By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — With talk the past few days about his team’s readiness to play Sunday against San Diego and possibly other teams with sub-.500 records, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday that the club’s leadership in recent years primarily was an unspoken quality.
Roethlisberger believed that former team leaders like Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith and Chris Hoke knew when to kick it into high gear, and that time has arrived for this year’s Steelers.
The Steelers (7-6) have three games remaining, beginning with one against the Dallas Cowboys (7-6) Sunday at 4:25 p.m. in Arlington, Texas.
“Yeah, this is a big one for us, and as you all know it’s all about when you can get hot and when you can start playing good football,” Roethlisberger said. “And for us, the time is now. We need to start playing our best and try to put together a little run here. … And I think everybody will be ready to play.
“It hasn’t been addressed this week, but I think you’ll see from guys who have been around here for a while you’ll see some leaders step up in the ways of how to practice, how to get ready for games, and hopefully the young guys will take some cues from that. Every game for us is big.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s in the AFC or NFC,” Roethlisberger added. “This is a big game for us, and I don’t want to use the word desperation because I don’t feel desperate. I just feel like we need to put it together and play ball like we know how to play ball.”
The Steelers’ progress was compared to a car trying to turn a corner on two wheels. Roethlisberger agreed with that assessment, noting that the way things have gone this season has been quite atypical for this franchise.
“I think the turn is over and we’re going to settle back on four (wheels),” Roethlisberger said. “And I think we’re going to kick it into four-wheel drive and get going. It’s just a feeling. It’s that time of year, I think, that you’ll start seeing a different mindset and mentality. It’s that time of year.
“In year’s past, it was just a natural thing. No one had to say it, because we had so many guys that had done it before for such a long time. So, at this time of year, it was a natural thing to just pick it up and go. So, I think we’ll have some veteran guys start to do that, and we hope to get young guys to do the same.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin issued a statement after practice Wednesday concerning mercurial running back Rashard Mendenhall who was suspended on Tuesday after failing to show up for Sunday’s game vs San Diego after being told he would not be playing.
“Obviously, last Sunday, he was not at the game,” Tomlin said. “I deemed those actions a detriment to our efforts. I stated as such when I met with him and, there were going to be repercussions of it. We had a good visit. He accepted it, and he looks forward to coming back and rejoining his team on Monday and being a positive contribution to our efforts the rest of the way.
“Obviously, there’s a frustration with his situation, understandably, but we all have a job to do. And we require that all guys remain professional regardless of personal circumstances. He didn’t meet the standard in that regard and has accepted the consequences of it. So, hopefully, this will a lesson learned, not only for him, but for everyone. And we’ll be able to move on from it.”
Tomlin added that the team’s focus is on the players available this week and their preparation to pursue a victory against the Cowboys. None of the players said too much about Mendenhall’s situation, primarily because Tomlin told them not to talk about it and to let him handle it.
“I was a little surprised, but Coach Tomlin made the decision that he had to make,” running back Isaac Redman said.
Jonathan Dwyer, expected to start at running back this week, also commented.
“We wish that he was here and things like that, but whatever the situation was, that’s what happened,” Dwyer said. “We’re not in control of that. We can only control what we personally have do to, and whatever happened is between Coach Tomlin and Mendy.”
Baron Batch was signed from the practice squad to replace Mendenhall on the active roster this week, but it’s possible that he won’t join the rotation with Dwyer, Redman and rookie Chris Rainey.
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