Pittsburgh needs a win to stop the bleeding, and coach Mike Tomlin says he's ready to shake up his lineup if necessary. Just do not expect major changes when the Steelers go to Cleveland to play the Browns on Thursday night.
Tomlin does not have many strong alternatives. He may start rookie Joe Burnett at left cornerback in place of William Gay, who practiced Tuesday even though he left Sunday's game with a concussion. Gay's play recently, though, might get him out of the lineup more than his head injury.
Ike Taylor, their most consistent cornerback since 2005, might find himself sharing some of the time at his position with rookie Keenan Lewis. Limas Sweed should get more time at wide receiver, moving up to No. 3 with Hines Ward likely out with a hamstring injury.
That might be it.
The Super Bowl champs are a down team after losing four straight, their longest losing streak since they lost five straight during a 6-10 season in 2003.
"It's real gloomy," offensive tackle Willie Colon acknowledged.
"Most of the guys in here haven't had this situation before," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "It's tough and frustrating, but we can't sit around here pouting because it's not going to change the outcome of the game we played. We have to move on and look forward to this week."
At 6-6, they rest outside the sphere of a wild-card playoff team and likely must win their remaining four to have a shot at one of the two playoff spots that go to non-division winners. After their game against Cleveland, the Steelers have Green Bay and Baltimore at home and finish at Miami.
"You've got to acknowledge the potential that this can be kind of a shaken group," Tomlin said. "We've swallowed a lot of late. We're going to have to become one with ourselves, if you will, individually and collectively. I'm going to be looking very closely at these men and it's going to provide quality information for me in terms of who legitimately is mentally tough and who can stand the test of some adversity, because we have some, and who's going to lead the charge more than anything, in terms of getting us out of this and winning a football game. I'm going to be very interested in who those people are, and who those people aren't."
Tomlin has talked the talk lately and his players have not been able to back him up. After losing to Kansas City, Tomlin spoke of it being "Redemption Sunday" in Baltimore, where they lost their third straight. The coach then promised to "unleash hell in December" and they lost to Oakland at home Sunday.
"I think he's just trying to change something," Colon said. "Obviously, what we got going on is not working. We lost four games in the fourth quarter. You never point fingers, but at the same time you have to make adjustments and kind of put us on the winning edge. He feels like he needs to make changes and he's going to do so."
116th meeting. Pittsburgh leads the series that began in 1950, 60-55. The Browns own a 34-22 record in Cleveland. The Steelers also are 2-0 in the postseason. In their first meeting of the season Oct. 18, the Steelers won their 12th straight game against the Browns, 27-14. That's the longest such streak in the series history. Cleveland's most recent win came on Oct 5, 2003, in Heinz Field.
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