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Insider Only With WR’s plagued by drops and fumbles, coaches have made an emphasis this week on “keeping the ball high and tight”

By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — After the way this past game ended for him, one might believe Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown would be eager to get back in action to atone for his late, game-altering fumble at Dallas.
“I wouldn’t say that, but I’m certainly excited to get back out there and take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way and reach a higher level for my game,” Brown said Thursday afternoon.
“The way things went the last game, you want to let it motivate you and learn from it and seek ways to be better. So, I’m looking forward to playing another game and hopefully I can erase what happened in my last performance.”
Brown has had a couple dropped passes in the Steelers’ two recent losses, but in the last game at Dallas he fumbled away a possession after a long punt return that could have iced the game. And in another instance, he ran out of bounds instead of staying inbounds to run more time off the clock.
“We’ve just got to secure the ball,” Brown said. “Protect the ball, make situational plays and thriving off the playoff atmosphere that comes with the game this week. But protecting the ball definitely was a big point of emphasis.
“We did a lot of good things this past week, but we need to do more to help Ben out. I still think we’re headed in the right direction on offense, but we definitely need to take advantage of the situation that’s ahead of us this week.”
The Steelers need to beat the Cincinnati Bengals at home to stay in the playoff race in the AFC. Emmanuel Sanders is a third-year wideout like Brown, and he also has lost the handled on the football to cost the Steelers in a couple close losses in recent weeks.

“This entire week we’ve focused on keeping the ball high and tight,” Sanders said. “Coach made an emphasis on ball security, whether that’s fumbling, interceptions or dropping passes. We just have to take care of the football. We know that we’ve lost the majority of the games because of turnovers.
“So, that’s a problem that we need to handle this week. Sometimes, you get loose with the ball in traffic because you think you’re a lot more open than you really are. Then, a guy comes in and strips the ball, so you’ve just got to get back to the fundamentals of football and just keeping the ball high and tight.”
Suisham on a roll
Steelers place-kicker Shaun Suisham has had a spectacular season with just one miss from more than 50 yards, made 26 of 27 overall and all 30 extra points. But he could face the natural late-season challenge that is Heinz Field with high winds, snow and icy conditions expected Sunday.
“Yeah, I’m hoping for snow,” Suisham said. “Wind? Hope so. That adds a little excitement to the game. These guys are the ones who have to handle the ball. I just kick it. (But) I enjoy being the kicker for the Pittsburgh Steelers and kicking outside, and there’s nowhere I’d rather kick than Heinz Field.
It’s been a good year, and like I’ve said before all the guys have done a great job to make it easier for me. I don’t consider myself to be superstitious, but the Grizzly Bear (Greg Warren) and Drew (Butler) are pretty good to me. Doesn’t he look like a Grizzly Bear? (But) those guys have been perfect all year.”
Injury update
Cornerback Keenan Lewis has to be considered a downgrade, as he did not practice Thursday due to what was termed a hip injury. Lewis practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that he stepped in a rut on the field and injured a knee.
“Who told you that?” Lewis responded when asked about the knee injury. “I didn’t tell you that. Nah, I’m good. I’ll be ready to go. It’s Coach’s decision about practice, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be ready to go on Sunday.”

Strong safety Troy Polamalu (not injury-related) and cornerback Ike Taylor (ankle) also did not practice for the Steelers. Taylor has been ruled out for the third straight game with his ankle fracture.
Rookie offensive tackle Mike Adams (ankle), who has missed the past three games after six straight starts on the right side, practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day. However, when asked how he felt, Adams was not too optimistic. “I guess I feel all right,” Adams said.
The good news is that cornerback Cortez Allen (groin) got through a second straight full practice and wideout Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) worked on a full-time basis Thursday, while defensive ends Cameron Heyward (not injury-related) and Al Woods (illness) returned after missing the previous day.
“I feel good,” Sanders said. “My rib is a little sure, but as the days are progressing I’m feeling a lot better. So, I should be out there on Sunday making plays. The shoulder? It’s feeling a lot better, so everything is coming back.
“I feel like I had a bad two-week run with a couple injuries, but I’m starting to get back to my original form. So, everything is good.”
Final note
. The Steelers placed their Pro Bowl votes this week, and the final team will be announced Wednesday.

About The Author

Dale Grdnic

TIOPS Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Grdnic is a contributor to Inside Pittsburgh Sports, covering the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Football. Dale has covered the Pittsburgh Sports scene for over 15 years with various publications

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