By Mike Bires
As expected, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was peppered with questions Tuesday at his weekly press conference, and for a change, he had plenty of compelling answers and information.
The big news of the day is that the Steelers (1-2) re-signed fullback Carey Davis and placed rookie fullback Frank “The Tank” Summers on the season-ending injured reserve list due to a back injury.
Then there was Tomlin’s saying Rashard Mendenhall was not in his doghouse.
The second-year running back has served his punishment for poor practice habits last week — he didn’t get any carries Sunday in the stunning 23-20 loss in Cincinnati — so he’s back in Tomlin’s good graces.
On the other hand, Tomlin admitted that he’s frustrated with
Limas Sweed’s habit of dropping touchdown passes. So frustrated is Tomlin that Shaun McDonald will likely replace Sweed as the No. 4 wideout in Sunday’s night’s game against San Diego.
And last but not least, Tomlin has already put Sunday’s debacle behind him and is looking forward to facing Philip Rivers and the Chargers (2-1).
“This is a big week for us coming off of two very big road losses,” Tomlin said. “I am not even going to attempt to make any explanations or excuses for the results of those games.
“It is often said, probably too often in our business, that it is what it is. That being said, I am excited about what I can control, which is our preparation, and ultimately, our play this week against the San Diego Chargers.
“We are excited about this week we have a lot of work to do,” Tomlin added. “We are going to roll our sleeves up and start this process. That is how you bounce back from sub-par performances or losses, if you will. You simply get back to work, and that is what we intend to do.”
When the Steelers resume practice Wednesday, they’ll have some health issues.
The most significant of them are at fullback, or whatever terminology the Steelers use for that position.
Summers is out with a mysterious back injury even though he didn’t suit up against the Bengals.
Also out is rookie tight end David Johnson, who lined up in the backfield several times as an H-back when he made his first pro start in Cincinnati. But Johnson suffered a high ankle sprain in the first quarter and will likely be sidelined for a week or two.
That’s why Davis, a fourth-year pro who was cut on Sept. 4, was brought back.
Three Steelers are believed to have minor injuries which shouldn’t prevent them from playing Sunday — center Justin Hartwig, ankle; tight end Matt Spaeth, hip pointer; and running back Willie Parker, turf toe.
Obviously, the injury to Parker will be closely watched.
If his turf toe effects his ability to carry the ball, perhaps Mendenhall will get more carries.
“(Rashard) is not in the doghouse,” Tomlin said. “I do not have a doghouse.
“A doghouse is something you have when you let things stew and you do not take action. I tend to take action and I am done with it. He lacked a little detail in preparation last week, so I chose not to play him offensively.
“I was really quite frank in dealing with him. It’s a little different when a veteran football player potentially makes mistakes in preparation for a game. If Hines Ward misses an assignment on a Thursday you kind of ‘hmm’ and you move on. Young guys have to earn their opportunity. They have to make coaches comfortable with their ability to execute details of their assignment. They need to make the other guys in the huddle comfortable with their ability to execute the details of their assignments.
“(Rashard) didn’t do that to my satisfaction last week, so he didn’t get a chance to play offense. That being said, I took action and I am not carrying any baggage into this week. If he plays above the line in preparation for the game, he will get an opportunity to play for us.”
The same might not hold true for Sweed, who dropped what should have been a 34-yard TD pass in the third quarter Sunday.
Last season in the AFC Championship Game, Sweed dropped what should have been a 50-yard TD pass just before halftime. The Steelers won that game against Baltimore, but didn’t hold on Sunday to beat the Bengals.
“He is quite frankly not catching the football when he is deep down the field,” Tomlin said of Sweed. “He has some tape that shows that. He has to shake that off. If and when he is given the next opportunity to make a similar play, he better make it.”
When asked if he’s concerned that Sweed can shake his case of the dropsies, Tomlin said, “I am.”