Pittsburgh Steelers

Stadium: Heinz Field | Coach: Mike Tomlin
Team RankingOverallRushingPassing
Offense4th99.7 (23rd)281.5 (2nd)
Defense6th102.9 (9th)200.8 (4th)

Steelers report: Strategy and personnel

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


--LB Lawrence Timmons, who left the past game vs. the Vikings on Oct. 25 with a right ankle injury, did not practice Monday, but coach Mike Tomlin said he is somewhat optimistic about the injury.

--DE Travis Kirschke, who replaced Aaron Smith as the starter on the left side, did not practice Monday after he left the Vikings game with a left calf injury. Coach Mike Tomlin was not overly optimistic about his status.

--RB Willie Parker was sick and left the club's facility Monday so as not to spread his illness. He should play Monday, although he's lost his starting job to Rashard Mendenhall.

--S Ryan Mundy was used some in the previous game as a nickel linebacker after Lawrence Timmons left the contest. Mundy and Keyaron Fox alternated at the nickel spot.

--CB Deshea Townsend continues to practice at free safety, and he could be an option in Denver if Ryan Clark does not play and Tyrone Carter does not perform well enough in his place.


B-plus -- Ben Roethlisberger is off to a fast start to what could be a record-setting year. He is on pace to obliterate the team passing-yards record with 2,062 in seven games. He also has a 70.4 completion percent and a 102.6 passer rating. Yet his receivers have dropped what would have been several touchdown passes, and those drops and a wrong route helped them lose two games. Still, Hines Ward, Heath Miller and Santonio Holmes all are on personal-high paces, and rookie Mike Wallace has been a good contributor. Roethlisberger, though, still gets sacked too often (20 times).

C -- After a slow start in which he was benched for the third game because he did not know the offense, Rashard Mendenhall started the past four games and has run well. He has 418 yards, a 5.4 average and four TDs. Willie Parker has not been the same, and he missed two games with turf toe and has not returned to form in the past two. The Steelers also are rushing at a record-low pace, just 42.4 percent of their plays.

C-plus -- The defense that led the NFL in this category last season now rests in the middle of the pack as offenses try to dink-and-dunk their way down field rather than run it. Opponents have not been able to strike on many big plays, and opposing QBs have an average passer rating of 82.1. The sacks (21) and big plays have been coming lately, as witness the two TDs scored by the defense against Minnesota, one an interception, the other a sack-and-fumble return.

A -- Picking up where it left off last season, nobody can run against this defense. It took Adrian Peterson 18 tries to get 69 yards, as the Steelers stretched their streak to 25 regular-season games without a 100-yard rusher against them. They allow only 76.6 yards rushing per game. They could be hurt in the second half of the season, however, with the loss of fine LDE Aaron Smith, who was great at stopping the run.

D-plus -- Jeff Reed missed two mid-range field-goal tries in a three-point loss at Chicago. Two kickoffs have been returned for touchdowns against the Steelers in the past two games, although Pittsburgh won both. Stefan Logan has proved to be a decent kickoff return man with a 26.5-yard average and mediocre on punt returns at 7.5. Logan also lost two fumbles on kickoff returns.

B -- After a 1-2 start, the Steelers won four straight to pull into their bye week at 5-2 with a share of the lead in the AFC North. Mike Tomlin deserves credit for not allowing another Super Bowl hangover to take effect after the slow beginning. After some early-season gaffes calling games on offense, coordinator Bruce Arians has deftly used the no-huddle offense to almost perfection. Dick LeBeau stayed away from the blitz more when Troy Polamalu missed four games with a knee injury, and it hurt the team, but he might not have had much choice. The Steelers lately have returned to putting more pressure on the quarterback, with good results.

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