Pittsburgh Steelers

Stadium: Heinz Field | Coach: Mike Tomlin
Team RankingOverallRushingPassing
Offense4th104.2 (19th)273.8 (3rd)
Defense5th105.8 (9th)201.1 (7th)

Steelers report: Inside slant

The Sports Xchange
Inside slant · Notes, quotes · Strategy and personnel

For the first time since byes were adopted for NFL teams in 1990, the Steelers will not practice during their off week. Coach Mike Tomlin gave his team the rest of the week off after a short meeting on Tuesday.

The only exceptions were rookies and practice squad players, who had to report on Wednesday and Thursday.

This is the latest date for Pittsburgh's off week since 1990, when their bye came Nov. 11. The Steelers, who have won four straight after a 1-2 start, travel to Denver for a Monday night game Nov. 9; if the Broncos win in Baltimore this weekend, the Steelers will play their second consecutive unbeaten team. They beat the 6-0 Minnesota Vikings 27-17 last Sunday.

"We're going to enjoy the bye, some much needed rest for us and then we're going to prepare for Denver," Tomlin said.

Tomlin and his staff are not likely to make many changes in their veteran-laden lineup, but one change might be forced on them when they resume play in Denver. When the Steelers played the Broncos two years ago, free safety Ryan Clark's sickle-cell trait was aggravated in the high altitude in Denver and he eventually had to have his gall bladder and spleen, ending his season. Either Tyrone Carter on Ryan Mundy would replace him.

"Any kind of test where they can look at your insides, they've run it on me," Clark said. "I think next if they can stick their head down my throat and look they'll do it. And things look good, but it's still a tough decision."

As they self-scout, the Steelers will look at their pass-run ratio. They have run only 42.4 percent of the time this season, the lowest in this decade and down from 45.3 percent last season.

Rashard Mendenhall, though, has been a bright spot and rescued their ground game the past four weeks. He ran for 373 yards in his four starts and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry. They began the season with Willie Parker as their starter again, but he did little before missing two games with turf toe in Weeks 4-5. Parker, who returned to play briefly in the past two games, has only 187 yards and a 3.1-yard average.

So it's possible the Steelers will lean on Mendenhall and their ground game slightly more when they return to play next week. Coordinator Bruce Arians has said he wants to put the ball in his best player's hands, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but the Minnesota Vikings limited Big Ben to just 175 yards last Sunday. The Vikings, playing Cover 2 most of the way, took away the deep pass. Roethlisberger, who had been averaging 9.1 yards per pass attempt through six games, was limited to 6.7 yards per try by Minnesota.

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