Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday news and notes

It appears the Steelers will get linebacker LaMarr Woodley back this weekend to face the Cincinnati Bengals.

Woodley was a full participant in practice Wednesday and looked good moving around.

His return would help bolster a defense that has recorded just 24 sacks this season. Woodley and James Harrison, who have played just three full games together this season due to injuries, have recorded 14 of those 24 sacks.

© Emmanuel Sanders said today that he has been told he will continue to return kickoffs this week and he guaranteed that he will do a better job of it than he did last week at Kansas City.

I also spoke to Antonio Brown, who had been handling all of those duties, about it and he said he takes way more of a beating returning kicks than he does punts.

Remember, Sanders was the team's primary kick returner last season and averaged 25.1 yards per return.

© Troy Polamalu and Maurkice Pouncey did not practice today, but both are expected to be ready to play against the Bengals.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday with Tomlin

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin sounded optimistic about LaMarr Woodley returning to the lineup this week against the Bengals. Woodley has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury.

Same goes for safety Troy Polamalu. Tomlin said Polamalu has not had any concussion symptoms since Sunday and actually didn't have any during the game. But the Steelers erred on the side of caution.

I thought from the beginning Polamalu's injury appeared to be more of a shoulder than a head and watching it again, that still appeared to be the case.

Getting Woodley back would be huge for the Steelers. Stevenson Sylvester missed Sunday's game with a calf injury, while rookie Chris Carter and Larry Foote went down with hamstring injuries against the Chiefs. That left the Steelers with just four linebackers to finish Sunday's game.

© Tomlin said he was unhappy with the results in the return game Sunday night. That could mean that Antonio Brown, who had been returning all the kicks, could move back into that spot.

Emmanuel Sanders was used in some situations against the Chiefs.

I'm not a big fan of using a starter as your primary return man. Why give some team's scrubs a shot at a receiver who's on pace to go over 1,000 yards receiving?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Post-Kansas City thoughts

Sloppy is the only way to describe the Steelers' 13-9 win at Kansas City Sunday night.

And not just sloppy play, but coaching as well.

Both the offensive and defensive units were penalized for having 12 men on the field. I can't remember the last time that was called on the Steelers once, let alone twice, in the same game.

Add to that Ben Roethlisberger's inexplicable brain cramp when he waived the punting team off the field on fourth down in the third quarter from the KC 39, only to take a timeout with time expiring and you get the idea that nobody's head was really in this game.

Kansas City outcoached and outplayed the Steelers for much of this game. The Steelers were fortunate that Tyler Palko was in the Christmas mood and kept on giving.

© Any game plan in which Mewelde Moore gets five first-half touches compared to none for Mike Wallace in the first two quarters of play is not a good one.

Nothing against Moore, who's made some big plays over the years, but Wallace is one of the premiere game changers in the league.

I also realize he was being doubled constantly and some of Moore's touches came on dumpoffs and such, but you've got to get the ball into Wallace's hands.

© The same theory is why Hines Ward isn't a big part of this offense any longer.

Who would you rather have the ball, Ward or Antonio Brown?

Yes, Ward came up with a big third-down catch, but his other three receptions went for seven yards.

Wallace, by the way, finished with two catches. Ward and Moore combined for seven for 30 yards.

© Hard to believe that LaMarr Woodley would have had a more impactful game than the one Jason Worilds played.

Subbing for Woodley, Worilds had six tackles, including one for a loss, four hurries and the Steelers' lone sack.

© The coaches were also raving about the catch Wes Saunders made in the back of the end zone for the game's lone TD as well.

Couple that with the fact that Saunders is a credible blocker and you have to feel a little better about the Steelers' overall depth.

© Oh, and did I mention that Ryan Mundy had a team-high 10 tackles and an interception?

© The Steelers played poorly and stole a game on the road. Baltimore has played poorly on the road a couple of times this season and lost.

It happens.

The biggest issue is that the offensive line just doesn't seem to handle crowd noise well, which could be an issue in the postseason.

There weren't a lot of Steelers fans in Kansas City Sunday night and pretty much every offensive lineman had a holding penalty – except Chris Kemoeatu. Go figure.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Steelers-Chiefs news, notes

Don't look for the Steelers to use any of the pony formation tonight as they did when Ben Roethlisberger was having injury problems a year ago.

Head coach Mike Tomlin hates the formation.

© It's a little windy and cold here at Arrowhead Stadium, my favorite venue in the NFL.

© Cincinnati had to deal with a little emotional letdown today after playing the Steelers and Ravens in back-to-back weeks.

To the Bengals' credit, they found a way to win at home against Cleveland.

The bad news is that they now have to face the Steelers again next week - in Pittsburgh.

© LaMarr Woodley is down again tonight for the Steelers. Emmanuel Sanders is active.

Also out for the Steelers are Dennis Dixon, Stevenson Sylvester, Al Woods, Jamon Meredith, Chris Hoke and Arnaz Battle.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Who I Like, KC version

I thought the Chiefs were highly overrated last season and took advantage of an easy schedule. This season, that is proving true.

Kansas City is 4-6, but the Chiefs have been blown out by four or more touchdowns in four games this season.

If it weren't for Indianapolis and a couple of wins over AFC West opponents, everyone would be asking what happened to the Chiefs.

The Steelers are also as healthy as they have been all year. Yes, LaMarr Woodley will sit out again, but it won't matter against Tyler Palko.

Palko may have all the football smarts in the world - and I don't doubt the he does - but what he doesn't have is an NFL-caliber arm.

And given that the Chiefs have trouble running the ball, that's not a good combination.

Take the Steelers to win, 31-6

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesday news and notes

Doug Legursky is fully healthy and will return to the starting lineup when the Steelers play Sunday night at Kansas City - in place of Chris Kemoeatu at left guard.

Kemoeatu, a four-year starter, said he considered the move a demotion, though he did say the coaching staff told him he just doesn't look healthy out there.

Kemoeatu has been dealing with a knee injury all season.

The move doesn't come as a huge surprise. Kemoeatu has struggled throughout his career with his pass protection and Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 31 times, the fourth-most in the NFL.

© Only Roethlisberger, LaMarr Woodley and Arnaz Battle were limited in practice today, the healthiest the Steelers have been all season.

© Roethlisberger said today that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians talked to the offensive unit about forgoing personal goals in order for the team to win.

That could have been aimed at Hines Ward - though Ward has handled his demotion well. It also could have been aimed at Mike Wallace - who has been getting frustrated regarding his lack of looks of late due to opponents doubling him.

In the last month, Antonio Brown has 26 receptions, Wallace 20 and Heath Miller 19.

© Perhaps this would only interest me, perhaps not.

The Steelers are 7-0 when they have a higher third down conversion rate than their opponent, 0-3 when they don't.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday with Tomlin, coming out of the bye

From the sound of things, Mike Tomlin expects Emmanuel Sanders to be available when the Steelers travel to Kansas City this weekend.

Sanders has been out of action a couple of weeks following the death of his mother and having his knee scoped.

What that means for Hines Ward remains to be seen. Tomlin said the team hasn't come up with its complete game plan yet for the Chiefs and decided on what role, if any, Ward will play.

One thing that likely won't happen is Ward being a healthy scratch. No. 6 receiver Arnaz Battle, a special teams ace, is still dealing with a hamstring injury and won't play this week.

But what happens when Battle is healthy is anyone's guess.

© Linebacker LaMarr Woodley is continuing to work his way back from a hamstring injury. Tomlin said he'll continue to be limited in practice for now. But he's been less limited of late than he was a couple of weeks ago - when limited meant he did some work with trainers.

© Tomlin said there are a couple of reasons for Cameron Heyward's lack of playing time against the Bengals.

Tomlin doesn't want to take Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood off the field – "they are highly conditioned athletes" – and the Steelers have been playing more sub packages that use only two defensive linemen.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Things that make me go hmmm

The Steelers have scored points on 60 percent of their opening possessions of the game. On all of their other possessions, they score 34 percent of the time.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians scripts the first 15 plays of the game and - seemingly - they work well.

It makes me wonder why the team struggles so much after they're done with the script.

Part of it, I'm sure, are adjustments made by the other team. Another part of the blame could also fall on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's shoulders.

Roethlisberger calls audibles quite a bit and sometimes it just doesn't work.

Perhaps the best thing would be for the Steelers to run Arians' scripted plays and then go to a no-huddle, when Roethlisberger seems to be at his best.

© Pittsburgh is unbeaten when it scores on its opening possession, 1-3 when it doesn't.

© It's been a tough couple of weeks for quarterbacks, with Jay Cutler going down on Sunday.

This came after Matt Cassell, Matt Schaub and others were lost for the season the weekend before.

It shows why the league has the protection rules in place for its QBs. We'll see tonight how Tyler Palko does replacing Cassell.

© If that wasn't a touchdown by Cincinnati's Jermaine Gresham in the fourth quarter against Baltimore, they should just stop playing the game.

Gresham pulled the ball in, had it under his control when he crossed the goal line and took three steps.

Then he lost the ball when he went to the ground.

If that happened in the field of play, it's a catch. If he were a runner and did that, it's a touchdown.

But since the ball was thrown, it's not a score?

Ridiculous. It's a rule that needs to be changed.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Who I like, Cincinnati at Baltimore

This is a big game and you all know all the reasons why for the Steelers.

The Bengals are going to have a bit of an adjustment to make without top corner Leon Hall in the lineup. But Ray Lewis is also banged up for the Ravens, which could help negate that against a solid Cincinnati run game.

Know this, in his last four games against the Bengals, Joe Flacco has thrown two touchdown passes and nine - count 'em - nine interceptions.

Also, after giving Ray Rice just five carries last week - you've gotta love Cam Cameron - expect the Ravens to try to get him a lot more involved this week. That's all well and good, but the Bengals can actually stop the run pretty well.

Baltimore is also finally expected to get Lee Evans back.

If this game were in Cincinnati, I'd pick the Bengals. As it is, I still like them to cover the 7-point spread.

Rookie QB Andy Dalton is playing some good football.

Take Baltimore to win, but Cincinnati to cover in a 23-17 loss

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Roethlisberger injury no big deal

Ben Roethlisberger announced to the world today that he has a broken thumb on his throwing hand.

Let the drama begin.

Actually, the break is a small fracture, one he played with before in 2005. It didn't hinder Roethlisberger then and it won't now.

The one difference is that the Steelers are now primarily a passing team as opposed to 2005, when if he threw it 30 times in a game, it was a lot.

The Steelers will splint the thumb and he'll wear a glove to protect it. And as we've seen in the past, Roethlisberger usually plays better, more focused football, when injured.

The news could have been worse. Think about the situations in KC, Philadelphia and Houston.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Post-Cincinnati thoughts

I've said it before and I'll say it again, there's a reason why they play the games.

And that's all I'm going to say about what happened in Seattle on Sunday.

© Tough day all around for Heath Miller. First he gets hammered a half-second after making a catch by Reggie Nelson; then he bobbles a ball that gets intercepted; and finally he draws an iffy pass interference penalty that negates a touchdown.

To me, the hit by Nelson, by the way, was on a defenseless receiver. The only thing was that Miller held onto the ball.

© The bye comes at a good time for the Steelers.

They'll get LaMarr Woodley and Emmanuel Sanders back in two weeks. And Ben Roethlisberger got pretty beaten up in this game. Cincinnati was credited with 13 QB hits and added five sacks.

© The Bengals are going to be a team to be reckoned with moving forward. They're building a nice nucleus, though the loss of top corner Leon Hall Sunday will hurt them moving forward this season.

© Mike Tomlin said the decision to keep Hines Ward on the bench was his and that Ward was OK to play. But if Tomlin admitted he was protecting Ward, who was coming back from 'concussion-like symptoms,' he might have gotten himself in trouble with the league for playing him in the first place.

With Arnaz Battle and Sanders out, the Steelers needed Ward active. But they didn't need to play him all that much and risk further injury.

And Jerricho Cotchery is getting more comfortable in the Pittsburgh offense.

This is going to be a scary wide receiver group moving forward.

© All the people who wanted to bench/cut William Gay coming out of last week's game can see why the Steelers didn't do so. Gay is having an outstanding season.

© The Steelers were 3-4 scoring touchdowns in red zone trips Sunday. But some people will still complain about the one trip inside the 20 in which they didn't score.

Of course, they actually did score a touchdown on that trip as well - only Miller was called for the penalty.

© With their two turnovers Sunday, the Steelers now have six for the season. That still puts them on pace for just under 10 for the season.

Makes you wonder how they're 7-3.

But they have forced three turnovers in the past two weeks, so maybe they're turning the corner there.

© The lack of turnovers, in my opinion, is because the only player in their secondary who can consistently play the ball in the air, Troy Polamalu, is spending so much time at the line of scrimmage because of the team's issues against the run.

And the corners, who don't play the ball well to begin with, are playing more man, which doesn't allow for a lot of picks either.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

© Can't wait to watch the Ravens and Bengals play next week.

Steelers inactives

Chris Hoke, Al Woods, LaMarr Woodley, Arnaz Battle, Emmanuel Sanders, Dennis Dixon, Jamon Meredith down for the Steelers today.

The Steelers catch a break with Carlos Dunlap inactive for the Bengals.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Who I like, Cincinnati version

I have to admit, I'm surprised at how well the Bengals are playing this season. The defense, which has been solid the past couple of years, is again playing well - not having allowed more than 20 points in a game - and the offense isn't making the big mistake.

That's really saying something considering the Bengals have started rookie Andy Dalton at QB all season.

But the Bengals have also not faced a quarterback as good as Ben Roethlisberger this season, beating the likes of Colt McCoy, Curtis Painter, etc.

Yes, they beat the Buffalo Bills, their only quality win this season, but that was coming off a game in which the Bills won their Super Bowl, having knocked off New England for the first time in a decade the week before.

The same could be said of the Steelers this season. They have only beaten one quality opponent - New England.

But, the Steelers are a proven commodity, much more so than the Bengals.

And something tells me the rookie QB isn't quite ready for what he's going to see Sunday.

How do I know this?

When asked this week if the city is starting to buzz about how well the Bengals are playing Dalton replied that it must be because the game is a sellout, the first one for the Bengals this season.

What Dalton didn't realize is that it's a sellout because Paul Brown Stadium will be filled to the rim with Steelers fans.

Take the Steelers, 24-17

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wednesday news and notes

Ryan Clark was fined $40,000 for his penalized hit on Baltimore tight end Ed Dickson last Sunday and he and his teammates aren't happy about it.

This is the second week in a row Clark has been fined. He got hit with a $15,000 fine for hitting New England tight end Rob Gronkowski out of bounds two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Baltimore's Ray Lewis was fined $20,000 for his unpenalized helmet-to-helmet hit on Hines Ward that knocked Ward out of the game.

And therein lies part of my problem with the way the NFL levies its fines.

If a player draws a penalty for what it deemed and illegal hit, hasn't he already paid - and by extension, his team - for the incident?

How can an incident that drew a flag also draw a larger fine for a hit that wasn't flagged and also knocked a player out of a game?

Some will say it is because Clark is a repeat offender, and there is some truth to that. But Lewis has also been fined for illegal hits in the past.

James Harrison said he has not heard anything from the league about a potential fine from Sunday's game. ESPN reported that Harrison will be fined, but Harrison said that was speculation on the part of reporter Adam Schefter.

He does not expect to be fined.

© Mike Tomlin released this statement in regard to the fine on Clark: "I think the fine that Ryan Clark received was excessive. I am a proponent of player safety and the league's pursuit of improvement in this area. I, like the vast majority of people in this industry, witness daily the steep price that these young men pay to play this game on so many levels. Ryan has my full support if he chooses to appeal this in any way."

© Ben Roethlisberger talked about the final sequence of plays at the end of the game against the Ravens today. Here's what he had to say:

Q: Ben, in retrospect, would you just rather have run the ball three times at the end?

Unfortunately, the plays were there. It was either a miscommunication where one guy saw something and the other guy say something else. The plays were there. You can look at it now and say, ‘If we would have done this, this would have happened.’ You can do that in every sport after every game. We’ll go and we’ll stay aggressive because that’s the kind of offense we are.

Q: Re: The miscommunications?

I think it’s always going to happen. I guarantee that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and those guys that you say are the best offenses, have had miscommunications. You have to limit them. You can’t have them in key situations like that with guys that you expect to make the plays. If you have one a game, you have one a game, but we have to limit them and not have them in key situations.

Q: You and Mewelde Moore have completed a lot of passes over the years.

He’s running a flat route and he’s got the option to turn it up late. He felt he had the linebacker on him, which he did, he could beat him turning it up the field. He’s supposed to wait a second to see if I wait half a second to turn it up. He was excited about turning it up because he had the backer trailing him. I was trying to get it to him in the flat to get the first down. That’s one of those things that it’s the first time it ever happened and it probably won’t ever happen again.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Tuesday with Tomlin

Mike Tomlin said today that Emmanuel Sanders had his knee scoped and will be out until after the bye.

Daniel Sepulveda also had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, but he's already been placed on injured reserve.

Hines Ward is OK after suffering from "concussion-like symptoms" following an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit by Ray Lewis that was not flagged during the game.

They'll watch Ward this week to determine his status for Sunday's game at Cincinnati.

LaMarr Woodley could possibly return this week, but there's a better chance James Farrior comes back.

If Farrior returns, Lawrence Timmons could be moved to left outside linebacker - where he lined up at times Sunday - with Farrior and Larry Foote inside.

Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery is experiencing some swelling in his knee, but is expected to be OK.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Steelers-Ravens thoughts II

The Steelers locker room was as subdued Sunday night as it was after they lost the Super Bowl in February.

There were no what ifs or questioning of officials calls. There was only shock that the vaunted Pittsburgh defense had allowed Joe Flacco and the Ravens to drive 92 yards in the closing moments to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in a 23-20 win over the Steelers.

Pittsburgh's defense did a much better job of bottling up Ray Rice Sunday night, limiting him to 43 yards on 18 carries and five catches for 43 yards.

But at what cost.

While the concern about not allowing Rice to beat them as he did in a 35-7 win in Baltimore earlier this season was understandable, the Steelers, for whatever reason, couldn't seem to get off the field on third downs.

Baltimore was a ridiculous 14 of 21 on third down and converted its only fourth-down attempt.

That allowed the Ravens to run 77 plays, compared to 58 for the Steelers.

© The main culprits were the secondary.

While William Gay will get tortured because he's everybody's favorite whipping boy and he gave up the game-winning score, Ike Taylor may have been worse in this game.

If not for Torrey Smith's poor hands, it would have been Taylor, not Gay, who allowed the go-ahead score.

© If Ryan Clark had hit Hines Ward the way Ray Lewis did in the first quarter, a penalty flag would have been thrown.

That hit on Ward was clearly helmet to helmet and should have resulted in a penalty.

Clark was flagged for a hit on Smith later in the game that, while a penalty under the letter of the (new) law, wasn't nearly as vicious as the hit Lewis put on Ward.

© While we're on the subject of Ward, I apparently no longer know what constitutes a catch in the NFL.

Ward caught the ball, got hit in the head by Lewis, yet went to the ground with the ball in his possession. Once he landed, the ball was knocked loose by a defender's behind.

Ward was already flat on his back when the ball finally came loose, or at least that's the way I saw it from the replays I viewed.

© I've been a pretty harsh critic of Joe Flacco over the years. But the Steelers have seemed to bring the best out in him this season.

I still don't think Flacco is a championship-caliber quarterback. But he seems to be getting the hang of playing against the Steelers defense.

© I understand Mike Tomlin's hesitation to send Shaun Suisham onto the field to kick what would have been a 47-yard field goal into the open end of Heinz Field late in the game with the Steelers up 20-16.

With a new holder and kicking into that end, it was probably about a 50-50 proposition that Suisham would have made the kick.

But how about using a timeout? How about keeping the offense on the field and just going for it, driving a dagger into the Ravens?

Instad, Tomlin hesitated, the Steelers took a delay of game penalty and gave the ball back to the Ravens.

That said, the defense still could have come up with a stop.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Baltimore-Pittsburgh game thread

James Farrior is down for the Steelers tonight, a move that is not surprising. But the decision to scratch Chris Hoke is somewhat interesting.

No real surprises for the Ravens on the inactive list.

The loser of tonight's game falls behind the Bengals in the AFC North standings.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Steelers place Sepulveda on IR

The Steelers on Saturday placed punter Daniel Sepulveda on IR, replacing him with Jeremy Kapinos.

Sepulveda's name surprisingly came up on the injury list Friday as he was listed as questionbale with a knee injury to his plant leg.

The injury is to the same knee that cost him the final four games of the 2010 season and marks the third time in his career that he will end the season on IR.

Sepulveda was having his best season in 2011, averaging 46.1 yards per punt.

Kapinos replaced Sepulveda for the final four games and in the postseason in 2010, averaging 41.9 yards per kick.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Who I like, Baltimore version II

Going into their Week 1 loss at Baltimore, the Steelers had a 6-0 record against the Ravens when Ben Roethlisberger was their starting quarterback.

The Ravens forced seven turnovers in that game, including five by Roethlisberger, whipping the Steelers, 35-7.

Since then, the Steelers have turned the ball over six times, including just twice in their current four-game winning streak.

As for the Ravens, they've looked like garbage in six of the past eight quarters they've played - at least offensively.

A big reason for that is the regression of Joe Flacco.

Flacco's 75.4 passer rating and 53.8 completion percentage have him keeping company with the likes of Curtis Painter, Matt Moore and Blaine Gabbert.

Imagine what those numbers would be if he hadn't checked down 33 times to running back Ray Rice.

Rice will be tough for the Steelers to handle, but without Lee Evans in this game, Ike Taylor, who followed Evans all over the field the first time these two teams met, will likely match up one-on-one against Anquan Boldin.

That's going to make life just a little more difficult for Flacco, who has led the Ravens to one win in three road games - that one win being at St. Louis.

Take Pittsburgh to win, 20-16

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Wednesday news and notes

Ben Roethlisberger was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in the month of October.

Roethlisberger has a good chance to also be named offensive player of the month in October after completing 114 of 176 passes for 1,360 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in five games last month as the Steelers went 4-1.

That's a passer rating of 102.0 for those of you keeping track at home.

© Quote of the day came from the Ravens' Terrell Suggs via conference call with the Pittsburgh media.

Suggs, when questioned about the ferocity of the rivalry with the Steelers said, "F$#% it. Let's do it."

Suggs also called Heinz Field his, "Madison Square Garden," and several times referred to getting his p@$$ hot, particularly when talking about Hines Ward.

© The Steelers will wear their throwback uniforms this week. Maybe the Ravens can wear their throwbacks as well. Oh wait, they already do.

Then again, perhaps they could wear some old Colts unis.

© The Steelers released nose tackle Elisha Joseph from their practice squad and signed wide receiver Jamar Newsome.

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will be dealing with the death of his mother all week and, with Ward still limited with an ankle injury, the Steelers needed an extra receiver to practice.

© The Steelers listed a number of players as limited in practice Wednesday. Some were much less limited than others.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Tueday with Tomlin (Baltimore edition)

Mike Tomlin declared just one person out for Sunday's game against Baltimore - guard Doug Legursky.

As expected, Tomlin said linebacker James Harrison has been cleared to practice and that his status, along with that of LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior and Jason Worilds would be determined later in the week.

But that was purely coach speak.

More realistically, Worilds is the only player expected to return and the Steelers aren't sure what they are going to get from him since he has very little playing experience.

More telling was Tomlin's statement that the Steelers might have to line up with a four-man defensive line - though you can assume if they do that, Brett Keisel may do so as a stand-up end, sometimes dropping into coverage.

© New to the injury list this week is wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who has a left knee issue.

Sanders is also dealing with the death of his mother.

© Hines Ward could return this week after sitting out against New England with an ankle injury.