Tomlin sends messages to players

PITTSBURGH -- Coach Mike Tomlin isn’t just providing injury updates -- and there were plenty of them after a hard-hitting game against the Ravens -- at his weekly news conferences or lavishing praise on the Steelers’ next opponent. Tomlin is also sending messages to some of his players.

He explained his need to prop up Le’Veon Bell following recent criticism of the Steelers’ running game. And Tomlin didn’t just hand out public pats on the back at his latest news conference, delivering pointed messages to two key players on special teams.

The Steelers start preparing in earnest on Wednesday for their game at Oakland and they will try to snap a two-game road losing streak to the Raiders. Playing at the raucous O.co Coliseum will test the Steelers, and not just because the crowd noise will be an issue for a team that needs to cut down on its pre-snap penalties.

The Raiders' defense has been playing well under second-year coordinator Jason Tarver, and it has been mixing coverages and showing different looks during games. Add crowd noise to the equation and the Steelers’ offense may find moving the ball more difficult than last season when it went up and down the field in a 34-31 loss at Oakland.

The Steelers are focused on what is in front of them, but imagine if they were taking a 3-3 record to Oakland instead of a 2-4 mark? There were some missed opportunities in the first quarter of the season that could come back to haunt the Steelers.