Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday update

A little late with this, but I had other things to take care of first.

Though he's been cleared for contact again, don't expect Ben Roethlisberger to play Sunday in Baltimore.

Just the fact that Roethlisberger is talking about coming back last season to play against San Francisco - a game where he was beaten up - and then sitting out the next week against St. Louis, tells me that conversation has already taken place between the quarterback and Mike Tomlin.

The Steelers will take their lumps this week and hope to come back stronger next week at home against San Diego in order to roll down the stretch.

That's the play to make at this point. With Baltimore holding a three-game lead, the Steelers would need a miracle to win the division even if they were to win this weekend.

Roethlisberger should practice fully next week and be ready to go.

@ Dick LeBeau said he doesn't necessarily expect Troy Polamalu to be on the field full time on Sunday as he works to get his wind back.

Then again, he said the same thing a few weeks back about James Harrison, and Harrison never came off the field in his first game back. Great players never want to come off the field.

But even if Polamalu only plays on passing downs - which I don't expect - his presence could be huge.

@ Willie Colon missed practice again Thursday and that's troubling. On the plus side, Max Starks was back.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday news, notes

Mike Tomlin shook up his depth chart on Tuesday, and then proceeded to shake things up Wednesday on his offensive line.

With Mike Adams, Willie Colon and Max Starks all sitting out Wednesday, the Steelers moved Maurkice Pouncey to left guard, Ramon Foster to right tackle and Kelvin Beachum to left tackle.

Doug Legursky was at center, while rookie David DeCastro was next up at right guard.

But just because the Steelers made these moves on Wednesday does not mean that will be the starting line Sunday in Baltimore.

In fact, I highly doubt that it will be.

This is a shell game Tomlin is playing with the Ravens, hoping they will take their eye off the ball enough to allow the Steelers to come away with a win.

Chances are, when the Steelers line up Sunday, Starks will be at LT, Colon at LG, Pouncey at C, Foster at RG and Beachum at RT.

But if there's an injury during the game, particularly to Colon, Pouncey could make the move to guard.

And if Beachum is overmatched at RT making his first career start, Foster could move over.

But that is not the plan right now.

@ Ben Roethlisberger did some light throwing Wednesday as he was limited in practice. He's getting better, but I'd be surprised if he plays this weekend.

@ Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu both looked good Wednesday, a big plus for the Steelers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday with Tomlin

The Steelers will use Jonathan Dwyer as their feature back moving forward after Mike Tomlin made some adjustments in the team's depth chart.

Tomlin said he arrived at the decision because Dwyer has been the team's most effective running back.

Currently, the depth chart lists Dwyer first, Redman second, Mendenhall third.

The Steelers also now list the starting WR spot opposite Antonio Brown as Emmanuel Sanders/Mike Wallace.

Tomlin said situation will dictate that.

Not coincidentally, both Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.

@ Tomlin said both Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich threw on Monday.

At this point, he is leaving the "door open" to the possibility of Roethlisberger playing on Sunday, but currently, Charlie Batch is still the starter this week heading to Baltimore.

@ Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu are both expected to practice Wednesday and should play Sunday in Baltimore.

@ At this point, Kelvin Beachum will play RT this week, though Tomlin left the option of moving Ramon Foster to RT and inserting David DeCastro at RG.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Steelers-Browns thoughts

If I told you before this game, the Steelers would return an interception for a touchdown, force 10 punts, limit the Browns to 238 yards and record four sacks, you'd have almost guaranteed a victory.

Then again, if I told you the Steelers would turn the ball over eight times - to once for Cleveland - and would still have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, you'd have told me I was crazy.

@ Despite this loss, all is not down the drain for the Steelers.

Troy Polamalu and Antonio Brown should be back this week to play against the Ravens, while my gut feeling is that the Steelers will hold off another week with Ben Roethlisberger, even though he is saying that he's going to give playing this week a shot.

The final four games - three of which are at home - are winnable. The Steelers will likely be a three-point underdog at Dallas Dec. 16, but Pittsburgh is a better team.

And even if the Steelers only win three of those four games, the Bengals would have to go 4-1 in the final five to beat the Steelers for the final wildcard spot.

Cincinnati travels to San Diego this week for a tough road game, then hosts Dallas and travels to Cincinnati before closing the season at Pittsburgh and at home against the Ravens.

And there's a good chance Baltimore will be playing to assure a first-round bye in that game.

So if the Steelers can beat San Diego, Cleveland and Cincinnati at home, they'll be in the playoffs.

@ Honestly, what was the difference between Chris Rainey's momentum not being stopped at the end of the first half and Trent Richardson's being whistled dead prior to his fumble at the end of the game?

@ I seriously don't get Mike Tomlin's usage of the running backs at all. All four fumbled in the first half of this game. Yet Rainey didn't get benched because his fumble happened to go out of bounds?

And I really think this fumble rule is putting bad thoughts in the heads of his backs.

Not to mention the fact that Brown and Mike Wallace have both lost key fumbles this season, but neither has been benched.

@ I've praised Todd Haley's play calling quite a bit this season, but I felt he was way too conservative early in this game.

The Steelers really didn't start throwing the ball downfield at all until they were down 13-7 late in the first half.

To that point, everything had been short screens and such, almost as if the Steelers were playing not to lose - or not to have to put Brian Hoyer in the game.

Charlie Batch didn't play all that bad. Sure, he threw three interceptions, but really, only one was his fault - the deep ball into double coverage for Wallace.

Plaxico Burress ran a soft route that allowed Sheldon Brown to easily undercut him on one interception, while Wallace batted another into the air over the middle.

And Batch had some other nice throws called back on holding penalties by Ron Winter's crew, who must get paid per flag thrown.

@ Jason Worilds, subbing for LaMarr Woodley from midway through the first quarter on after Woodley left with an ankle injury, played a whale of a game.

James Harrison showed up strong for the second consecutive game as well and seems to be rounding into form.

Makes me think that outside linebacker might not be the glaring need in the draft that many feel. Though it would be tough to pass on a dynamic young pass rusher.

@ Ryan Clark continues to throw his body around with an apparent disregard for his own safety.

And that, and Troy Polamalu's issues this season, lead me to the safety position as the premiere first-round option for this team, which could use a ballhawk in the secondary.

@ Really, Ike Taylor undercut two passes in the first half just as Brown did in the second. The only difference was that Brown caught the ball, while Taylor dropped it - twice.

@ I honestly didn't understand Tomlin's decision to decline a holding penalty on the Browns at the 18-yard line and allow them to kick a 32-yard field goal as opposed to forcing them into third-and-18 from the 28.

Sure, the Steelers had stopped Cleveland. But a sack, fumble or even quarterback Brandon Weedon falling down, takes the Browns to the edge of field goal range - or even out of it.

Instead, Tomlin conceded the field goal instead of keeping the NFL's best defense on the field and allowing it to try to make a play.


Steelers-Browns gameday thread

BREAKING: Willie Colon will not start today with a knee injury. He is still dressed. Doug Legursky starts at left guard for Steelers.

It's a beautiful day here in Cleveland after a snowy morning. The sun is shining, though there is a slight wind.

No surprises on the inactive list for the Steelers, as Roethlisberger, Leftwich, Brown, Cotchery and Gilbert are all down, as is DeMarcus Van Dyke.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Who I like, Cleveland version

The Steelers are a desperate team heading into Cleveland this weekend.

Coming off a loss last week to Baltimore, the Steelers currently stand two games behind the Ravens in the AFC North race and one game ahead of Cincinnati for a wild card spot.

A stumble this week in Cleveland would be a killer, especially with a rematch against the Ravens in Baltimore looming next week.

The Steelers will again be without Ben Roethlisberger, who is getting closer to a return from his sprained shoulder and separated rib. In fact, there is an outside chance Roethlisberger could be back next week.

If that is the case, this could be the final game of Charlie Batch's career. Batch knows that and I expect him to play accordingly.

The Steelers are 5-2 over the years when Batch starts and he'll give them his best effort again Sunday.

Cleveland's offense revolves around running back Trent Richardson, just as Baltimore's does around Ray Rice. Both are not only their team's leading rusher, but leading receiver as well.

The Steelers shut down Rice last week, limiting him to 40 yards on 20 carries.

And then there's these two tidbits: Since inserting Will Allen into the starting lineup six games ago, the Steelers are allowing 16.6 points per game, down from 22.2 in the four games he didn't start. Also, the Steelers are 14-1 with Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator against rookie quarterbacks.

Those will all play a factor in this one.

I like the Steelers to win 16-13

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday news, notes

We got a good look at why the Steelers signed wide receiver Plaxico Burress Wednesday in his limited action.

Burress spent most of practice watching and learning. But he made an impressive catch on one of the few patterns he did run, leaping above practice squad corner Josh Victorian to snatch a ball thrown by Charlie Batch out of the air.

Speaking to Burress before practice, I saw a much more mature person than he was in his first stay in Pittsburgh.

Obviously, what he has gone through has changed him somewhat. He was always a guy who was well-liked by teammates.

But there was sometimes a perception that he wasn't playing up to his potential when he was in Pittsburgh the first time around. That perception wasn't always correct. Burress had some excellent years with the Steelers, and followed that up with some excellent years with the Giants.

And then there is this: Burress said his decision to turn down the offer the Steelers made to him during training camp in 2011 came down to him not wanting to move his family from the New Jersey area.

Burress can help this football team, especially in the red zone. Opponents have begun to double tight end Heath Miller in the red zone. And while Mike Wallace is still one of the fastest receivers in the league, some of that speed is negated in tight spaces.

If opponents try to play the 6-5 Burress one-on-one in the red zone, he will beat them. That could be the missing link for this Steelers team.

@ Ben Roethlisberger looked good on Wednesday, far better than he did a week ago. In fact, Roethlisberger was no longer wearing the sling that he had on all of last week.

He was talking on his cell phone using his right arm and was also able to easily remove his T-shirt over his head without any apparent discomfort.

That has to be a good sign for the injured quarterback moving forward.

@ Antonio Brown also looked good Wednesday. Though he was limited in practice, the injured wideout was walking around without a limp.

I followed him up a flight of stairs Wednesday and he easily took them two at a time.

@ Isaac Redman passed his initial concussion tests and practiced on Wednesday.

DeCastro to return to practice

The Steelers have informed the NFL that rookie David DeCastro will return to practice today.

DeCastro has been on injured reserve all season after injuring his knee in the team's final preseason game at Buffalo.

The Steelers have a two week roster exemption with DeCastro before he must be activated.

DeCastro had been slated to start at right guard this season before injuring his knee. Ramon Foster has started every game in place.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday with Tomlin

Mike Tomlin revealed today that not only does Byron Leftwich have fractured ribs, but Jerricho Cotchery has "multiple" fractured ribs as well.

Because of that, the Steelers are expected to sign both Plaxico Burress and Brian Hoyer today.

The Burress signing also tells me that the Steelers are very unsure about Antonio Brown's availability this week against Cleveland, though Tomlin says that Brown ran Tuesday and will hopefully practice this week.

Tomlin also said that he was encouraged by a checkup Ben Roethlisberger had Tuesday. Though Roethlisberger is doubtful to play this week, he's moving in the right direction.

Troy Polamalu and Marcus Gilbert are also expected to practice this week, though both are listed as questionable at this point. That's a step up for Polamalu.

Tomlin would not commit to Gilbert or Mike Adams at right tackle when asked.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Leftwich hurting

Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich reportedly suffered two broken ribs late in Sunday night's 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and is highly questionable to start in this Sunday's game at Cleveland.

With that in mind, the Steelers are exploring their options at quarterback.

If Leftwich can't play, 37-year-old Charlie Batch would get the start in Cleveland. But with Ben Roethlisberger still out with shoulder and rib injuries, and Leftwich also hurting, the Steelers wouldn't have a healthy backup.

Options include re-signing Jerrod Johnson, who was cut by the team at the end of training camp, signing a veteran such as David Garrard, or even bringing back former backup Dennis Dixon, who is currently on Baltimore's practice squad.

In the meantime, Batch, who is 5-2 starting in place of Roethlisberger, might be asked to hold down the fort.

@ In other news, with the injury to Jerricho Cotchery late in Sunday night's game and the Steelers apparently unsure if Antonio Brown will be ready to return, the team will likely sign Plaxico Burress on Tuesday pending his passing of a physical.

Mike Tomlin had an interest in Burress in training camp when Mike Wallace was holding out, but didn't want to bring the veteran in unless he was sure Burress would make the team.

Burress caught 45 passes and - more importantly - 8 touchdown passes last season for the Jets.

Post-Ravens thoughts I

The Pittsburgh defense did everything it needed to do in this one to come out of this game with a win.

Pressure Joe Flacco into poor throws?

Check.

Shut down Ray Rice?

Check.

Hold the Ravens to field goals once they got into the red zone?

Check.

Force a turnover or two to set your offense up with a short field?

OK, the Steelers didn't do that.

And that wound up being the difference between a win and a loss Sunday night against the Ravens.

Baltimore gained 200 total yards and Flacco was a pitiful 20 of 32 for 164 yards, while Rice gained 40 yards on 20 carries.

But the Steelers lost because they couldn't give their offense anything resembling a short field.

I know I'm splitting hairs here, but when the offense's average starting position is its own 19, that's tough to ask it to move the length of the field more than once or twice with a backup quarterback making his first start in three years.

This defense is playing lights out - having held its fifth consecutive passer to 174 yards or less - but the lack of turnovers continues to be the difference between this being a very good defense and a great one.

@ The field position battle was lost on the leg of Baltimore punter Sam Koch, who averaged 46.5 yards per punt and placed half of his eight kicks inside the 20.

Drew Butler put half of his eight punts inside the 20 as well, but his averaged was 44.4 yards and his net was 35.4 thanks to a 63-yard return for a touchdown by Jacoby Jones.

@ I asked Mike Tomlin after the game if Baltimore did anything special to block up that return for a touchdown. He said the Ravens doubled the gunners, which forced the Steelers to get a tackle out of their inside guys.

That obviously didn't happen, even though - with the gunners doubled - the inside guys outnumbered the Ravens, 10-6.

@ Byron Leftwich wasn't great Sunday night. Heck, he wasn't even all that good. But he played well enough to lead this team to a win next week at Cleveland.

Getting Antonio Brown back next week will help immensely.

There were, just like last week against Kansas City, several times when Leftwich dropped back to pass, had plenty of time and there was nobody open.

And when he did throw some great passes - like the one that Mike Wallace fumbled in the first quarter and the one in the third quarter that Wallace couldn't get his feet down on in bounds in the end zone - they just didn't work out.

Wallace has got to come up with that throw in the end zone and tuck that ball away over the middle before he takes off like a bolt of lightning, especially if he wants to get a big contract at the end of this season.

But the Steelers gave Brown a new contract in the training camp because he's at his best on third downs. In fact, he might be the best third down receiver - or at least in the conversation - in the NFL.

Having him back returning some of Koch's punts might've helped as well.

@ James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley showed up in this game like they haven't in some time.

Both outside linebackers were getting consistent pressure, and both recorded sacks.

They also showed up big in the run defense, which limited the Ravens to 47 yards on 23 carries.

We also saw inspired play out of Casey Hampton in this game.

If the Steelers can get that out of those guys, they will be a very dangerous team the rest of the way - especially once Ben Roethlisberger returns.

I'm hearing Roethlisberger could be back in time for the rematch with the Ravens in two weeks. At least that is what the Steelers are hoping.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Game-day thread, Steelers-Ravens

Plenty of starters out for tonight's Baltimore-Pittsburgh matchup.

For the Steelers, Roethlisberger, Polamalu, Gilbert and Brown are down, as are Van Dyke, Sylvester and Adrian Robinson.

On Baltimore's side, starters Jimmy Smith, Bobbie Williams and Pernell McPhee are out, as are Asa Jackson, Terrence Cody, Ramon Harewood and Deonte Thompson.

We know who is starting for the Steelers in place of their injured starters.

On the Ravens' side, it's Arthur Jones for McPhee at DE, Corey Graham in place of Smith and Jah Reid at guard in place of Williams.

The Ravens also activated CB Anthony Levine from their practice squad and he is active.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Who I like, Baltimore version I

This is a game where Todd Haley is going to earn his money.

The Steelers went 3-1 a couple of years ago without Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback to open the season. The only loss came to the Ravens.

But that Baltimore team was far different from this one.

These Ravens can't play a lick of defense - until they get to the red zone. Baltimore ranks 27th in the league in total defense - 26th versus the run and the pass - but is first in touchdown percentage allowed in the red zone at 36.1 percent.

This is where Byron Leftwich can actually make a difference.

With his big arm, Leftwich is the best deep passer on the Steelers' roster. And with Baltimore missing both Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith - two of its top three corners - the Steelers figure to take some deep shots with Mike Wallace.

Last week, Kansas City doubled Wallace most of the time and played press coverage on Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. It worked on the wet, windy night.

The Steelers will be without Antonio Brown again this week, which hurts, but Sanders and Cotchery should have some success working against the likes of Chykie Brown and Corey Graham.

Then there is this. Joe Flacco's home/road splits are awful.

In five home games, Flacco has thrown for 1,612 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions, a passer rating of 108.3. On the road, those numbers fall to 719, three touchdowns and four interceptions, a rating of 62.7.

That is a big difference.

I think Haley will tailor his play calling to Leftwich's strengths. attack the line of scrimmage with Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, and get just enough of this offense to pick up a win this week.

If the game was in Baltimore, I'd feel differently. But it's not.

The Steelers are now 4-point underdogs in this game, but I think they'll win it outright, 17-16.

@ Plenty of people are asking what's up with Troy Polamalu.

The answer is simple, nothing.

The Steelers rushed Polamalu back after a two-week hiatus earlier in the season and he didn't make it through a quarter before aggravating his calf injury.

With Will Allen playing well in Polamalu's place, the Steelers are being patient and allowing their All-Pro safety time to fully heal.

They would much rather have a healthy Polamalu out there disrupting things than put him out there too early again and lose him for the season.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday update

I know I haven't been around much this week and I apologize. I'm having computer problems and am now using my third laptop this week - my trusty old Mac - since both of the Dells that work gave me have crapped out.

Anyway, it's Ravens Week and there has been plenty of news, but sometimes you just have to chase the news and get by.

@ Ben Roethlisberger's injury has changed plenty of people's opinions about the Steelers, but I'm not so sure it should.

Sure, Roethlisberger's injury comes at an inopportune time, with the Steelers playing Baltimore twice in the next three weeks.

But I haven't been sold on this Baltimore team all season, particularly on the road, where the Ravens have not played well.

Also, I think Todd Haley will adjust his playcalling to do what Byron Leftwich does best, so I don't know that the injury to Roethlisberger is a killer - unless he doesn't return this season.

@ I don't expect Antonio Brown to play again this week - and that is a problem.

Kansas City was able to double Mike Wallace a lot and leave Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery in single coverage. Sanders and Cotchery didn't win those matchups much.

Perhaps the weather had an affect, but there were plenty of times when everyone was covered up - including the play on which Roethlisberger was injured.

Sanders and Cotchery have to win those matchups - especially considering the Ravens will be down to their fourth and fifth corners with both Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith out.

@ Rashard Mendenhall will be back this week and will start for the Steelers.

It will be interesting to see how the Steelers utilize their backs will all three healthy this week.

I expect Isaac Redman to be used in short-yardage and on third downs, while Jonathan Dwyer could get a series here or there to spell Mendenhall.

Mendenhall gives the Steelers something the other two don't - speed.

@ The onus is going to be on the offensive line to block things up well for the Steelers while Roethlisberger is out.

The Steelers will also rely on their running game a little more.

The player who could be hurt the most without Roethlisberger is Heath Miller. Miller may be asked to do a little more blocking to help protect the immobile Leftwich.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tomlin Tuesday

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a sprain of his SC joint in his shoulder.

It's the same injury that finally forced Brett Favre to miss a game in his career, so you can expect that Roethlisberger will sit this week against the Ravens.

The general diagnosis for such an injury is - at minimum, three weeks - so Roethlisberger will be out for a little while.

Head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that Byron Leftwich would be the starter in Roethlisberger's absence.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu is "doubtful" according to Tomlin, while Antonio Brown, Marcus Gilbert and Rashard Mendenhall are questionable.

Tomlin did say that Ryan Clark is being evaluated after suffering another possible concussion Monday night, but that Clark is feeling OK.

Post Kansas City thoughts

James Harrison was asked the $1 million question following this game: Were the Steelers looking past the Chiefs to Baltimore?

Harrison thought long and hard about it before answering, "I don't know. I wasn't."

He then said, however, that it might have been in the back of some players' minds.

This wasn't the first time that the Steelers played down to an opponent's level this season. But unlike losses against Tennessee and Oakland where they did so, Pittsburgh won this game.

@ OK, did the Steelers win it, or did Kansas City simply lose it?

It's semantics, sure, but when you look at the bumbling plays Kansas City made in the second half, it's easy to see why the Chiefs are 1-8.

@ There is also the train of thought that the Chiefs played up to the level of the Steelers, what with this being a Monday night game in front of a national audience and all.

But the Chiefs also played their last game - two Thursdays ago - in front of a supposed national audience on the NFL Network and laid an egg against San Diego.

@ OK, maybe the extra four days to prepare for this game helped. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

@ I can't believe I made it this far into this without mentioning Ben Roethlisberger.

Many were hush-hush about Roethlisberger, but the early word is that it's a shoulder sprain of some type, not a more severe separation.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that with the Ravens coming up in just six days, there doesn't seem to be a lot of time for Roethlisberger to heal up and be ready to play.

@ Kansas City must have run the same stretch play 20 times. The Steelers finally adjusted to getting cut and stayed in their lanes, shutting it down in the second half.

Kansas City had 82 yards on 19 first half carries, 60 yards on 16 second half runs, one of which was a nine-yard scramble by quarterback Matt Cassel.

@ With the Chiefs so run-heavy, the Steelers needed their defensive line to play big.

They got a huge game out of Brett Keisel.

Keisel finished this one with eight tackles, two sacks and four quarterback hurries. He spent nearly as much time in Kansas City's backfield as Cassel.

They will need a similar effort this week against Baltimore.

@ James Harrison is still very good against the run, helping to set the edge better than LaMarr Woodley. But he's still looking for his legs as a pass rusher.

Perhaps it's time to come to the conclusion that Harrison isn't going to get that explosion off the edge back any time soon.

He wouldn't be the only star on the field who is lacking explosion as a pass rusher. Baltimore's Terrell Suggs is playing much the same way.

Not that I'm ripping you, James.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Who I like, Kansas City version

Not a lot to say here. Kansas City has earned every bit of its 1-7 record, while the Steelers have won four of their past five.

The Steelers have also won 13 consecutive Monday night games at home.

The line on this game opened at 11 1/2 and has since climbed to 13 1/2. It could be 14 1/2 by the time this kicks off.

I don't think it matters.

The Steelers will finally force a couple of turnovers - against a team that has committed 29 - and get after quarterback Matt Cassel.

The Steelers win this game, 31-13

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Thursday news, notes

Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey both practiced today for the Steelers.

With Isaac Redman also practicing, the Steelers could have some backfield choices for the first time in several weeks.

Who will start? Who cares.

The Steelers will likely run both Dwyer and Redman against the Chiefs on Monday, while Rainey, who has a cracked rib, will likely only return kicks.

@ Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said all of the right things today when he met with the media.

Haley says he's over his firing in Kansas City, he's moved on, yada, yada, yada.

But you had better believe that Haley wants to beat the Chiefs - and more importantly, general manager Scott Pioli - in the worst way.

That does not mean, however, the Steelers will still be chucking the ball into the end zone up 31-7 in the fourth quarter.

Haley has a long relationship with current KC coach Romeo Crennel. He won't embarrass a man whom he respects.

@ Safety Troy Polamalu still has not practiced this week for the Steelers. But that's not such a big deal.

Because they play on Monday night, the Steelers will get an extra practice Saturday this week.

The team treated Wednesday as a bonus practice day and Thursday as their official first day of practice for this week.

Though Polamalu won't play this week against the Chiefs, I would be surprised if he doesn't at least go through some position drills by Saturday.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Tuesday with Tomlin

Mike Tomlin today didn't sound very optimistic about the chances of wide receiver Antonio Brown playing Monday night against the Chiefs.

Tomlin said Brown has an ankle injury and that he will "keep the door open" for the receiver, but I don't expect Brown to play.

Tomlin also said Troy Polamalu and Marcus Gilbert should return to practice at some point this week, but he does not expect them to play against the Chiefs, either.

The same is likely true of Rashard Mendenhall.

With the Ravens coming up in two weeks, the Steelers are going to play things safe.

@ Jonathan Dwyer is expected back this week, though Tomlin wouldn't commit to a starter at running back.

He did say that the guy who is running the ball the best is going to get the ball.

@ Chris Rainey has a rib injury that Tomlin admitted is going to be painful. But the Steelers' head coach said the injury might not keep Rainey from playing this week.

@ Though Tomlin said the Steelers don't necessarily need to activate a wideout if Brown does not play, they would only have three active if that is the case.

That's not going to happen.

Look for David Gilreath, who could serve as an emergency return man, to be activated.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Post-Giants thoughts

The Steelers didn't necessarily need a signature victory at this point in the season, but they got one Sunday against the Giants.

By beating the defending Super Bowl champions on the road, the Steelers announced their presence with authority to the rest of the NFL.

The Steelers are a team to be reckoned with.

And the Steelers didn't just win this game; they dominated it.

Holding that offense to 182 total yards and 13 points is the kind of effort you can hang your hat on.

If not for some questionable defensive penalties - a pass interference on Keenan Lewis and a supposed helmet-to-helmet hit call on Ryan Clark in the end zone - the Steelers would have given up less than that.

More importantly, the Giants had three possessions in the fourth quarter and went three-and-out in all three.

@ Speaking of Keenan Lewis, he played yet another outstanding game.

Everyone has been talking about who the Steelers need to re-sign this offseason as they head into free agency.

Lewis might now be at the top of that list.

@ Apparently, since offensive coordinator Todd Haley simplified the runs and run blocking schemes, it doesn't matter who the Steelers put back there.

All Isaac Redman did Sunday was run for 147 yards and a score as the Steelers got their third consecutive 100-yard rushing game from a running back.

There's a good chance they go four-for-four next Monday night against Kansas City, which might be the worst team in the NFL.

@ Antonio Brown suffered a "minor" high ankle sprain and Chris Rainey suffered a rib injury.

Both should be held out of the game against the Chiefs.

Emmanuel Sanders did a fine job in the return game - and catching the ball - while Jerricho Cotchery showed why the Steelers resigned him in the offseason with some big catches as well.

@ The special teams return game was a big difference maker against the Giants.

@ I don't necessarily have a problem with Mike Tomlin's decision to run a trick play on a field goal attempt.

The Steelers work on that play all the time.

And with the way the defense was playing, why not go for the jugular there.

But it would have made more sense to run Redman in that situation. The Giants couldn't stop the run all day.


Steelers-Giants game day thread

A lot has been made of the Steelers' travel today. I don't think their travel schedule affects this game any more than the Giants' issues with having players and their families displaced by Hurricane Sandy for much of the week.

Remember, the Giants were unable to do anything as a team until Wednesday. Injured players couldn't even really get treatment until then.

@ Here are the Steelers' inactives for today: Charlie Batch, Jonathan Dwyer, Rashard Mendenhall, Troy Polamalu, Stevenson Sylvester, Marcus Gilbert and Alameda Ta'amu

Friday, November 02, 2012

Who I like, Giants version

It has been no secret that the Steelers have struggled on the road this season, particularly on defense, where they are not nearly as good as they are within the friendly confines of Heinz Field.

But the numbers are alarming.

At home, the Steelers have given up an average of 12 points per game. On the road, that number climbs to just over 26 points per game.

That's not a good trend, especially when facing a high-powered offense like the Giants on the road.

But Ben Roethlisberger has also been at his best on the road this season as well, throwing eight touchdown passes in those four road games - against just three interceptions - while averaging 317.5 yards per game.

And because of Roethlisberger working against a banged up Giants' secondary, the Steelers will keep this game close and have a chance to win it at the end.

This game has all the looks of one that will go to whichever quarterback has the ball last.

Eli Manning owns 23 career fourth quarter comebacks, including an astounding nine since the start of the 2011 season.

Roethlisberger has 29 such comebacks on his resume, though just three in the last season and a half.

Part of the reason for that is because New York's pass defense has been so bad - and the offense will go an entire half without doing anything.

Witness last week's 29-24 win at Dallas for an example. The Giants built a 23-0 lead in the first half thanks to a bunch of Cowboys' turnovers, then had to rally to win after falling behind 24-23 in the fourth quarter.

But the Steelers have gone through some similar lulls with Roethlisberger. The Steelers have built leads in all three of their losses this season, only to see them slip away when the offense stops scoring and the defense can't hold up.

The Giants are favored by 3 1/2 points in this one and that half point just might be the difference.

Take the Steelers to cover in a 27-24 loss.

@ LaMarr Woodley was back on the practice field today for the Steelers and will play against the Giants.

That's the good news.

The bad is that running back Jonathan Dwyer, coming off back-to-back 100-yard games, was unable to practice and is doubtful to play.

With Rashard Mendenhall also doubtful, Isaac Redman will get the bulk of the carries for the Steelers.