By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers got good news this week, as head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday during his weekly press conference that in-game injures to offensive linemen Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert might limit them early but not affect their participation when the club faces the New York Jets Sunday at 4:25 p.m. at Heinz Field.
Tomlin also noted that safety Troy Polamalu suffered a right calf strain sometime during the game against the Denver Broncos, but that “shouldn’t prohibit him from playing,” either. Outside linebacker James Harrison, who missed the opener after issues with his left knee (arthroscopic surgery Aug. 15) kept him from practicing late last week, could be ready to play against the Jets.
“James Harrison worked out (Monday),” Tomlin said. “He’ll practice or run (Wednesday), and we’ll see where he is. We’ll basically follow the same protocol with him that we did last week. We’ll work him up to activity and see how his knee responds to that and let that be our guide in terms of his participation.”
Gilbert hyperextended his left knee, while Foster suffered an optical migraine at Denver, which kept both of action beginning late in the first half and the entire second half. Foster had blurred vision, so the Steelers used extreme caution as far as he was concerned. Tomlin said it was a football injury.
Gilbert was replaced by rookie second-round pick Mike Adams at right tackle, although he is considered to be the backup at both the right and left spots. And Doug Legursky replaced Foster at right guard. Tomlin said that he was not disappointed with how Adams represented himself, but acknowledged that he had some trouble in the game’s waning minutes — as did the entire line — as the Steelers were “somewhat one-dimensional,” and Denver brought the house.
With veterans Max Starks and Willie Colon at left tackle and guard, respectively, the Steelers ran primarily to that side. They tallied just 75 yards rushing on 26 attempts overall, while Jonathan Dwyer led with 43 yards on nine carries.
“I think we’ll capable of better,” Tomlin said of the running game. “We’re still going to continue to play a number of people (at running back), but we still haven’t sorted out specifically what that rotation is to this point. Obviously, I thought Jonathan Dwyer provided a spark and represented himself well and probably will get an increased opportunity because of it.
“(Colon) did some nice things, but he has a desire to be better. And we have a desire for him to be better. He’s always a physical player (and) does a nice job in that regard, but he’s still getting up to speed with some of the nuances of playing the guard position for the first time. We consider him to be a player on the rise, and I’m sure he does, too.”
Isaac Redman had 11 carries for a paltry 20 yards, so he and Dwyer were the primary ball carries. Rookie Chris Rainey and first-year player Baron Batch combined for three carries and just four yards, and Tomlin said that veteran Rashard Mendenhall could get in the mix as well.
“We’ll see how the week takes us,” Tomlin said. “I thought (Mendenhall) had a good week (of practice) last week. He’s done a nice job with the things that we’ve asked him to do, so we’ll just continue to move forward and put our heads together as the week unfolds to see if he’s the guy for us this week.”
Denver Broncos post-mortem
Tomlin noted that while the Steelers had some positives in the opener — such as the performances by place-kicker Shaun Suisham and punter Drew Butler, as well as punt-returner Antonio Brown — the club did not make enough plays on offense or defense to win the game. Denver, on the other hand, had one on each side — the 71-yard wideout screen for a touchdown to Demaryius Thomas and the interception return for a touchdown by Tracy Porter to end the game.
New York Jets preview
With cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson, along with LaRon Landry at safety, the Jets’ strength on defense is in their secondary. Veteran linebacker Bart Scott was also noted by Tomlin.
“It all starts with (quarterback Mark) Sanchez (on offense),” Tomlin said. “He’s very mobile, and he can create plays if they break down. (So), containment of him is an issue. He works with a nice group of receivers, like Santonio Holmes (and) first-round pick (Stephen) Hill from Georgia Tech.
“Obviously, we’re somewhat allergic to first-round draft pick wideouts from Georgia Tech (referring to Denver’s Thomas), so we respect what this guy is capable of doing. The offensive line is anchored by (Nick) Mangold at center, a Pro Bowl-caliber player who has played at a high level for a long time, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson at left tackle, who’s a good player.
“The running back group is led by (Shonn) Greene, their featured ball carrier,” Tomlin added. “Obviously, they have Tim Tebow, who they have used in a variety of ways. They’ve used him some as a receiver and at the quarterback position, as well as a Wildcat-like fashion. (But) I believe what we saw in the last game is just the tip of the iceberg for him.”
Tomlin said it will require some extra work to prepare for Tebow, but nothing extended or unusual amount in the club’s amount of preparation.