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Steelers Blog

Who’s in, who’s out this week

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 30, 2012 – 9:28 pm

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been officially ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, still recovering from his shoulder injury. In addition, tackle Mike Adams (ankle), quarterback Byron Leftwich (ribs) and linebacker LaMarr Woodley (ankle) will not play on Sunday.

Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (ribs) and tackle Willie Colon (knee) are listed as questionable, and both were limited in practice on Friday. If Colon doesn’t play, Maurkice Pouncey will start at guard.

“It’s football. I am an offensive lineman, I have to adjust to it,” said Pouncey. “It’s still run blocking and pass blocking. I am pretty sure they will pull me a couple of times to see how I look out there. Hopefully I will do good.”

Complete Injury Report:


Out – T Mike Adams (ankle), QB Byron Leftwich (ribs), QB Ben Roethlisberger (right shoulder), LB LaMarr Woodley (ankle)

Questionable – T Willie Colon (knee), WR Jerricho Cotchery (ribs)

Probable – WR Antonio Brown (ankle), DT Casey Hampton (illness), S Troy Polamalu (calf), T Max Starks (back)


Out – CB Jimmy Smith (abdomen)

Doubtful – TE Ed Dickson (knee)

Questionable – LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle, knee), CB Chris Johnson (thigh), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh)

Probable – WR Anquan Boldin (knee), DT Terrence Cody (elbow), CB Corey Graham (illness), WR Jacoby Jones (ankle), TE Dennis Pitta (neck), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), WR Torrey Smith (thigh), LB Terrell Suggs (ankle)

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Bettis, Greene HOF semi-finalists

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 30, 2012 – 9:26 pm

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced their 27 semifinalists for the Class of 2013, and among them are two former Pittsburgh Steelers, running back Jerome Bettis and linebacker Kevin Greene. Bettis was a finalist the last two years and Greene was a finalist last year.

“It’s always an honor whenever you can reach the semifinalist list,” said Bettis. “It’s never a thing where you assume it’s going to happen. Nothing is promised to you. It’s always refreshing and new. I am just excited and I will go from there. I am not overly excited because I understand the process, but there is reason for excitement.”

Normally there are only 25 semifinalists, but there are 27 this year because of a three-way tie.

That list will be narrowed down to 15 modern-era finalists in early January.

The Class of 2013 will be announced on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, the day before Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Batch gets hometown honor

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 30, 2012 – 9:22 pm

There is no doubt that quarterback Charlie Batch is a hometown hero, so on Friday night it was only fitting that he was inducted into the Steel Valley Hall of Fame.

Batch, who is from Homestead, Pa., part of the Steel Valley, was honored for his achievements on the field and his contribution to the community.

Batch attended Steel Valley High School and then went on to play at Eastern Michigan. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the second round in 1998, playing four seasons there before signing with the Steelers in 2002.

“It’s special,” said Batch. “To have so many great players come out of the area and to be recognized as one of the best is appreciated.”

Batch established the Best of the Batch Foundation, giving back to those in the Steel Valley area in many ways, including educational programs.

“I am in a rare situation where I am home playing football,” said Batch. “To be so close to home and be able to continue to do what we are doing with the foundation and make an impact on the community is special because there are so many people involved and believe in our cause.

“I am extremely proud to be from the area. There are so many great people from there, not only in sports but in business. To have an opportunity to be around those people, and those trying to make an impact in that area, we are trying to do our small part but understand there is more that needs to be done.”

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Ladies learn the finer points of football

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 30, 2012 – 9:10 pm

For Isaac Redman, teaching ladies about football at the Steelers Dean’s Dairy Women’s 202 at the team’s practice facility was a no-brainer.

After all, it was a woman that first taught Redman about football.

“Growing up my mom was the one that taught me how to play football,” said Redman. “My dad never watched football. He doesn’t know anything about it. I have a good appreciation for women that love football. She taught me the ins and outs.”

Redman would spend Saturday and Sunday afternoons watching football with his mom, Leslie Redman, and she would explain to him the details. They would also go out in the yard, with her being the first person to put a ball in the running back’s hands.

“She taught me how to catch, took me outside and taught me how to do things,” said Redman. “She was the first person to put a ball in my hands. She was the first person who introduced me to it. She loves football and that is where I get the passion from.”

The event kicked off with linebackers coach Keith Butler teaching the ladies defensive techniques in the team meeting room, in particular what the linebackers do.

“It is a little tough for them to know what I am talking about, so I expanded it a little more than when I talk to my linebackers,” said Butler. “The linebackers don’t think I am talking Chinese, but the ladies might think I am. I was simple with it, explained things to them.

“It’s a good time. It’s a lot of fun.”

After that the ladies had an opportunity to see the Steelers’ six Super Bowl trophies, and then it was off for a tour of the team’s locker room.

“It gets us closer to the team being here,” said Dorothy Pack, from Elizabethville, Pa. “You feel a real closeness to everybody around. You get to learn the guys more up close and personal.

“Plus, now I can be at a game, whether it’s home or away, and I can say to my husband they did this or that. It’s because they teach you. You understand the plays.”

After the tour, it was down to business as Redman, along with Larry Foote and Shaun Suisham, provided on-field instruction for the ladies teaching them the finer points of their positions.

“I love it,” said Foote. “Those women are serious about it. It’s good giving them a little insight they don’t see every day. I tell people there is no place in the world where you can actually have a conversation about football with a woman other than Pittsburgh. You can’t do that anywhere else. That is a special thing.”

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Hard work pays off for Dwyer

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 29, 2012 – 9:13 pm

This season has been a rollercoaster ride for running back Jonathan Dwyer. The first two weeks he led a struggling ground game in rushing, albeit the numbers were not anywhere near where he would like with just 71 yards combined in two games.

He followed that up with being a game day inactive against Philadelphia and Tennessee in weeks four and five once a healthy Rashard Mendenhall returned to the starting lineup.

But with Mendenhall and Isaac Redman both out against Cincinnati on Oct. 21, Dwyer got the start and rattled off 122 yards on 17 carries. He followed that with a 107 yard performance against the Washington Redskins, but a quad injury sidelined him against the Giants the following week.

Dwyer has led the team in rushing in each of the last three games in a backup role, and this week, his hard work has paid off as he was named the team’s starter.

“It’s something I have done before,” said Dwyer. “It’s not new to me so I can adjust to it easily. I am excited about playing and the fact that I can start is a plus. In all reality I don’t think too much about it, I just think about improving on my mistakes to help us win.”

While he has started before, this is truly the first time that Dwyer’s name is listed first on the team’s depth chart. In his previous starts this year he was stepping in because of injuries, while Mendenhall remained the top back. But Mendenhall has been moved to third on the depth chart and the job now belongs to Dwyer.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Dwyer. “It’s something every guy works hard to do and works hard to get to in their career. It’s all in God’s hands. If this is his plan for me, this is it. I am going to continuously work hard every day and show my teammates I am serious about this and they can depend on me in this situation.

“You want to solidify yourself around here and keep your spot and work hard to show you are consistent and know people can depend upon you week in and week out.”

The Steelers are going to need Dwyer’s physical style of play this week going up against a Baltimore Ravens defense that thrives on delivering hits.

“That is the style I have always played with,” said Dwyer. “I can do whatever they need, I can make guys miss. But I like to be very physical at the beginning of the game. That is how I was taught to run the ball. Sometimes when you are physical at the beginning of the game, later in the game the defensive player is not going to want to take those hits. By doing that you can sometimes break tackles and have longer runs.

“I am ready to be the player I am, which is a physical player and just do whatever I can to help get us a win.”

The Steelers are currently tied with the Cincinnati Bengals for the sixth spot in the AFC playoff race, holding a slight edge having beaten the Bengals earlier this season. This week isn’t a “must win” for the team, but Dwyer understands how important it is.

“It’s a big game because it’s the next game, but it’s also a big game because it’s Baltimore,” said Dwyer. “Every game for us from here on out is a big game. If we want to get to where we need to be, we need to do things to help us win games. Right now that is focusing on Baltimore.”

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Coordindator’s Corner: Haley & LeBeau

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 29, 2012 – 5:35 pm

Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley

Is it easier to come back from a performance like last week because it was an odd set of circumstances than it would be if you were just stuffed all day on offense?
No, I don’t think it’s ever easy. It’s just a fact of life that you have to come back, regardless of the result of the week before. You have to come back and prepare to win the biggest game of the year, which is this week. We have a lot of work to do, and we’ve got to be better.

How did your quarterbacks look today?
Not bad.

What about Ben Roethlisberger, specifically?
He did a little bit in the early part of practice. Like Coach [Tomlin] said, he’s keeping the door open, so we’ll see tomorrow how much he’s able to do. It was positive that he was out here and throwing a little bit, so that’s a good thing.

How much do you really need to see from Roethlisberger? Does he really need to heave the ball before Sunday?
That’ll be up to Coach Tomlin and the doctors. Like we always say, we go by what we see. We have to come out and execute in the pass and run game. Like I said, he did some today and that’s a good start.

What would make you expect QB Charlie Batch to play better in this game than he did last game?
I think the circumstances of the game, just the way it started in the first half with the halfbacks struggling a little bit and the ball ending up on the ground and giving them opportunities. The game, from the start, never really went the way that we needed it to go, which was to play good on defense like we did and on offense, first and foremost, protect the football and be efficient. I just think it probably put a little stress on everybody. Even though we had the lead to start the second half, it just wasn’t a situation that our guys handled very well, and we have to do better and not put ourselves in that situation to begin with. Any time you’re talking about a quarterback that hasn’t played a whole bunch in an extended period of time, getting an opportunity and then getting a second opportunity, he gets a second full week of practice. I would expect him to be better.

What’s your confidence with rookie RT Kelvin Beachum going into Baltimore?
I think the good thing is that he lined up and played a significant portion of the game last week. That’s a good thing. It’s not a good thing that Mike [Adams] got hurt, but when he did, Beachum had to go in and play a significant number of plays, the majority of those having to be passing, and he held his own. He gets a full week of practice taking all the reps, and we need to make sure we’re looking out for him like we always do with those guys on the edges on either side. We expect him to step in and play at a high level.

Are you seeing anything out of G David DeCastro that leads you to believe he’ll be a factor this year?
I definitely think that he could be. Last week he got to go in and go through a bunch of reps and looked good. Yesterday, we got to have him in pads and he got through that practice well. I think every practice he gets through in a healthy manner and continues to get stronger and gain confidence is real good. I think the new rule is great and for him to be able to see some light at the end of the tunnel as opposed to normally, when something like that happens you’re done and there’s really nothing to look forward to but the offseason. I think he really worked hard to give himself an opportunity and now we’ll see how it goes. At least he’s in a position to take advantage of it.

What are the expectations for RB Jonathan Dwyer in his new role in terms of the amount of carries and how much you think you can get out of him?
I’m not looking at anything as a new role. Obviously, Jonathan is going to be the guy starting the game but I don’t think a whole lot will change as far as the guys who are rolling with it, will continue to roll with it. Jonathan just has to show that he can take the bulk of the carries without needing a break or taking a few plays off on the sideline. I think that will be what defines Jonathan as his career goes forward. He’s getting a great opportunity. We’re all excited and have been excited about a bunch of things he’s done. Hopefully, he goes in and takes this role seriously and won’t let us take him off the field.

Has that been an issue?
I just think he’s a guy who hasn’t been the workhorse since he’s been here. He’s gotten some opportunities, and he needs to prove he wants to be in and stay out there all the time.

With Batch, who has admitted he doesn’t have the arm strength he used to, does it limit what you can do with someone like WR Mike Wallace who is a guy who’s designed to take the top off the defense?
No, I think, as you saw last week, we threw the ball down the middle to Mike and Heath [Miller] behind the defense and it was a slight underthrow but there’s timing of the play, circumstances, having to step up, different things. I don’t think there’s any limitation as to what he can do or needs to do with the guys we have. Some guys can throw 80 yards, and some guys can throw it 50 yards. I was with Kurt Warner, and his max was 54 yards with two crow-hops. Those guys learn pretty early to get the ball out earlier. Speed is still going to be speed and you just have to understand it and he understands it more than anyone. When he’s going down the field he’s got to get the ball out fast.

Is Wallace being a co-starter with WR Emmanuel Sanders as much a tribute to Sanders as it is to any issues with what Wallace has been doing?
I definitely think that. Again, these guys will have roles and as the situations in the games come up. Depending upon play calls and packages we have, which we’ve been doing all year, we’ve had packages that have included Emmanuel and Jerricho [Cotchery] and all that will continue. Emmanuel has done a tremendous job with the opportunities he’s had and he just needs to continue to get better. I expect Mike to bounce back and make a bunch of plays for us here down the stretch.

Is the plan right now for Beachum to start at tackle and Ramon Foster to stay at right guard?
I won’t get into depth charts and however Coach Tomlin laid it out. But I’d say there’s a strong possibility that Beachum will be in there at right tackle.

Where did Baltimore give you problems the first time you played them this year?
We started the game the way we wanted to. We converted a third-down in our second possession and then fumbled the ball. That was killer. We had a punt returned on us for a touchdown. That was a killer. Offensively as the game wore on, third downs we just weren’t able to convert, especially in critical situations in that critical part of the field, the fringe in the plus-40, plus-45, that if you convert a third-down, you’re now in the scoring zone, and we have a good kicker in Shaun Suisham. We just weren’t able to convert those critical third downs that would have put us in the scoring range, whether it was to continue a drive and score or kick field goals. So we have to do a better job, especially in those critical situations. You can’t turn the football over, first and foremost, but when we get the ball in those areas of the field, we have to convert and stay on the field and put touchdowns on the field.

Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau

Re: Jason Worilds:
He is doing a good job. He actually had tremendous growth last year. He had to play well over half the snaps last year and started a lot of games. He would have been accelerated tremendously, except that he had the injury situation in the offseason. He missed the whole training camp. I would say the last month he has really come back to where he was at the end of last season, when he was coming on strong. We are looking for him to continue to grow and be productive for us. I think he leads our team in sacks right now. That’s indicative of the productivity he has when he is in there. He is going to get a lot of snaps with LaMarr Woodley recovering from an ankle injury.

Did you like what you saw last week from Worilds?
He has been playing stronger as we have gone along. I think that was just him coming back from an injury and getting back to where he was last year. Now he can get back into his normal growth cycle. In the first three years, you should grow tremendously. I think he is getting back on schedule for that.

Re: Possibly getting Troy Polamalu back:
I think it means a lot, getting leadership and stability out there again. Our guys have done a good job without him. I don’t think he will be able to be out there every snap but he is going to be able to take a significant role. Let’s face it, when you can have him on the field it’s a plus for us. We are looking forward to his return.

Do you have to be cautious with him?
He has been idle for a good while. I think you just want him to get back into complete game conditioning. He is in good shape. He has been able to run, and that’s how I think they judged if he was ready to come back, and not the after effects of hard workouts. His aerobic conditioning is good but I think his football conditioning needs some development. We will try to help him with that but it will be good to have him back.

Re: Your pass defense hasn’t struggled without him but he is a difference maker:
He makes plays only he can make. That’s no knock on anybody else. He is a rare player. He is always good to have in the game.

Why has your defense been successful this season without him, considering the only time your defense finished outside the top-10 was in 2009 when he missed most of the season?
I’d have to get my stats out. I don’t think we were far out, too low in 2009. These guys work hard and play together. I always think we are going to be a little better with him than without him but I think the other guys just stepped up and played hard. We are in a new mix. We should still keep growing out there. There is plenty of room to improve. They are going to keep fighting and working towards that proper ending.

Re: Getting more comfortable with the defense after losing veterans in the offseason:
Hopefully we are better than we were when we started. We have had some injuries and have had some guys that have stepped in. we’ve gotten valuable playing time from some of our young players that really hadn’t had much playing time and have now amassed some good, quality playing time. We are getting to be a more veteran bunch out there. We have a ways to go, but I am proud of the way they have worked and improved.

Do you expect the Ravens to change on offense, considering your defense contained Ray Rice last time the teams played?
I don’t think they are going to change at all. He is tough to hold. Our guys just had a really good game against him. He is part of the answer to holding them down on offense. He is such a great player. You look at their record. They aren’t going to change what they are doing.

But can you expect to hold him since you did before?
Well, you can expect it, but he is one of those players that are usually going to be productive. You have to keep him from dominating the game. That’s what you have to expect to do. I think he had 40 yards. That isn’t going to happen very often. We want to get after him and play him hard. I know our guys will. We are just going to try to keep him from dominating the game, which he can do if he gets off and has a good day.

When Polamalu is on the field, does that change what other players do?
I don’t think so. I just think there is a comfort in having him in the huddle. Everybody has seen where he has been and what he has done. His reputation is not a myth. He’s made the plays. That always has to be a plus for your defense.

Are you expecting the old Polamalu or a guy coming off of a long layoff?
I watched him move. I think he is moving real well. I think he will be able to make his plays. Experience is such a valuable thing. He isn’t going to lose any of that just because he hasn’t played for a while. I am sure if he is honest, it will take him a while to get his complete timing back but we are happy he is coming back.

Did the Ravens recent game change your mind on how to defend fourth-and-29?
[Laughs] Well, the simple truth of the matter is, in this league, anything can happen on any given snap. When you have a player like Rice, and he gets the ball under his arm with a little bit of space, he is pretty hard to get on the ground. They were all trying to get him on the ground. He just barely made enough to keep the game going but that’s why he is Ray Rice.

Does their offense seem more efficient at home?
I know their record would indicate they are more productive at home. I think everybody’s numbers are probably better at home. But this is a good, solid football team and a solid offense at home or away from home.

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Inside the locker room: Ben Roethlisberger

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 29, 2012 – 3:38 pm

How are you feeling?
Fine, thank you.

How is the shoulder?
It’s doing okay. Getting better.

Is there any chance you’re going to play Sunday?
Yeah, there’s always a chance. We’ll go out and re-evaluate it again today and see how it feels after today.

Is pain the biggest issue right now?
I can play through a lot of pain. That is a little bit of it but mostly it’s just, to me, ability. Can I make a long throw? Can I put a lot of zip on the ball, throw it really hard before people like Ed Reed and defenders can get to the ball? Because if I can’t, then I’m not putting this team in the best situation to win the game.

Has the recovery process been what the doctors expected or quicker than they expected?
I don’t know. That’s probably a question for them. I’m just doing everything I can to get back. The training staff and doctors have been great. I’m just working to get back out there.

Have the doctors told you that you are safe from any type of damage to your heart?
This game we play, I don’t think you’re ever completely safe. According to them, it’s stable on the backside, which I think is posterior. Obviously, you can take a big hit and anything can happen. But from what I understand, that aspect of it is okay.

How was it throwing the ball yesterday? How far could you get it down the field? How much zip?
That was yesterday so we’ll see what today holds. I’m not 100% but we’re going to get as close as we can.

How much confidence does this team have in QB Charlie Batch?
A lot. I firmly believe that. They know what he’s capable of. He’s been doing it a long time. They respect him. I think he’s ready to rise to the occasion.

Re: Batch saying he was disappointed with his performance in Cleveland:
I think he holds himself to a high standard, like we all do. For him to say he was disappointed doesn’t surprise me because I know he wants to go out and play a great game and he expects himself to do that. I expect a big bounce-back game from him if it’s that time.

Will you have to wear any extra protection around your injured areas?
We’ve juiced up the shoulder pads a little bit and the trainers and equipment staff have put some protective padding and Kevlar stuff on the shoulder pads to help.

What about more protection for the ribs?
I always wear rib protectors that are low. Nothing to change there. Most of it’s just up higher in the shoulder pads.

How tough is it to evaluate your injury when you really want to be able to play?
I think that’s always something that as a player, and me in particular I have to evaluate when I’m injured, I want to be out there no matter what but not at the risk of hurting the team, if that makes sense. I don’t want to go out there and play so bad just to be out there and hurt the team and us not be good. It’s tough. It’s hard for me. You watched me during these games. I’ve been on the field more than most of the coaches because I’m just antsy to get out there. We’ll evaluate it and ultimately it will come down to coach’s decision.

Where are you in terms of pain compared to this point last week?
I’m better. I’m a lot better. I’m sleeping in the bed. I can only sleep in certain positions in bed but at least I’m in bed. It’s gotten better. To know that you’re just dealing with pain is something I can deal with. I can deal with pain.

It sounds like you being able to play is more based on your arm strength rather than a chance of being re-injured. Is that right?
Well, it’s a lot of things. What I’m going to evaluate today and in the next couple days is where am I. What throws can I make? What can’t I make? So, we go look at it heavy today.

Is part of the evaluation considering that one more week of rest might be better for the last four games?
Yeah, you could look at it that way. We’ve had people talk about last year in San Francisco. If I would have rested maybe I would have been better off the last couple games and stuff like that. To me, I live for the here and now and I’m going to do everything I can to be out there. If it doesn’t work, I’ll do everything I can to be out there next week.

Do you buy that an extra week last year would have helped you get healthier for the last few games of the season?
I don’t know. It could be. It could not be. Maybe I wouldn’t have healed up. Maybe I would have. I don’t know. I’m going to make sure I’m ready to go so I can help this team the best I can.

When do you start pushing yourself?
I’m going to do everything I can. I did some stuff yesterday and we’ll do some more today and tomorrow and every day.

Is there just a lack of arm strength or is there also pain when you throw?

Is the pain scar tissue tearing?
I don’t know. Sorry.

Is there more motivation to play this week since it’s Baltimore?
To me it doesn’t matter who it is, but it’s a divisional game. That gives you motivation. It’s Baltimore. So, yeah of course, there’s a little bit more in that.

Do you feel that if you won last week and the team was 7-4 there wouldn’t be as much of a need for you to try and play this week?
Well we want to win every game, so we’ll see what happens. These are all kind of crazy questions for me. Sorry.

How’s fatherhood?
Great. Thank you.

So, even with a newborn you are able to get some sleep?
I’m getting a little bit of rest, yes. [Laughs]

Are you able to help out with the baby?
I’m helping out as much as I can.

Have the doctors made any suggestions to you about coming back?
No. I just think they’re telling me the same thing that I think I’m telling you. If I’m wrong, I’m sure they’ll let you know. What I understand is it’s an evaluation. How do you feel pain-wise? What can you do and what can’t you do? What are you able to do? Like I said, can I throw the ball 30 yards, 40 yards or 50 yards? I think it’s just an evaluation thing by everybody.

How much input do you have in deciding if you can play, even if it is the doctors and coaches who may be making the final decision?
I hope I have a lot. I’m going to be honest with coach and I think he trusts me to be honest with him. I’m not going to go out there and tell him I feel great if I don’t.  I think a lot of it is going to depend on that as well.

Re: The first week of being a father:
It’s pretty cool. You can tell people about it, but it’s something special.

What arm are you holding the baby with?
I can hold him both ways. Not as long in the right but I can hold him both ways.

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RBs adjust to new roles

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 28, 2012 – 10:21 pm

Having a different starting running back throughout this season has become commonplace for the Steelers with Isaac Redman getting five starts, Rashard Mendenhall four, and Jonathan Dwyer two. But all the while, Mendenhall was listed on the depth chart as the team’s starter. Until this week, that is.

Coach Mike Tomlin mixed things up, naming Dwyer the starter and listing him first on the depth chart, while Redman is listed second and Mendenhall now third.

“That was their decision, what they wanted to do,” said Dwyer, who was very low key about it. “I’m just trying to do my job. It’s what they want to do and I am adjusting to it. I just want to help us win games. That is what it’s all about. The fact that they want me to start is their decision, but I just want to do what I can to help us win games.”

Dwyer is the Steelers leading rusher with 98 carries for 429 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Redman has 87 carries for 307 yards and two touchdowns, while Mendenhall, who has been injured part of the season, has 34 carries for 113 yards.

“That is how we are going to approach the week and I will just do whatever I am asked to,” said Mendenhall. “I don’t think too much of it. I have been in a lot of positions. I am just approaching this week like I approach every week.”

Mendenhall said Tomlin talked to him about the change, but when asked what his reaction was or if he was surprised, he said he is just approaching it like he does every other week.

“I don’t really react to too much of anything,” said Mendenhall. “I just continue to prepare and I will be ready to play. For me I don’t react. That is what is in front of me and that is how I am going to approach it.

“I just approach the week as it is. There is always opportunity and whatever happens from those is just what happens. I am just going to take advantage of whatever opportunities I get.”

One thing that will be a focus for all of the backs this week is ball security, after each of them fumbled in the 20-14 loss to the Browns last week.

“We are going to work on it,” said Dwyer. “It’s going to be made an emphasis for us all week. We’re going to get it done.”

Don’t look for the players to be carrying a football with them around the team’s practice facility, instead the work will all be done on the field.

“We just have to get back to the fundamentals,” said Mendenhall. “We saw on film where we were kind of lax in places. We have to approach this week like we are going to approach the game with our ball security.”

Running back isn’t the only position where there could be a shake-up this week as Mike Wallace is listed as the starting wide receiver as usual, but Emmanuel Sanders is listed as the starter at the spot as well. Wallace said it doesn’t matter who starts on Sunday, he will be out there giving his all.

“I have to still do what I have to do, regardless of the situation,” said Wallace. “If I am out there, I will give everything I’ve got. I am still going to be in the football game regardless of the situation.

“It’s not going to change the way I prepare or anything I do. I am going to do everything the same.”

Wallace, who had just one reception for nine yards against the Browns, admittedly has been frustrated by his production this season, but said it isn’t from lack of effort.

“I have to prepare like I do,” said Wallace. “I think I work hard every single day. I don’t lag, I don’t play at practice. I work hard every day.”

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Pouncey works at guard in practice

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 28, 2012 – 10:19 pm

There could be a major change on the Steelers’ offensive line on Sunday against the Ravens after center Maurkice Pouncey worked at left guard in practice, while Willie Colon sat out still bothered by his knee.

“If Willie Colon doesn’t play, I will play guard,” said Pouncey, who hasn’t practiced at the position since training camp of his rookie season. “I am glad Coach (Mike) Tomlin put us in pads today. It gave me the opportunity to go out there and get my technique down and feel the physicality of it. I got to see the different looks at guard than I do at center.”

There has been a rash of injuries on the line recently, including tackle Mike Adams who already has been ruled out this week. Pouncey knows if one man goes down, others have to just step up their game.

“We have some injuries and it’s different but we have to keep fighting,” said Pouncey. “We have to be professional about it. We have to get better in practice.”

If Pouncey were to move to guard, Doug Legursky would start at center.

“I think it is no secret around the league or around this locker room that I am a better center than I am a guard,” said Legursky. “I know personally that I am more natural there.”

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Inside the locker room: Charlie Batch

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 28, 2012 – 4:07 pm

Quarterback Charlie Batch talked on Wednesday about the offense, his performance and this week’s game against the Ravens.

Re: Performance Sunday and your thoughts moving forward:
I have to play better. It’s something I can do. I turned the football over three times. Right now, I just have to figure out a way to get us into the end zone, and that’s what I have to do.

How much input did you have in the game plan last week and will you have a little more this week?
With me, I did have an input in the game plan. That’s something that as you go throughout the course of the week, you start with what you like and what you don’t like. I don’t expect that to change this week and that’s something that, between today and Friday, I’ll have better indication of what I like moving forward.

What kind of a difference does it make having WR Antonio Brown in the lineup?
Depending on how this week goes, that can determine what our packages are for the week. We’ll be encouraged as we go through. Right now, I know he’s excited to get back on the field. It’s been a while for him, and I’ll be excited as well.

What do you think will go better this week?
I have to make better decisions. The three turnovers just can’t happen, especially when you’re moving the football. I think right now, just getting back on the practice field, I have to go out there and make sure I get the timing with the receivers. And I need to make sure I’m doing whatever it takes to put this team in the end zone.

You said that if you put the ball out there two or three yards more on a pass to Wallace that hit Browns S T.J. Ward in the helmet it would have been a completion. Do you still have that two or three yards more?
Absolutely, and that’s something when you’re going that deep and trying to make a decision 50 yards down the field on his angle, that’s something that I have to figure out a way to get that ball in front of him, because that’s a potential 70 or 80-yard touchdown pass in that situation. You just make sure you continue to work on that timing.

Do you have any concerns about your game speed, your arm strength, getting the ball deep or making the throws to the sideline?
Not at all.

Did you struggle with some decision making because of the offense being choppy with all the turnovers? Did you feel like you needed big chunks of yards and pushed the ball deep down the field to Wallace in double coverage?
No. Every situation is different throughout the course of the game. For me, when you’re in those critical situations, I just have to make better decisions. The last interception was a first-down play. We didn’t necessarily need to have the ball pushed down the field the way that I did. I could have easily checked it down and continued to play ball. Any time that you have situations like that, you would love to have those back. Unfortunately, I couldn’t and that’s why you get back on the field and get ready for Baltimore.

Is there any difference in this Ravens defense than ones you may have faced in the past?
No, because we just saw them two weeks ago. They did a lot of good things on their side that kind of messed with us defensively. And I’m sure we’ll continue to see that. We’ll see an added element that they’re going to add this week. We’re just going to have to prepare for everything.

How weird is it to face a team like this you know so well twice in three games?
It’s definitely weird but this is the way that the schedule was dealt. We knew that we were going to be dealing with this situation two weeks ago and when the schedule came out. It’s nothing that surprised us, and right now what we have to do is prepare for them.

Do you expect QB Ben Roethlisberger to lobby hard to play?
I’ve been around him long enough [to know that]. I’m sure he’s been lobbying the last couple weeks. That’ll be something that he and Coach Tomlin talk about.

This team has won without Roethlisberger before. What makes this stretch different? Are there mistakes that you avoided before and are costing you now?
I think it’s that we’ve been able to get wins the last couple of times. That’s what’s different about it right now. We have to figure out whatever we need to do because as we continue to push during the final stretch of our season in order for us to get to where we want to get to, we have to start winning.

Is the offense too reliant on Roethlisberger’s specific skill set?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that because there are a lot of guys on this team that are capable of making plays. For whatever reason, we just haven’t been able to get into the end zone, and I think right now we’re going to figure out a way to do that. I don’t think that anybody in this locker room would think any other way.

Do you think the offense will take a bigger step this week with you at quarterback after having a game under your belt?
We’re going to have to. Last week, we only put up one touchdown, and defensively they did a great job. They went out there and played phenomenal throughout the course of that game. We just continued to put them in bad situations. In order for us to grow, we can’t do that offensively. We’re going to go out there, work hard and continue to do what we need to do in order to make progress this week.

What role might WR Plaxico Burress have this week?
We’ll see how that plays out. We don’t know how it’s going to play out because Antonio [Brown] can make a difference either way as far as packages go. I’m sure we’ll be able to answer that throughout the course of the week.

Is it frustrating to have an offensive line that is continually banged-up and shuffled around?
That’s tough, but either way it’s the next guy’s opportunity. Early on this year we had to deal with the same situations, and for us, we’ve been able to battle through that. Right now is no different.

Do you still have the feeling that you need to redeem yourself, even after playing for so many years?
I still have it because I know I didn’t play well last week. Any time that you have another opportunity like this week, for me this is going out there and making sure I don’t make those mistakes again.

Is there a statement Coach Tomlin was trying to make naming WR Mike Wallace a co-starter and naming RB Jonathan Dwyer the starter?
I don’t know. When we hear it, we hear it the same time that you do. I wouldn’t look into anything more than that.

Are teams defending you differently with Roethlisberger out?
No, not at all.

Are teams defending you differently with Brown out of the lineup?
No, because it depends on the different formations and what we’re trying to take advantage of. We haven’t been able to do that over the last couple of weeks. Those questions tend to play out throughout the course of the game.

Have you seen Wallace double covered a little bit more in the last few games than he was when Brown was on the field?
Possibly. I wasn’t seeing him double-teamed any more than he was in the past. You have to respect his speed and teams obviously do.

Do you expect to improve now that this will be consecutive starts for you?
For me, you have that opportunity to go out again and correct those mistakes. Now you’re dealing with timing issues, and you’re talking about play clock management. I had a delay of game and that’s unacceptable. I shouldn’t do that and it has to be corrected this week. You’re talking about five yards of field position in that situation. Obviously, I was disappointed and Coach Tomlin was disappointed in that because that’s something where I expect better from myself.

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Brown practices; Ben limited in practice

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 28, 2012 – 3:54 pm

Wide receiver Antonio Brown was back on the practice field on Wednesday, returning for the first time since he injured his ankle in the second quarter against the New York Giants.

“It felt pretty good,” said Brown. “I am still a little sore, but it is a lot better than it was and I continue to get better. Today I practiced without tape and it was still a little achy. Tomorrow I am going to come out and tape it so it feels more comfortable and continue to find what feels good.”

Brown missed the last three games because of the injury, mainly hampered by the swelling in the ankle.

“When there is swelling on your feet it doesn’t allow you to put pressure on your leg and be as fluid in being able to run,” said Brown. “When you put pressure on the ground and your ankle is still swollen, you feel it through your leg and your mind. When you’re coming out fast and you want to stop, it’s hard to put on the brakes like I usually can. It’s a great thing that I’m back on my feet, I’m back running and I look forward to being out there.”

Being sidelined for three games, which included two losses to AFC North rivals, wasn’t easy for Brown and he hopes this week he can get back out there and have an impact on the offense.

“It’s always hard to watch your teammates in battle and you aren’t able to be out there to help them,” said Brown. “I am thankful I can be out there this week to help out.”

Guard David DeCastro, who was activated from the injured reserve/designated for return list earlier this week, increased his workload on Wednesday as he is moving closer to getting back in game action.

“Just getting back out there being with the guys was good (last week), but putting the pads on and playing real football will be nice,” said DeCastro.

DeCastro doesn’t know yet if he will be called upon to play or start this week, a call he said is in the hands of the coaching staff.

“I am listening to the coaches,” said DeCastro. “They know what they are doing. I am just trying to get out there and see how it feels with the pads on.”

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (right shoulder) saw limited work in practice, as did receiver Jerricho Cotchery (ribs), while Troy Polamalu (calf) was a full participant.

Missing practice were tackles Mike Adams (ankle) and Max Starks (back), guard Willie Colon (knee), linebacker LaMarr Woodley (ankle) and quarterback Byron Leftwich (ribs).

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Steelers Player Appearances

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 28, 2012 – 11:25 am

Steelers’ Player Appearances Presented by Pepsi at Pittsburgh area Giant Eagle locations.

Keenan Lewis
Monday Dec. 3rd 6-7pm
New Kensington Giant Eagle
200 Tarentum Bridge Road
New Kensington, PA 15068

Jason Worilds
Tuesday, December 4: 6-7p
Donaldson’s Crossroads Giant Eagle
4007 Washington Road
McMurray, PA 15317

Cameron Heyward
Thursday, December 6: 6-7p
Camp Horne Giant Eagle
132 Ben Avon Heights Roads
Pittsburgh, PA 15237

Larry Foote
Saturday, December 8; 1p-2p
Cranberry Giant Eagle
20111 Route 19
 Cranberry Mall SC
Cranberry Twp, PA 16066

Emmanuel Sanders
Monday, December 10: 6-7pm
South Hills Market District
7000 Oxford Drive
Bethel Park, PA 15102

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A busy day on the news front

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 27, 2012 – 7:17 pm

The big news coming out of Coach Mike Tomlin’s press conference on Tuesday was that running back Jonathan Dwyer will start on Sunday against the Ravens and while Ben Roethlisberger threw for the first time on Monday, Charlie Batch will start this week.

But that wasn’t all of the news. Tomlin discussed the roster moves the team made on Monday, which included activating guard David DeCastro from injured reserve/designated to return where he has been all season, and in turn placing tackle Marcus Gilbert on injured reserve with an ankle injury that just isn’t progressing.

“We gave (Marcus) up to six or seven weeks for that ankle to perk up,” said Tomlin. “We knew that it was a possibility that it would not. It has not. Surgery is a strong option that would require him to go on IR. That created a spot, or an opportunity.

“David DeCastro has been working here for a week in terms of practice. He’s healthy enough to proceed. We slotted him and moved him up and we’ll just continue to work him in practice and see what he’s capable of doing.”

It’s another move on an offensive line that is dealing with their share of injuries. Guard Willie Colon didn’t play against the Browns because of swelling in his knee, but is expected to be back this week. Tackle Mike Adams sprained his ankle against the Browns and will miss this week’s game. Rookie Kelvin Beachum, who stepped in last Sunday for Adams, will replace Adams in the starting lineup, but the team also has starting guard Ramon Foster available to slide over to tackle if need be.

“That is potentially an option, but based on our strengths and what we know right now, Kelvin Beachum has played and DeCastro has not, other than preseason football,” said Tomlin. “We feel that that’s the best mode at this point.

“Obviously, position flexibility has got to be an element in this thing as we push forward through the week. With Mike Adams being down, Ramon is going to have to be tackle-capable. He could be the third tackle as I sit here right now, but that’s just normal football for us. We value position flexibility. We acknowledge that guys are going to have to show multiple skills in order for us to be the type of team that we desire to be.”

* * *

Wide receiver Plaxico Burress saw his first game action of the 2012 season against the Browns, after signing with the Steelers on Nov. 20, and Tomlin liked what he saw.

“I thought he provided a shot in the arm, particularly there at the end of the first half for us,” said Tomlin. “We targeted the red area as a place to utilize him and a place to begin teaching him what it is that we do and fitting him into what it is that we do.

“We’ll continue with that process this week and obviously there is a chance his role could expand outside of that area as well, and should.”

* * *

While Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich both threw on Monday, newly signed back-up quarterback Brian Hoyer is still on a revved-up pace of learning the offense, and Tomlin foresees it moving in a positive direction this week.

“He’s doing a nice job of picking it up and right now I guess he could be described as an emergency guy, just not enough exposure,” said Tomlin. “Hopefully, that changes over the course of this week and I think that is a possibility.”

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Ben throws; Batch still to start

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 27, 2012 – 12:20 pm

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin was able to deliver some good news on the injury front with some players who have been battling injuries working their way back to playing.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball on Monday and Tomlin said he “Will take steps towards playing this week. We’ll leave the door open for him. He’s got a chance.” In addition Byron Leftwich threw some on Monday, but Tomlin made it clear that Charlie Batch is the starting quarterback at this point for Sunday’s game against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

“Right now Charlie Batch is our quarterback,” said Tomlin. “We are working offensively to put together a plan to complement his strengths. That is our plan until otherwise. These guys will be participating in some form or fashion. We’ll let that participation or the result of the participation guide us in terms of their availability as we push to the later part of the week and see where those guys are a little later in the week. As we sit here today and we are preparing and putting together a plan we are doing so with Charlie Batch being our quarterback.”

Receiver Antonio Brown is going to practice and at this point is scheduled to play against the Ravens. In addition, safety Troy Polamalu is expected to practice this week and could play on Sunday. Tackle Willie Colon, who missed the Browns game, is improving and may rest a little early in the week, but has a “strong chance” of playing. Receiver Jerricho Cotchery ran on Monday and is expected to be a partial participant in practice on Wednesday with as Tomlin said, “An eye toward playing.”

“We are looking to get some guys back potentially but we are not going to hold our breath in that regard. We are going to continue to focus on reading the guys that are healthy and holding those guys to the standard that we are accustomed to, which is winning football.”

Linebacker LaMarr Woodley is considered doubtful at this point with an ankle injury and if he can’t play he will be replaced by Jason Worilds in the lineup. Tackle Mike Adams has been ruled out for Sunday with an ankle injury, and will be replaced by fellow rookie Kelvin Beachum.

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Steelers make changes to depth chart

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 27, 2012 – 12:00 pm

The Steelers depth chart took on a new look on Tuesday with Jonathan Dwyer now listed as the first-team running back. Isaac Redman is listed as his backup, while former starter Rashard Mendenhall is listed as the team’s third back.

Dwyer is the Steelers leading rusher with 98 carries for 429 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Redman has 87 carries for 307 yards and two touchdowns, while Mendenhall has 34 carries for 113 yards.

“Jonathan Dwyer is going to start for us,” said Tomlin. “He has been consistently the most productive guy. I think we’ve got a large enough body of work to identify that at this point. We’ve been working at less than ideal circumstances with the rotation and shuffling those guys due to health and lack of production. But over the course of the last several weeks it is obvious he is healthy and he is the most productive of the group.

“He will start for us and get the bulk of the carries. The other guys will supplement him in some form or fashion based on situation and how we formulate a game plan.”

In addition, at wide receiver it now has either Mike Wallace or Emmanuel Sanders starting on the one side, with Antonio Brown still listed as the other starter when he returns healthy. Sanders had five receptions for 75 yards in last week’s 20-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns, while Wallace had just one catch for nine yards.

Tomlin said situations will determine who will start there, and that he has not seen any lack of effort from Wallace.

“Mike was frustrated on Sunday and rightfully so,” said Tomlin. “He is not producing in the manner he would like to or we would like him to. It’s a function of a lot of things. He is going to be committed to continuing to work and we are committed to that as well.”

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Steelers notes for Ravens game

Posted by Teresa Varley on November 27, 2012 – 10:15 am

Check out the Steelers notes for this week’s game against the Baltimore Ravnes.

Steelers Game Notes

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