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mesaSteeler
01-07-2009, 07:04 AM
Steelers look for offense
BY ALAN ROBINSON
Associated Press
http://www.tribune-democrat.com/sports/local_story_006225757.html

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers are committing the most turnovers of any team left in the NFL playoffs, are getting sacked more often and scoring the fewest points.

As good as their No. 1-ranked defense is, the offense is an ongoing worry to coach Mike Tomlin as the Steelers prepare to play the San Diego Chargers in an AFC divisional playoff game Sunday.

Even if he won’t say so.

Still, the Steelers know it might be worse: They could be playing the Colts and Peyton Manning rather than the Chargers and Philip Rivers, who got little going against them as Pittsburgh won 11-10 on Nov. 16. San Diego ended Indianapolis’ nine-game winning streak with a 23-17 overtime decision Saturday, preventing the Colts from trying to repeat their 24-20 win in Pittsburgh the week before the Chargers lost there.

“There’s no hocus-pocus or secret formula for getting the ball in the end zone,” Tomlin said Tuesday, a day off for his players. “We’ve got to execute better. We’ve got to put our guys in a better position to capitalize on field position.”

Tomlin’s got-to list is lengthy, even though the Steelers won 12 games for only the fourth time in 29 years. Part of the problem is a major falloff in a traditionally strong running game that, with Willie Parker hurt part of the season, ranked only 23rd. Ben Roethlisberger’s inconsistency also is a concern.

A year after throwing 32 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, Roethlisberger has 17 TD passes and 15 interceptions.

The earlier Chargers game illustrated Roethlisberger’s up-and-down season; he was 31-of-41 for 308 yards and did not turn over the ball, yet the offense totaled only three field goals by Jeff Reed.

The Steelers drove inside the 20-yard line three times, but settled for two field goals. One drive ended when Mewelde Moore was dropped for a 1-yard loss on a fourth-and-goal play from inside the 1, and the Steelers repeatedly hurt themselves with 13 penalties.

The result was a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher (Parker, 115 yards) and a 100-yard receiver (Hines Ward, 11 catches for 124 yards), yet zero touchdowns.

“We moved the ball, but we sputtered in the red zone,” Roethlisberger said. “We can’t afford to do that. We can’t turn the ball over. The big thing is we can drive up and down the field, but we have to be able to put the ball in when we get down there.”

There’s an added concern in Roethlisberger’s health. He may not know until the game begins how he will respond following his Dec. 28 concussion against Cleveland – he had ongoing headaches last week and didn’t pass a post-concussion test until Monday.

His teammates apparently are being told to ramp down any speculation Roethlisberger won’t be 100 percent. On Monday, none would touch the topic of Byron Leftwich possibly replacing Roethlisberger. And Tomlin is refusing to speculate on what he will do if his quarterback has problems.

Question: Given Roethlisberger’s concussion history (three since 2006), will you be more cautious or keep an extra eye on him? Tomlin’s answer: “No, I won’t.”

Question: Is there something you’ll be watching with Ben?

Tomlin answer: “No.”

Tomlin did say this: “The Steelers can’t beat the Steelers,” repeating safety Tyrone Carter’s cautionary observation from last week. The inference was the Steelers can’t keep tripping themselves with penalties and missed chances like they did earlier against San Diego.

The Steelers appear to have nearly every advantage against an opponent that has won only twice in 15 trips to Pittsburgh, and was 4-8 barely a month ago, but the offense provides Tomlin with enough room for concern.

So does the fact the Chargers played last weekend, while the Steelers will have been off for two weeks.

“You can trick yourself into believing that (winning the first game provides an advantage),” Tomlin said. “You can also trick yourself into believing that you don’t because it’s tough to beat a team twice, and so forth. I’m not worried about that stuff.”

What about this stuff?

The Steelers’ offense managed eight touchdowns in seven games against playoff teams, twice failing to score a touchdown.

“I think that confidence is born out of rising up in the face of adversity,” Tomlin said, a reference to the Steelers being able to win despite a tough schedule and many obstacles. “We’ve had a bunch.”