pretty obvious why punter Jason Kapinos was available for the Steelers to pick up when Daniel Sepulveda was lost for the season a few weeks ago.

He usually gets decent hang time on his punts, but the distance is certainly lacking in the cold Pittsburgh winter.

For a team that likes to play the field-position game, that's not a good thing.

© I'm not a fan of Mike Tomlin leaving starters in the game in a rout like this.

Though Tomlin began pulling starters midway through the fourth quarter, for some reason a banged-Ben Roethlisberger stayed in the whole way.

Same goes for Mike Wallace, who the Steelers threw a quick pass just before the two-minute warning to get him 100 yards.

If either of those two guys were injured, this team wouldn't win a single game in the playoffs, regardless of the opponent.

Yes, I know the Steelers went 3-1 without Roethlisberger to start the season, but that was a team that was relatively healthy on defense.

That's not the case now.

And Wallace means a heck of a lot to this team as well.

© Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Steelers-Panthers inactives

Dwyer, Polamalu, Chris Scott, Tony Hills, Steve McLendon, Battle and Aaron Smith are down for the Steelers.

Chris Gamble and Tony Fiammetta are among those down for the Panthers.

The weather here is not bad. Cold, but the field looks to be in good shape.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Who I like, Carolina version

The Steelers should get an early Christmas present in the form of the Carolina Panthers.

Everything about this game looks like a rout.

Carolina's pass offense is non-existent. The Panthers have just eight touchdown passes this season to go with 19 interceptions.

It gets even worse when you look at Jimmy Clausen's stats. In eight starts, Clausen has two TD passes and seven interceptions with eight fumbles. He's been sacked 26 times.

Pittsburgh's defense will control Carolina's rushing attack and force Clausen to throw, something that will lead to bad things, even without Troy Polamalu in the lineup.

Rashard Mendenhall should find some running lanes and the Steelers could spread the Panthers out early in an attempt to build a lead.

Take the Steelers, 24-6

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Miller practices, Polamalu does not

Heath Miller returned to practice today as the Steelers held their first and only full workout in preparation for Thursday's game against Carolina – though today was more of a glorified walkthrough than anything.

The Steelers will have another walkthrough Wednesday.

Troy Polamalu did not practice, leaving him unlikely to play against the Panthers.

Aaron Smith said that he has one more test to undergo - early next - week before he can be cleared to return to full action.

Jonathan Scott was back at practice today and took the majority of the reps at left tackle.

After re-watching Sunday's game against the Jets Monday night, Scott was actually solid in that game, outside of the missed block on Jason Taylor that led to a safety. But that play can be blamed more on the call itself than the execution.

Ben Roethlisberger said today that he will continue to wear a visor to protect his broken nose for the remainder of this season.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Good news from Tomlin

Mike Tomlin was the bearer of good tidings today as he said defensive end Aaron Smith, strong safety Troy Polamalu and tight end Heath Miller could all be available for Thursday night's game against Carolina.

I don't expect any of them to play - with the possible exception of Miller - but it's positive that the team is even considering it at this point.

Smith will be fitted with a shoulder sling to help protect his surgically repaired triceps. But with just one full day of practice and a walkthrough on Wednesday, it's unlikely the Steelers will rush him back.

Polamalu said he was feeling better after Sunday's 22-17 loss to New York, but is kind of in the same situation as Smith after not practicing last week. Plus, as Tomlin noted, backup Ryan Mundy played well in Polamalu's absence.

Miller practiced on Wednesday and Friday last week. If he can get through practice Tuesday without his recurring headache problems as a result of a concussion three weeks ago, he could play against Carolina.

Tomlin also did not rule out a switch to Trai Essex at left tackle - though he said it was too early for him to commit to such a move.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Post-Jets thoughts

A tough loss to a good team. I liken this loss like the first one to Baltimore when the Steelers gave up a touchdown late to lose without Ben Roethlisberger.

The Steelers pretty much handled everything the Jets gave them but came up short thanks to a kick return for a score and an inexplicable draw call from their own end zone.

Can't defend Bruce Arians on that one. In fact, I was calling the play in the press box. Seems that Jason Taylor knew that tendency as well.

But really, the Steelers handled the Jets up front with their offensive line pretty well. One sack was complete luck and another came when Roethlisberger dropped the football.

All in all, three sacks on nearly 50 pass attempts isn't bad. And Roethlisberger had a lot of time to throw the ball throughout the game.

The running game also clicked pretty well and the Jets' big-bad cornerbacks were non-factors – unless they were grabbing a handful of jersey of a receiver who had gotten behind them.

© If the Steelers have Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller - who they had made a big part of the game plan before he couldn't go - in this game, they win by 10 points.

Don't expect either one to play Thursday against Carolina, but they will be back for the regular season finale at Cleveland, which is now very meaningful.

© After watching Trai Essex at left tackle during the final drive, I wouldn't be surprised to see him move Jonathan Scott to the bench.

© The best thing to take out of this game is the development of Emmanuel Sanders as a complete weapon.

Sanders consistently got open in this game and really seems to be coming into his own in terms of being on the same page as Roethlisberger.

He's going to be a big factor for the Steelers the remainder of this season.

© Looking at what the Green Bay Packers did in New England Sunday night - albeit in a loss - with their backup QB, the Patriots don't look nearly as unbeatable as they did a week ago.

Did they peak too early?

Possibly.

The Colts taking charge of the AFC South is also an interesting development. If anybody can go into New England and pull out a win, Peyton Manning can.

Polamalu, Miller out

Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller are inactive today for the Steelers, obviously a big blow for the Steelers.

Ryan Mundy and Matt Spaeth will start instead.

Eric Smith is out at safety for the Jets, leaving them with two backup safeties starting. Damien Woody and Trevor Pryce are also down for New York.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Who I like, Jets version

If Troy Polamalu doesn't play this week - and I'm not sold that he won't - it affects my pick only in which team I think will cover the 5 1/2-point spread in this game.

The Steelers' defense should dominate New York and erratic QB Mark Sanchez.

New York will not be able to run the ball against the Steelers, forcing Sanchez, who has a propensity to try force the ball into some tight spots, to beat them.

Sanchez isn't capable of doing that.

The Steelers will likewise struggle to move the ball as well. But Sanchez will have a turnover or two that will help set up Pittsburgh's offense.

Heath Miller returning to practice Friday is also big for the Steelers. I expect Pittsburgh to use him to help beat New York's seven and eight-man blitzes with quick passes.

Take the Steelers, 17-9, if Polamalu plays.

Take the Steelers, 17-13, if he doesn't.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Setback for Miller

The Steelers suffered a blow Thursday when tight end Heath Miller was forced to sit out practice with headaches, a lingering symptom of the concussion he suffered two weeks ago in Baltimore.

That could be bad news if Miller is unable to play Sunday against the Jets. With the Jets banged up at safety, Miller would be a heavy target if he plays.

If not, the Steelers are forced to settle for Matt Spaeth trying to go over the middle - ugh.

© On a related note, Darrelle Revis is suffering from a bit of a hamstring injury. That could be good news. But it also continues to lead me to believe the Jets will have Revis follow Hines Ward and Cromartie shadow Mike Wallace.

© Bryant McFadden and Flozell Adams both returned to practice today, but James Harrison sat out for the second consecutive day with an illness.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Week 15 Playoff scenarios

Pittsburgh clinches AFC North division:

1) PIT win + BAL loss + PIT clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over BAL

Pittsburgh clinches a first-round bye:

1) PIT win + BAL loss + PIT clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over

BAL and JAC

2) PIT win + BAL loss + JAC loss or tie + PIT clinches strength of victory

tiebreaker over BAL

Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot:

1) PIT win or tie

2) IND loss or tie + SD loss or tie

3) IND loss or tie + KC loss

There are other scenarios in which Pittsburgh may clinch a playoff spot if

it clinches the strength of victory tiebreaker over certain teams this weekend.

© Troy Polamalu earned his second consecutive AFC Defensive Player of the Week award for his efforts against the Bengals.

With his recent play, Polamalu, who got off to a hot start this season before going through a lull in the middle of the year, has forced his way into consideration for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday with Tomlin

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said defensive end Aaron Smith's health continues to improve as he works back from a torn triceps muscle.

Smith has been lifting weights for a little over a week now with no ill effects and it looks like he may be back before the end of the regular season.

Smith has been targeting the Carolina game as a possible return, but it's more likely he may see a little action in the regular season finale against Cleveland, just to get his feet wet before the playoffs.

Tomlin said that tight end Heath Miller passed all of his concussion tests and will be cleared to return to practice Wednesday.

Flozell Adams continues to deal with his ankle sprain and will be held out of practice early in the week.

Bryant McFadden, who is still dealing with a hamstring injury, could be limited as well.

Troy Polamalu, as has been the case the past few weeks, will be held out of practice early in the week as he continues to deal with his Achilles' tendon soreness.

Anthony Madison (knee contusion) and Keyaron Fox (elbow) were injured in last Sunday's win over Cincinnati, but should be good to play this Sunday against the Jets.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Post-Cincinnati thoughts, Part II

That was how you're supposed to close out a game against a mediocre opponent.

The Steelers limited the Bengals to 190 total yards and even when they went to their prevent on the final drive, Troy Polamalu picked off Carson Palmer at the goal line, Palmer's third interception of the game.

Yes, the offense failed to punch the ball into the end zone, which is troubling. The offensive line is still the biggest obstacle facing this team and is killing it when the field gets short thanks to sacks and holding penalties.

But with the Chiefs losing Sunday, the Steelers moved a game closer to wrapping up the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

© LaMarr Woodley had a busy day.

Woodley had an interception return for a touchdown to go along with a pair of sacks - his third career multiple-sack game against the Bengals.

He was also largely responsible for Cincinnati's only touchdown. First, he jumped offside on third down on the Bengals' opening possession negating an incompletion.

Then, once the Bengals got down to the 1, Woodley allowed backup offensive lineman Andre Whitworth a quick release into the end zone.

But, we'll forgive him for that since he evened it up with a score of his own.

© Next up are the Jets, losers of two straight and a team that hasn't scored an offensive touchdown in nine quarters.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez also has 8 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and eight fumbles in the last eight games.

He's also completed more than 60 percent of his passes in just one game during that span.

The biggest difference between Sanchez early in the season to Sanchez now?

Pressure.

Sanchez was sacked seven times in New York's first five games. He's been sacked 19 times in the last eight games, including six Sunday by the Dolphins.

The Steelers, who have 39 sacks, have to feel very confident against the Jets.

© Heath Miller can't come back soon enough.

Cincinnati Game Day thread

Heath Miller is down for the Steelers, no surprise there.

Keenan Lewis is down after his gaffe last week, running out of bounds on a punt coverage. Crezdon Butler is active.

Johnathan Joseph is down for Cincinnati.

The rains have let up, but it's still coming down lightly. There's also a steady wind that seemed to be knocking down deep passes in warmups.

The freshly re-sodded field looks OK. We'll see how it holds up once the water soaks all the way in.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Who I like, Cincinnati II

Coming off of an emotional, hard-fought win over hated division rival Baltimore last week, the Steelers face the challenge of not giving up the one-game lead in the AFC North they worked so hard to acquire.

That’s why it’s almost perfect that the Steelers face another division rival at home this week in the Cincinnati Bengals.

If there was any doubt about why the Steelers wouldn’t have a letdown against Cincinnati, the Bengals’ PR department trotted out reason No. 1 in its weekly press release. The Bengals have won two of the past three meetings between the two teams thanks to a sweep of the Steelers in 2009.

The Steelers don’t have to look too far into their past to realize how dangerous the Bengals are, despite their 2-10 record.

They also have the previous meeting between the two teams from which to call upon.
Yes, the Steelers jumped out to a 27-7 lead in that game. But the Bengals scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns and were inside the Pittsburgh 20 before being stopped on fourth down late in the game to end their hopes of a comeback.

The difference was that the Bengals opened thigns up in the fourth quarter after trying to establish running back Cedric Benson early.

Against Pittsburgh’s defense, which leads the league in fewest rushing yards allowed, that’s a losing proposition.

The Bengals likely learned their lesson in that game and will try to spread the Steelers out from the start when the two teams meet today at Heinz Field.

But that only works if you have a quarterback who isn’t prone to mistakes. Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer, who has 15 interceptions and five fumbles, is not one of those quarterbacks.

Take Pittsburgh to win, 28-13

© This from the Associated Press: The NFL has suspended New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes four games without pay for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Spikes, the team’s second leading tackler, will miss the rest of the regular season, starting Sunday at the Chicago Bears. The rookie drafted in the second round from Florida will be eligible to rejoin the active roster after the finale at home against Miami, and would be eligible for the playoffs.
Spikes said in a statement issued by the Patriots that the substance “was a medication that I should have gotten clarification on before taking. It was not a performance enhancer or an illegal drug.”

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Adams returns to practice

The Steelers got some good news Thursday when right tackle Flozell Adams returned to practice. It appears that Adams will not miss any time with the high ankle sprain he suffered Sunday night in Baltimore.

That's great news for a team that was looking at the prospect of starting its sixth different offensive line.

That won't be the case now as Adams is likely headed to his 13th start for the Steelers. He and Maurkice Pouncey are the only linemen to start every game this season.

© On another note, I'm sitting down to watch the Titans play the Colts and this thought came to me: Am I the only one creeped out by the Ray Lewis Old Spice commercial where he tears his own heart out, eats it and gets the little mini-Rays on his shoulder.

What ad agency thought that was a good idea?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Steelers playoff scenarios

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot:

1) PIT win + JAC loss or tie + NE win or tie + MIA loss or tie

2) PIT win + IND loss or tie + NE win or tie + MIA loss or tie

3) PIT win + IND loss or tie + NE win or tie + OAK loss or tie + SD loss or tie

4) PIT win + IND loss or tie + MIA loss or tie + OAK loss or tie

5) PIT tie + MIA loss or tie + OAK loss or tie + SD loss or tie + IND loss

There are other scenarios in which Pittsburgh may clinch a playoff spot if

they clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over certain teams this weekend.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Tuesday with Tomlin, Miller likely out

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that tight end Heath Miller is likely out for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Miller, of course, suffered a concussion against the Ravens.

But, Tomlin said that backup Matt Spaeth, who has missed the past two weeks with a concussion, has been cleared to play.

The Steelers signed punter Jeremy Kapinos to replace Daniel Sepulveda.

Aaron Smith had an MRI Monday and has been cleared to begin lifting weights.

I'm told he's targeting the Carolina or Cleveland games for a return.

Flozell Adams has what Tomlin deemed a "mild" high ankle sprain.

If he cannot play, Trai Essex would start in his place at right tackle.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Ouch

Maybe now Rex Ryan will keep his mouth shut for a while.

As I sit here, the Patriots just went ahead of the Jets, 45-3, in what was supposed to be the "Game of the Year," a term that seems to get thrown around every two weeks or so.

Ryan spent all of the offseason tweaking Patriots every chance he got. He was emboldened when the Jets beat the Pats, 28-14, early in the season.

But the Patriots are $&@$stomping the Jets tonight.

The fact is this, the Jets are a fraud. Mark Sanchez might be the most overrated quarterback in the NFL. He still doesn't read defenses well and constantly forces passes into places they should not go.

If you get ahead of New York and take the Jets running game out of the equation, they're in trouble.

And as we saw in this game, the defense is a bit overrated as well.

Realistically, the Patriots are the top team in the league right now with the Steelers and Ravens right behind them.

And even those three teams have flaws that could be fatal in the postseason.

But when your flaw is your quarterback, that's a pretty big one to overcome.

Post-Baltimore thoughts II

Just some quick thoughts here before I get off to bed following a bumpy flight back into Pittsburgh:

I loved Bruce Arians' adjustment to a pony offense in an effort to take some of the pressure off Ben Roethlisberger's injured right foot. In fact, I wouldn't be at all against the Steelers continuing to use that look moving forward, even after the foot is healed.

And obviously, I didn't give anything away to the Ravens by mentioning that the Steelers might have something up their sleeve.

© Sunday night's game is the biggest example of why there is so much confusion surrounding the NFL's crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits and hits on the quarterback.

It's shameful that those calls were missed.

© Great call by Dick LeBeau to send Troy Polamalu on a blitz.

The Steelers had gotten burned blitzing Polamalu earlier in the game when Ray Rice did a nice job of picking him up, leaving Ryan Clark one-on-one with Anquan Boldin, a play that turned into a 61-yard gain for Boldin.

Nobody picked up Polamalu this time around and it changed the Steelers' fate.

© Joe Flacco just doesn't handle pressure well and it's the one thing that is keeping him from being considered among the upper echelon of quarterbacks.

When he's pressured, he panics.

Ben Roethlisberger is just the opposite. He thrives in those situations.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Game-day thread

Word has it that Ben Roethlisberger's foot isn't nearly as bad as he's playing it up to be, which is why the Steelers released the statement they did regarding the injury.

I'm also told that some defensive players are a bit ticked off at Roethlisberger because they are playing with injuries but are a little fed up with Roethlisberger's theatrics.

© Brett Keisel is active for the Steelers tonight and will start.

Le'Ron McClain is out for Baltimore with his ankle injury. Michael Oher is active.

By the way, Sanders and Brown are both active for the Steelers.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Who I like - Baltimore version

This should be a very interesting game on Sunday night, one with a great deal on the line.

A victory by the Steelers would put them a game up on Baltimore in the division race and split the season series. Baltimore would lose the tiebreaker at this point, based on the Steelers having a better division record.

A win by the Ravens would all but guarantee them the division title based on having beaten the Steelers twice.

Much has been made about Ben Roethlisberger's injured foot, but it could be a blessing in disguise for Pittsburgh.

The injury is at its worst when Roethlisberger has to drop back, plant his injured right foot and throw.

How do you guarantee he doesn't have to do a lot of that? Go to the shotgun.

The Steelers haven't used their no-huddle offense much this season, but Roethlisberger's injury could force them to do so.

And much like the Steelers, the way to hurt the Ravens is to spread them out. Roethlisberger excels in that kind of attack.

At this point in his career, that's not what Joe Flacco does best.

The key player for the Steelers could be Mewelde Moore, who has become a player Roethlisberger looks to on third downs. The Steelers will split him out wide and have him run patterns out of the backfield. He's very good at finding the soft spots in a zone or beating man coverage.

The same could be said of Baltimore's Ray Rice, who is second on the team behind Anquan Boldin with 47 catches.

This group of Steelers has also always thrived when they get an "us against the world" mentality. It certainly has that this week.

This is also a group that went into Baltimore last season without Roethlisberger, Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu and took the Ravens into overtime before losing.

They'll beat the Ravens this time around, 24-23

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Does he or doesn't he?

Reports surfaced Thursday that Ben Roethlisberger's sprained right foot is actually a broken pinky toe.

The Steelers are disputing that report.

In response to inquiries about Ben Roethlisberger having a broken foot, Steelers spokesperson Dave Lockett said there is no new fracture in Ben’s foot. Ben’s current injury is an aggravation of an old injury where scar tissue is present.

This is, of course, not the first time Roethlisberger and the Steelers have clashed over injuries.

There were the broken toes following the 2005 AFC Championship game against New England, and the broken ribs prior to Super Bowl XLIII against Arizona.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Roethlisberger, McFadden practice

Both Ben Roethlisberger and cornerback Bryant McFadden practiced on a limited basis Wednesday as the Steelers began preparations for Sunday night's game in Baltimore.

That's good news for the Steelers.

Roethlisberger was still in a walking boot Wednesday morning to stabilize his sprained right foot. But trainer John Norwig came up with a shoe that held the foot in place and allowed Roethlisberger to go through team drills.

McFadden made it through practice with no apparent problems with his injured hamstring. How well the hamstring responds Thursday will be a be test for McFadden.

© A number of Steelers players expressed disgust with the league in regard to its fines of James Harrison.

But so did Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs in a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters.

Apparently, the league has done what nobody else has been able to – get the Ravens and Steelers to agree on something.