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.”
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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.”
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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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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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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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