The Pittsburgh Steelers
started to find themselves on the outside-looking-in before last week's game. As a result, they resumed practicing at least one day a week in pads. Head coach Bill Cowher
believes it helped them play better last week against the Chicago Bears
, which resulted in a win for Pittsburgh. In previous seasons the team drifted away from doing such procedures but Cowher said they will continue to practice in pads at least one time per week the rest of the way.
QB Ben Roethlisberger
(thumb) has continued to practice this week despite an ailing thumb. As previously mentioned in this space, the team's training staff has devised a brace for his thumb to take pressure off of it when he is throwing the football. He's probable and expected to start. However, it is worth noting team officials and doctors gave him the green light this week to have surgery to repair the injury. While it is not broken, it is believed he has ligament damage and a bone chip near the joint of his right thumb. Had he elected to get it fixed, he would ! have then needed a cast placed on the injured digit and his season would have been over. Roethlisberger, of course, declined the option and wants to play out the season.
We've talked numerous times in this space about the Steelers' offensive line struggling this year. There was a bright spot, at least in the eyes of Cowher, last week. He noted ORG Kendall Simmons
, who had been struggling, played his best game of the season against the Bears. For the Steelers' playoff hopes, they hope it is the start of several more to come down the stretch.
Don't look for the Steelers
to shake up their running backs down the stretch. As previously reported in this space, sources close to the situation note RB Willie Parker
will remain the starter the remainder of the season. If head coach Bill Cowher
wasn't happy with the ! current state of the running game, he would have benched Parker by now and made the transition to Duce Staley
, who is certainly able to handle things if needed. Jerome Bettis
will remain the primary backup and short-yardage option the remainder of the season, too. As for Staley, don't look for him to be utilized unless there is an injury. While he wants to play, he understands this is likely the final year for Bettis and does not want to get in the way during the remainder of the season so he is keeping quiet and waiting for his opportunity next year when he will likely be the primary tailback. For those in deep keeper leagues, he may be worth tucking away on your bench for next year.
Sometimes getting close just isn't good enough and that pressure is starting to fall on Cowher. He is starting to receive a lot of heat this year because the fans believe he cannot win big games and cannot beat good team! s. They are growing tired of the way he coaches in big games and growing irritated over getting close but not going the distance year after year. With the talent the Steelers
have, most fans and some reporters believe the Steelers
should be winning more games. However, one source close to the situation notes the team over-achieved last season and a wild card spot in the playoffs may be exactly where they are talent-wise. However, Steelers' fans expect to win every game.
Fantasy owners have grown frustrated with TE Heath Miller
and rightfully so. After scoring six touchdowns during the first eight weeks of the NFL
season, Miller's numbers have cooled greatly. He hasn't found the end zone since Week 8 nor has he recorded more than 44 yards receiving in a game since that time frame. So what's hurting his production? Sourc! es close to the situation note it has been a combination of factors, including struggles at quarterback with Roethlisberger dealing with injuries. With the offensive line issues, the team has also needed him to spend more time blocking lately. However, it is important to remember his overall numbers (33 receptions, 318 yards and 6 TDs) are better than any other rookie tight end this year - even more impressive when you consider the Steelers
do not feature the tight end in their offense very much. While he's clearly talented, fantasy owners need to keep in mind he's going to have his ups and downs because Pittsburgh does not use the tight end position regularly. However, there is still promise for future success. Consistency, however, may be another matter.