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mesaSteeler
12-26-2008, 01:03 PM
Pittsburgh Steelers Team Report
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http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/steelers/home.htm?csp=34

The Steelers have a rather large Achilles heel as they wait for their first playoff game Jan. 10-11 at Heinz Field, and everyone knows what it is.

The vaunted Steelers ground game has been grounded. They rank 24th in the NFL and are falling. Over the past three games Willie Parker has 101 yards and a 2.3-yard average per carry. Their running backs (not counting QB and WR) as a whole have managed only 174 yards during that time on 64 carries.

This will be their second-lowest ranking in the NFL on the ground since they joined the AFC in the league merger of 1970. Their lowest was 31st when they changed their offense to a more West Coast style and it crashed into a 6-10 season.

Pittsburgh would like to use the Browns on Sunday to try to get something going on the ground. Cleveland's run defense ranks 29th in the NFL.

The Steelers long have talked about leaning on their ground game late in the season, but they've done the opposite this year and it's become a major topic in Pittsburgh as they enter the playoffs with the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

"I am concerned about it," coach Mike Tomlin said. "My concern is solely based upon one thing, and that is winning. I think that with an effective running game, it increases our chances of winning. Therein lies my concern."

That is why he hopes to get some kind of rhythm going against the Browns, in hopes it might have some carryover effect two weeks hence.

"Do we need to get hot in the running game? Absolutely," Tomlin said. "We need to get hot as a football team in general if we are going to march forward into January football. To me, that is what it is about. You can take any element of a football team, highlight it, and talk about how important it is to move on to the next step when you get into elimination football.

"From my perspective we need to be hitting on all cylinders, and need to be playing well in all areas to continue to do that."

Tomlin, though, did not give offensive coordinator Bruce Arians any kind of vote of confidence Tuesday when asked if he stood by him and what he has done in his two years on the job.

"It is so not the time to talk about that, truth-be-known," Tomlin said. "We are so focused on the men that we have in our circle, and winning, that I won't even dignify that with an answer. We are going to play the Cleveland Browns this week; after that we have a bye, and then we are getting ready for playoff football."

Parker went on record two weeks ago complaining about the philosophy of not using a fullback and deploying two tight ends near the line of scrimmage instead.

"I think that anybody that you talk about on our football team, in terms of what they are doing, it is a function of all of us collectively, players and coaches," Tomlin said. "(Parker's) production is among the examples. Would we like him to be having more success? Absolutely. But we all take ownership of that, players and coaches."

SERIES HISTORY: 112th regular-season meeting. Pittsburgh leads the series 56-55 and is also 2-0 in the playoffs. The Steelers are 34-21 at home in the regular season against the Browns. Pittsburgh has won 10 straight and 16 of 17 to finally move in front in a series that Cleveland owned for the first 20 years after it began in 1950. Since returning as an expansion franchise in 1999, the Browns have won three of 19 regular season games and are 0-1 in the playoffs against the Steelers.

NOTES, QUOTES

Sunday's game against Cleveland at Heinz Field isn't much different from a preseason game except that it will go permanently on their record and coach Mike Tomlin plans to play his starters, at least until/if it gets out of hand.

That's OK with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has been in a slump lately.

"I think it's very important. Once you get to the playoffs, it's all about how well you're playing. Are you playing well or are you on the decline? We want to have the momentum on our side and really be playing good football as we enter the playoffs."

Except at the end of a few games, Roethlisberger has not done that lately. He threw two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and lost two fumbles, one inside the Titans' 5, in a 31-14 loss at Tennessee last week. He hasn't had a 100 passer rating since he had four in the first six games. He's been sacked 13 times in the past three games and he's completed more than 57 percent of his passes just once in the past five games.

The Steelers need their quarterback to return to form, especially because they have been terrible on the ground lately too.

"We've got to get the whole offense clicking, running, passing, a little bit of everything," Roethlisberger said. "It's going to be a big game for us to really get the offense going."

Can offensive success against the lowly Browns alter what has happened the past several weeks?

"I think we can," Roethlisberger said. "I think we've got the mentality, the veteran leadership, that we can really get it going and see where it takes us."

—Romeo Crennel is the only Cleveland coach who has never beaten the Steelers, who have a 10-game winning streak against the Browns.

—The Steelers had little to say when several Tennessee Titans publicly abused Terrible Towels after last Sunday's 31-14 pasting of the AFC North champs. There is little doubt, though, if those teams meet in the AFC title game that coach Mike Tomlin will bring it up to his players.

"I have no reaction unless we see those guys again," Tomlin said. "Then there will be probably a question that is worthy to be answered."

—The Steelers' 48 sacks are the most since they had 50 in 2002. Their record of 55 was set in 1994 and matched in 2001.

—Pittsburgh owns the third quarter, outscoring opponents 84-29 this season, seven of those by Tennessee last Sunday

BY THE NUMBERS: 53-25-1 — Steelers record in regular-season games from November on, the second best in the NFL in this century at .677 only to New England.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are playing the game and we are playing to win. That is what the National Football League is all about." — Coach Mike Tomlin, on a game against Cleveland that has no bearing on the playoff picture.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Steelers on Tuesday placed OT Marvel Smith on injured reserve and signed OT Jason Capizzi to replace him. Smith missed the past 10 games with a back injury. Capizzi has been on a handful of practice squads, including the Steelers last season before they put him on their 53-man roster for their one playoff game.

PLAYER NOTES

—QB Byron Leftwich has not taken a snap since he played the entire second half against Washington Nov. 3, but his chances of playing in the second half Sunday are good.

—RB Gary Russell, whose duties have been largely limited to short yardage this season, also should get more extensive playing time Sunday.

—TE Sean McHugh likely will be used as a fullback Sunday, lining up in the backfield. McHugh has taken over for the listed starter Carey Davis at fullback.

—WR Santonio Holmes needs one reception to set a career high. He has 52.

—RB Willie Parker's poor performance this season (3.6 per carry) has been due in part to injuries, but it also opens the door for Rashard Mendenhall to compete to start next season.

—K Jeff Reed needs six points to pass Roy Gerela into second place on the team's career scoring list. Reed has 726 points.

—WR Hines Ward needs six receptions for 800 in his career, the only Steelers receiver who will have reached that mark.

—OT Marvel Smith, an unrestricted free agent after the season, could re-sign with the team before free agency begins. His back injury has hurt his big-money chances on the open market but the Steelers believe he can still overcome it.

—LB James Harrison was voted by his teammates' as the Steelers' MVP for the second straight year. Harrison set a team record with 16 sacks.

—RB Willie Parker has only three receptions, down from 23 last season and tied for his rookie low in 2004. A Parker reception in Tennessee Sunday was changed Wednesday to a run.

GAME PLAN: The Steelers would like to get their running game going, and will try to do so against the Browns. It's also possible they will throw Hines Ward some early passes so he can get 27 and his 1,000 yards. Defensively, they won't blitz much, staying in a 3-4 or nickel defense the whole way.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Steelers C Justin Hartwig vs. Browns Pro Bowl NT Shaun Rogers. If the Steelers want to get their ground game going, this is where it will start.

The much-improved Steelers kickoff coverage unit vs. Browns return man Joshua Cribbs, who had two long kickoff returns against them last season, one for a TD.

Steelers No. 2 rush defense vs. Browns RB Jamal Lewis, who needs 92 yards to hit 1,000.

INJURY IMPACT: FS Ryan Clark will not play because of a dislocated right shoulder. Tyrone Carter will start in his place, but Anthony Smith also will play. With Marvel Smith on IR, it's the only known injury that will keep anyone out. QB Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) and LB James Harrison (hip pointer) are expected to start.

(I'm sure the Steelers will make no coaching decisions until after the season given the nature of the team and of the Rooneys. However perhaps Arians will be gone after this season. Consider that Tomlin chose not to give Arians a vote of confidence when he easily could of. - mesa)

DJfan
12-26-2008, 01:40 PM
Buh-bye Brucey!

BozMan
12-26-2008, 01:49 PM
OT Marvel Smith, an unrestricted free agent after the season, could re-sign with the team before free agency begins. His back injury has hurt his big-money chances on the open market but the Steelers believe he can still overcome it.

What in the world gives the FO this belief?

HometownGal
12-26-2008, 02:13 PM
Buh-bye Brucey!

I don't see it that way at all.

"We are so focused on the men that we have in our circle, and winning, that I won't even dignify that with an answer."

I see it as Tomlin politely saying . . . STFU to the bonehead who posed the question. :applaudit::chuckle:

lilyoder6
12-26-2008, 02:21 PM
the past 2 yrs smith has been hurt... how can he overcome something that has been trying for 2 yrs now

markymarc
12-26-2008, 03:50 PM
All that I ask of Tomlin is to confess that Arians has been bad for this team. And of course deal with it in the off season.

Prok
12-26-2008, 04:02 PM
Buh-bye Brucey!

lol

I can't wait til' he gets fired either. I still say we get on a roll and shock the world though! Beat the clowns this week then all we gotta do is WIN 3! :tt:

fansince'76
12-26-2008, 04:13 PM
OT Marvel Smith, an unrestricted free agent after the season, could re-sign with the team before free agency begins. His back injury has hurt his big-money chances on the open market but the Steelers believe he can still overcome it.

What in the world gives the FO this belief?

Seems to me Troy was supposedly "washed up" after back-to-back injury-filled years coming into this season too....

Steelers & I
12-26-2008, 04:14 PM
Tomlin, though, did not give offensive coordinator Bruce Arians any kind of vote of confidence Tuesday when asked if he stood by him and what he has done in his two years on the job. "It is so not the time to talk about that, truth-be-known," Tomlin said.

I'll bet you a hundred dollars that Tomlin would have given Dick LeBeau TONS OF PRAISE had the SAME question been asked of LeBeau.

That's the way I see it. :wave: Bruce Arians, :rofl:

Just my opinion of course. :hatsoff:

Prok
12-26-2008, 04:17 PM
Tomlin, though, did not give offensive coordinator Bruce Arians any kind of vote of confidence Tuesday when asked if he stood by him and what he has done in his two years on the job. "It is so not the time to talk about that, truth-be-known," Tomlin said.

I'll bet you a hundred dollars that Tomlin would have given Dick LeBeau TONS OF PRAISE had the SAME question been asked of LeBeau.

That's the way I see it. :wave: Bruce Arians, :rofl:

Just my opinion of course. :hatsoff:

That's a good point. In fact hasn't he already put plenty of praise on the D? I like Tomlin even better than i did Cowher for some reason. I truly believe he will right the ship in the near future.

mesaSteeler
12-26-2008, 04:33 PM
Seems to me Troy was supposedly "washed up" after back-to-back injury-filled years coming into this season too....

Good point but Troy is younger than Marvel.

rich4eagle
12-26-2008, 06:58 PM
Let's hope we find running game religion and soon

SteelCityKing
12-26-2008, 07:15 PM
i think with a 11-4 and possible 12-4 record you can't take firing Arians TOO seriously. with a crap ton of bad play calls made on his behalf people want to blast him and kick hi out of the team. i say, let the man ride it out through the playoffs. if he chokes and blows it for us, THEN you cut him. now say he helps us win it all and the fans hop back on the "Arians is a God" bandwagon...we'll see what he does the following season and how much love he loses. i guess people can be fairweather fans with coordinators AND coaches AND players alike. shame. =/

T&B fan
12-26-2008, 07:22 PM
the past 2 yrs smith has been hurt... how can he overcome something that has been trying for 2 yrs now

my ? is why was he not on IR a lot earlyer in the yr ..

beSteelmyheart
12-26-2008, 07:57 PM
All that I ask of Tomlin is to confess that Arians has been bad for this team. And of course deal with it in the off season.
He'll never do that, he's not that kind of guy. Even if they do fire Arians, I still can't picture Tomlin talking him down in public.

brick
12-26-2008, 08:06 PM
He'll never do that, he's not that kind of guy. Even if they do fire Arians, I still can't picture Tomlin talking him down in public.
and he wouldn't. not in his style to do that, he's too professional. plus there's no way he'd want to stir things up like that right before playoffs.

Rick5895
12-26-2008, 08:36 PM
Bad calls are bad calls, when it doesn't work it's bad when it works it's awesome. Arians problem is he has no continuity and he relies on the pass and spread formation too much. With the O line we have we need more play action type of things with a back in the backfield, not spreading the receivers out and protecting Ben with only 5. The removal of the FB hasn't helped. If we make an early exit from the playoffs i would expect Arians to be gone.

lilyoder6
12-26-2008, 10:40 PM
my ? is why was he not on IR a lot earlyer in the yr ..

maybe they thought that smith could find a lamp and ask the genie for a healthy back

LVSteelersfan
12-26-2008, 10:58 PM
I absolutely HATE that bunch formation he uses all the time. It does not spread the defense out and they still can't seem to block everyone. Can't he see that the defense just puts 8 in the box and stops any play he runs dead in the water? And the empty backfield set on third down is almost always a sack or a hurried throw. I think he is a freakin moron. I don't care what the record is. Arians has NOTHING to do with the winning record. It is all Lebeau.

Galax Steeler
12-27-2008, 07:17 AM
I belive if he was to spread them out and the offensive line could block there is no one who could stop us with the offensive weapons we have.

HometownGal
12-27-2008, 08:49 AM
How soon some of you seem to forget that Ben is given the option of changing the play on any given down.

I'm going to have a hearty :toofunny: if Arians' replacement fares no better with the running game and pass blocking from that swiss cheese of an OL we've got.

BozMan
12-27-2008, 11:32 AM
Seems to me Troy was supposedly "washed up" after back-to-back injury-filled years coming into this season too....

Troy's and Marvel's situations are worlds apart, IMO. Troy had a variety of different injuries those 2 seasons and was in and out of both practices and the starting lineup. Marvel has had a persistent injury to his back, which has nagged him for years, and he has neither practiced nor played in months. Besides, who was seriously claiming that Troy was "washed up"??

Don't get me wrong, I would love to see Marvel in his 2004-5 form out there protecting Ben again. It just doesn't seem like he is the player he once was.

Steelers & I
12-27-2008, 11:40 AM
How soon some of you seem to forget that Ben is given the option of changing the play on any given down.

I'm going to have a hearty :toofunny: if Arians' replacement fares no better with the running game and pass blocking from that swiss cheese of an OL we've got.

You can try but you won't have anywhere near the laugh fest that MOST of us will have if Arians is canned. :applaudit::applaudit::applaudit:

Just my opinion of course, :hatsoff:

lilyoder6
12-27-2008, 11:45 AM
there are times where u know i blitz is coming.. but ben does not change the play...

even if bruce gets fired and we get a new OC... he won't have that good of success til the line gets better