View Full Version : Steelers win again, but carry worries into break

11-21-2008, 04:28 PM
Steelers win again, but carry worries into break
By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer Alan Robinson, Ap Sports Writer 20 mins ago

PITTSBURGH The Pittsburgh Steelers got a win, even if it took more work than they would have liked. They also went into a long weekend with more than a few worries.

Their offense still isn't where it needs to be. They're dealing with three more injuries. And the next four weeks could be the most challenging of their schedule, with the Patriots (6-4), Cowboys (6-4), Ravens (6-4) and Titans (10-0) in succession all on the road except for Dallas.

"It's good to be 8-3 right now," wide receiver Hines Ward said after a wintry 27-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.

Coach Mike Tomlin liked how his offense constantly ran the clock and produced three touchdowns after going more than seven quarters without one. The defense gave up little yardage following a Bengals touchdown drive in the first quarter and remains the NFL's best statistically in every major category.

That didn't mean there weren't concerns as the AFC North leaders began a 10-day break before playing Nov. 30 at New England, beginning with three more injuries. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes has a concussion and defensive end Brett Keisel and running back Willie Parker injured knees.

Holmes should return for the Patriots despite being leveled by Cincinnati's Chris Crocker after catching a pass.

"He was out of it," Ward said. "He'll be back. That's just the violence of the game. It was a clean hit. The guy read it, he read right, and he made a huge hit on Santonio. That's why I try to preach to my guys, `Hit them before they hit you.' "

Keisel's sprained right knee looks more severe, and his status is uncertain. He was out for most of four games with a calf injury early in the season.

"When somebody is on the ground and they are checking out their knee, that is not a good thing," Tomlin said. "We'll have to see where he is."

Parker, held to 37 yards on 14 carries by a Bengals defense playing with only a handful of healthy starters, aggravated a left knee injury that recently kept him out for four-plus games. Tomlin called the latest injury a "tweak."

Parker also has a shoulder injury that requires him to wear a protective harness.

Even with Parker having an off night, the Steelers ran for 121 yards; backup Mewelde Moore gained 56. But Cincinnati's defense was so depleted without three injured linemen that the yardage may not be relevant. And the Steelers averaged a low 3.3 yards per carry.

Pittsburgh led only 13-7 until late in the third quarter against a team that has won only once and didn't offer many signs it will win again soon.

"By no means was it perfect," Tomlin said. "I thought we stumbled out of the gate a little bit."

At least they're not giving up the ball repeatedly, as they did when Roethlisberger threw eight interceptions in a three-game span against the Giants, Redskins and Colts. Call them efficient if not proficient.

"I think we have gone through our kind of midseason struggles and we still have found ways to win," Roethlisberger said.

One curious footnote: Pittsburgh's last play defensively again was a Troy Polamalu-caused turnover.

However, there was no controversy like that created when Polamalu's apparent fumble recovery touchdown against San Diego on Sunday was taken away by an officiating mistake. This time, his interception of Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass had few eyewitnesses as most in the crowd of 59,854 had long since left.

The punting never showed up, with Paul Ernster averaging 28.4 yards on five punts.

According to STATS, Ernster has had two of the Steelers' three lowest single-game punting averages since 1970 in a span of five days. He averaged 31.0 on four punts during the 11-10 victory over San Diego.

"It was horrible," Tomlin said.

The only lower average was Bobby Walden's 25.5 on four punts against Tampa Bay in 1976, hardly a worry given the Steelers won that game 42-0.

Ernster is all but certain to be gone by the New England game, and his replacement will be Pittsburgh's fourth punter since training camp. Daniel Sepulveda tore up a knee on the first full day of camp, which created a competition between Mitch Berger and Ernster. Berger won, only to lose to job to Ernster three weeks ago.

"It will be addressed," Tomlin said.

El-Gonzo Jackson
11-21-2008, 04:46 PM
Man, too bad the Steelers wasted a 4th round pick on a punter last year.


11-21-2008, 05:34 PM
Man, too bad the Steelers wasted a 4th round pick on a punter last year.


Who would have thought we would be so glad to see a punter come back. Heal well, Dan. We need you! :tt03:

Galax Steeler
11-22-2008, 04:10 AM
Who would have thought we would be so glad to see a punter come back. Heal well, Dan. We need you! :tt03:

You don't know how bad you need a player like Dan until they are out for the season.

11-23-2008, 05:30 AM
In the Steelers situation where the O-line is not too good and the Defense is world class, the Punter is especially important. There's got to be Punter somewhere who can do better than Ernster.