Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Tomlin

PITTSBURGH -- Dick LeBeau may have been just as excited as Lawrence Timmons when the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker made the Pro Bowl earlier this week.

“In my opinion he can get out on the field with anybody in the National Football League and do well and I have said that repeatedly,” the Steelers defensive coordinator said on Christmas Eve. “It’s very rewarding to see guys like that get recognized. He just kept hanging in there. Lawrence never says anything but I know how he’s got to be feeling inside. He’s a great player.”

Timmons, who is third in the AFC with 121 tackles, made his first Pro Bowl even though he has been one of the NFL’s most consistent, versatile and durable linebackers for years. He has excelled while playing both inside linebacker spots -- sometimes in the same game this season -- and also taking snaps at outside linebacker when needed there because of injuries.

Timmons started four games at right outside linebacker in 2011 because of an injury to James Harrison.

The next season Timmoms started every game at inside linebacker, and he became the first linebacker since Joey Porter to lead or tie for the team lead in tackles, interceptions and sacks in a season.

That the 2007 first-round first-round draft pick has finally been recognized as a Pro Bowler is long overdue, LeBeau said.

“He never [complains]. He just does what we ask him to do. wherever we’ve asked him to go,” LeBeau said. “He’s been an All-Pro performer in my eyes and in production’s eyes.”

Timmons, who has missed just two games in his career because of injuries, found out he had made the Pro Bowl on Tuesday from coach Mike Tomlin.

“I didn’t know what to say at first,” Timmons said. “I was too excited, just to represent this defense and all of the guys who played this defense before us so it’s really quite an accomplishment.”
PITTSBURGH -- To say this has been a trying rookie season for linebacker Ryan Shazier might be an understatement.

Shazier
Shazier has missed seven games because of ankle and knee injuries. He has also lost the starting job he had held since the beginning of offseason practices.

So why does the first-round draft pick seem to have an abundance of Christmas cheer this week?

"I know people want you to be down and out but I'm up and happy," Shazier said. "We're winning and I can't feel any better. If we get to the Super Bowl and win it that's all that matter to me. I'm not worried at all."

The Steelers can greatly enhance their Super Bowl chances Sunday night by beating the visiting Cincinnati Bengals and winning the AFC North.

The Steelers beat the Bengals, 42-21, at the beginning of the month in Shazier's first game back from the high-ankle sprain he sustained in early November.

Shazier only played special teams that afternoon, and it has been a tough slog as far as getting back on the field for the former Ohio State star, whom the Steelers may have given too much too soon.

Shazier has played just 24 defensive snaps in the Steelers' last two games and coach Mike Tomlin is making the 6-1, 237-pounder earn his way back onto the field.

Sean Spence has been playing alongside inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons in the Steelers' base defense with Vince Williams replacing him in the nickel package.

That has left Shazier as the odd man out -- for now -- though he said he doesn't mind having to compete with Spence and Williams in practice.

"You get better with competition," said Shazier, who has 29 tackles and two quarterbacks in eight games this season. "We're brothers but at the end of the day we're competing at all times. When Spence makes a play, I tell Vince he's got to make a play. If Vince makes a play, I've got to make a play."

As for having to bide his time with the playoffs on the horizon, Shazier said, "It doesn't matter what round you get drafted in, those guys have more experience and know more than me. I feel like all of us have a different type game and with all of us playing at the level we're playing at we can't be beat."

The Film Don't Lie: Steelers

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
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A weekly look at what the Pittsburgh Steelers must fix.

Something happened on the way to Le'Veon Bell making a run at an NFL rushing title: opposing teams decided that they were not going to let the second-year Steelers running back beat them.

Bell has rushed for just 110 yards on 40 carries in the Steelers' last two games, and you can bet Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis will pay close attention to the film from those games since Bell rushed for 185 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 42-21 win three weeks ago in Cincinnati.

That victory launched a three-game winning streak that has propelled Pittsburgh into the playoffs. And the Steelers can finish what they started in Cincinnati Sunday night.

The Bengals visit Heinz Field for a game with no less than an AFC North title and a home game in the playoffs on the line.

The Steelers have to figure that Lewis, who rose through the NFL ranks as a defensive coach, will take a similar approach as the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs and crowd the line of scrimmage to contain Bell.

Bell's longest run in the last two games is just 13 yards. Against the Bengals the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder had five runs that covered at least 13 yards, including two that went for touchdowns.

Bell is second in the NFL with 1,341 rushing yards, but he trails Dallas running back DeMarco Murray by a little more than 400 yards. The last two games cost Bell any chance of reeling in Murray.

The good news for the Steelers is Bell doesn't seem to care much about personal statistics as he did anything but sulk after the Chiefs held him to 63 yards on 20 carries.

"They were loading the box but I was happy we were able to pass the ball and we ran the ball efficiently when we needed to," Bell said. "As a group we've been playing well and that's the biggest thing you have to take into the playoffs."

The Steelers also need to get Bell going though coach Mike Tomlin said he is not surprised that rushing yards have been hard to come by the last two weeks.

And it has nothing to do with schematics, the eighth-year coach said.

"I think there's a certain amount of urgency that comes with defensive football in December and if you're going to be the type of team that you need to be you've got to play with it," Tomlin said. "We haven't been a juggernaut of a running-stopping group ourselves but we did a decent job of getting after a real good back in (Kansas City's) Jamaal Charles. To me, it's just a reflection that it's that time of year. We're playing some significant games against teams that are fighting for survival like we are."
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not say much Monday about the taunting penalty called on cornerback William Gay in a 20-12 win against the Kansas City Chiefs.

But the eighth-year coach again did not hide his displeasure with the call that could have been a game-changing one.

Gay
"I’m not going to waste my time placing calls to New York asking for clarification on stuff I know the answer to," Tomlin said at his weekly news conference.

Gay was flagged after he struck a pose with his arms folded in front of the Steelers’ sidelines following a third-down stop early in the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs took advantage of the penalty as they drove to the Steelers’ 25-yard line before settling for a 43-yard field goal that cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 17-9.

ESPN.com NFL national writer Kevin Seifert takes a closer look at the penalty in his weekly review of NFL officiating

Seifert concludes what Tomlin has been too tight-lipped to say: the officials blew the call.
PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Steelers appear to have good health on their side as they try to win their first AFC North title since 2010.

Left tackle Kelvin Beachum (back) and linebacker Vince Willams (ankle) were the only players who sustained injuries of note in the Steelers’ 20-12 win Sunday over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Roethlisberger
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did not indicate that either injury is serious, and he expects Beachum to play Sunday night against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals.

Tomlin did not mention quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Monday when he provided an injury update.

Roethlisberger went to the Steelers’ locker room in the third quarter to get his right knee examined by team doctors, but the 11-year veteran returned to the game. Roethlisberger said he was “fine” after throwing for 220 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs and completing 72 percent of his passes.

“Largely we came out of this game relatively healthy,” Tomlin said Monday at his weekly news conference.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu (knee), cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm, shoulder) and tight end Matt Spaeth (elbow) did not play against the Chiefs because of injuries. All three will be evaluated this week, Tomlin said.

The Steelers (10-5) have clinched a playoff berth. They will win the AFC North and get a home game in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs if they beat the Bengals.

Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers

December, 22, 2014
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PITTSBURGH -- Another round of high marks after the Steelers beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 20-12, to clinch their first playoff berth since 2011.

Roethlisberger
 Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger leads the AFC in passing yards (4,635), but he has been at his best during this three-game winning streak when the 11th-year veteran has patiently taken what defenses have given the Steelers. Game manager is often a back-handed compliment or even an indictment when it is conferred on quarterbacks. Roethlisberger’s past three games are proof that the title can also be the ultimate compliment. Grade: A

Running backs: Le’Veon Bell ran against a defense determined not to let the second-year man beat it for the second week in a row. Bell grinded out 63 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries but he opened up the middle of the field for tight end Heath Miller, who caught seven passes for 68 yards. Grade: B-

Receivers: Miller and Antonio Brown each caught a game-high seven passes. Brown had what is a quiet game for him but still led the Steelers with 72 receiving yards. The two-time Pro Bowler also worked to get free in the end zone on his 3-yard touchdown catch. Martavis Bryant caught a 44-yard pass on the third play of the game but was shut out the rest of the way. Grade: B-

Offensive line: The Steelers averaged just 2.6 yards per carry, but the Chiefs loaded the box. The line largely neutralized Chiefs outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Houston recorded his NFL-leading 18th sack but that was the only time that Roethlisberger got sacked. Grade: B

Grimes
Tuitt
 Defensive line: Chiefs Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles managed just 29 rushing yards and averaged 3.2 yards per carry. Defensive end Stephon Tuitt forced the only turnover of the game when he belted Charles from behind after a 3-yard catch. Defensive end Cameron Heyward recorded 1 sacks, and he and Tuitt consistently generated inside pressure when the Steelers were in their nickel package. Grade: A

Linebackers: Outside linebackers James Harrison and Jason Worilds combined for 3 sacks and Harrison absolutely owned Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher. Inside linebacker Vince Williams recovered the fumble that Tuitt forced and Lawrence Timmons made tackles all over the field. The inside linebacker recorded a game-high 13 stops. He also made a key play in the end zone when he did not bite on a double move by Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and forced an incomplete pass. Grade: A

Secondary: Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith took advantage of soft coverage to dink and dunk his way to 311 passing yards and his first 300-yard game this season. The Steelers were just OK at tackling after the catch, and a missed tackle by cornerback William Gay resulted in a 33-yard catch and run by wide receiver Albert Wilson, the Chiefs’ longest play of the game. Cornerback Antwon Blake recorded seven tackles and made a huge pass break up in the end zone when Smith tried to hit wide receiver Dwayne Bowe with a back-shoulder throw. Grade: C

Special teams: The Steelers gave up a first down on a fake field goal, though the defense still ended up holding Kansas City to a field goal. Brad Wing boomed a 56-yard punt after an earlier 34-yard punt, and the Steelers’ kick coverage units were superb. The Chiefs averaged just 20.8 yards on five kickoff returns, and the dangerous De’Anthony Thomas did minimal damage as a returner. Grade B-

Coaching: Mike Tomlin has his team peaking at the right time. The Steelers are playing their best football as they chase an AFC North title and a home game in the playoffs. The Steelers didn’t abandon the run even with the Chiefs intent of stopping it, keeping the middle of the field open for Miller. The defense shut down the run, got to the quarterback early and often and forced the Chiefs to settle for field goals when they got close to the Steelers’ end zone. That is how it is supposed to work in Dick LeBeau’s defense. Grade: A

Steelers' defense embraces challenge

December, 22, 2014
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PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he knew points might be hard to come by against a Kansas City Chiefs defense that is one of the best in the NFL against the pass.

That is why he challenged the Steelers’ defense last week to limit the Chiefs’ scoring in a crucial game for each team.

To say an oft-criticized unit responded would be an understatement.

The Steelers kept the Chiefs out of the end zone Sunday in a 20-12 win at Heinz Field, and that was no small feat considering Kansas City entered the game as one of the NFL's best offensive teams inside opponents’ 20-yard line. The Chiefs had scored touchdowns 67.5 percent of the time they were inside opponents’ 20-yard line, second best in the NFL, entering their game against the Steelers.

They went 0-for-4 in the red zone against the Steelers, settling for three field goals and getting stopped on fourth-and-1 from Pittsburgh’s 12-yard line near the end of the first half.

“Really loved the spirit of the defense,” Tomlin said after the Steelers improved to 10-5.

The Steelers have given up just two touchdowns the last eight times their opponent has moved inside their 20-yard line. Their red-zone defense is one of the biggest reasons why the Steelers are in position to win the AFC North for the first time since 2010.

The Steelers will win the division and secure no worse than the No. 4 seed in the AFC if they beat the visiting Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday night.

Here is a recap of ESPN’s Steelers coverage from Sunday:
  • Outside linebacker James Harrison keyed the Steelers’ six-sack performance against the Chiefs, showing the 12th-year veteran still has plenty of football left in him -- even if he doesn’t necessarily want to hear it.
  • The future is now for rookie defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who turned in the best game of his young career and made one of the plays of the game.
  • The Steelers are happy to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011, but they are anything but satisfied after winning at least 10 games for the fifth time in Tomlin’s eight seasons as the head coach.
  • Sal Paolantonio caught up with Le’Veon Bell after the Steelers running back grinded out 63 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

Here is what the Pittsburgh columnists are saying about the Steelers:
  • The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi writes that the Steelers will enter the playoffs as a dangerous team.
  • The Steelers may not be Super Bowl favorites, writes Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier, but did anybody see them clinching a playoff spot with a week left in the regular season?
  • The Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook takes a look at outside linebacker James Harrison, who apparently ages better than wine.
PITTSBURGH -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Pittsburgh Steelers' 20-12 win over the Kansas City Chiefs:
  • Pouncey
    The Steelers clinched their first playoff berth since 2011 after holding the Chiefs without a touchdown, and the sense of satisfaction was noticeable, especially among the players who endured consecutive 8-8 seasons. “It feels good. Heck yeah. I can’t even lie about it,” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “We’ve been through a lot the last couple of years.” Not like the Steelers were in all-out celebration mode after improving to 10-5. They still have to beat the visiting Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday to win the AFC North and secure a No. 3 or No. 4 seed, which would give the Steelers a home game in the wild-card round of the playoffs. If the Steelers lose to the Bengals, they will be the No. 5 seed in the playoffs and travel for their first game. Several players said the Steelers are peaking at the right time as they chase a seventh Super Bowl title. “You want to be in the dance so you have a chance,” cornerback William Gay said of making the playoffs.
  • The Steelers privately fumed over a taunting penalty that was called against Gay early in the fourth quarter. Gay was flagged following a third-down stop by the Steelers after he folded his arms and preened in front of his own sideline. The penalty gave the Chiefs a first down -- they would have faced a fourth-and-14 from their own 25-yard line -- and six plays later, Cairo Santos kicked a 43-yard field goal to cut the Steelers’ lead to 17-9. “I don’t even want to get into that,” coach Mike Tomlin said when asked whether he got an explanation for the call. “Ridiculous. We’re not going to apologize for caring. We’re not.” Gay took a diplomatic approach and said he should not have put the referees in a position where they had to make a judgment call. “I respect anything they call, and you’ve just got to roll with it,” Gay said.
  • Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he is fine after hurting his right knee late in the third quarter. Roethlisberger limped off the field after throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown. Steelers doctors checked Roethlisberger’s knee in the locker room as a precaution, but he quickly returned to the field and did not miss a snap. “You always get scared when your franchise quarterback goes down, but he’s tough,” Pouncey said. Roethlisberger got drilled by Chiefs defensive tackle Jaye Howard as he threw the only touchdown pass of the game but said afterward that he didn’t know what exactly happened. “I knew that it just hurt,” Roethlisberger said, “but I’m fine.”
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin won't criticize officials for a questionable and potential game-changing penalty that went against Jason Worilds last Sunday.

Jones
But outside linebacker Jarvis Jones said there is concern among Steelers defensive players after a quarterback hit that looked like a textbook one drew a roughing-the-passer penalty that helped the Atlanta Falcons get back into the game.

"We talked about what's legal because at the end of the day if that's a personal foul Jason is going to get fined and is going to be paying for money, something that shouldn't have happened like that," Jones said. "Jason is spending $25,000, $30,000 dollars on something he didn't do and that's coming out of your pocket."

It will be a shock if Worilds is fined for his hit on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the second quarter of the Steelers' 27-20 win. The fifth-year outside linebacker clearly hit Ryan below the neck.

But the reality for pass rushers in today's NFL is this: The speed of the game and the league's emphasis on protecting quarterbacks can lead to the kind of penalty that wiped what would have been Worilds' fifth-and-a-half sack of the season and led to Atlanta's first touchdown of the game.

Worilds hit Ryan so hard that the latter's head snapped back. For a referee who has to make a judgment call in real time -- as opposed to having the benefit of replay -- it is easy to see how the ferocity of the hit of coupled with the shrinking target area on quarterbacks led to the flag.

That doesn't make it easy to take for those who make their living rushing quarterbacks.

"On that play I think Jason did a great job of getting his head out of the way," Jones said, "and I don't know what angle the referee was standing at but everyone in the stands knew it wasn't a foul."
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is on pace for 131 catches and 1,712 yards.

Wallace
Brown
To put that production into perspective consider that Brown also is on pace for more catches and receiving yards than the Kansas City Chiefs' wide receivers.

Yes, all of them.

The Chiefs, who visit Heinz Field this Sunday, have gotten 110 receptions for 1,370 yards from the seven wide receivers who have caught at least one pass for them this season.

Brown has caught 115 passes for 1,498 yards, both of which lead the NFL.

He also has 11 touchdown receptions while the Chiefs' wideouts have yet to catch a scoring pass 14 games into the season.

Brown has been the most consistent offensive player on the Steelers even though opposing defenses have thrown all manner of coverages at the two-time Pro Bowler.

“You name it, they’ve tried it,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “But it’s a testament to him [and] not only just him but the balance that we’ve been able to strike with our offense. I know I sound like a broken record, but I’ve said repeatedly, we seek balance. Because balance will allow us to utilize the strengths of our high-profile players like A.B. and like [running back] Le’Veon [Bell]. We’re striking that balance that we desired all season.”

A couple of notes:
  • The Steelers stayed at No. 10 in the ESPN NFL Power Rankings after beating the Atlanta Falcons, 27-20, on Sunday. The top three AFC North teams are as bunched together in the rankings as they are in the division. The Steelers are followed in the rankings by the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens. The Chiefs are No. 13, right after the three AFC North teams.
  • The Steelers lost another player from their practice squad Monday when the New York Giants signed guard Adam Gettis to provide depth on their offensive line. The Steelers previously lost defensive ends Josh Mauro and Nick Williams from their practice squad. Mauro signed with the Arizona Cardinals and Williams signed with the Chiefs.
  • Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a finalist for the NFL FedEx Air Player of the Week after throwing for 360 yards against the Falcons. Roethlisberger won the award last week. Click here to vote.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a unique position for roughly half the players on their 53-man roster.

They will play meaningful games in late December -- or at least ones where they don't need a ton of help to get in the playoffs.

The Steelers will clinch a playoff berth if they beat the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at Heinz Field. That makes this stretch run unique for young players such as running back Le'Veon Bell, left tackle Kelvin Beachum, right guard David DeCastro and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.

They are among the players who joined the Steelers after 2011, the last time Pittsburgh made the playoffs. More than 20 players on the Steelers' roster have never participated in a playoff game. Only 18 players on the roster have played in a postseason contest for Pittsburgh.

That dynamic in a locker room once brimming with veterans who knew what it took to prepare for and play in games in which the stakes are considerable is not lost on Mike Tomlin.

“I acknowledge it’s been a number of years since we’ve been in a significant chase with a number of our young guys,” the eighth-year Steelers coach said Tuesday. “We’ve got a number of young guys who have played quite a bit of football for us and are playing significant roles for us. Guys like Bell, guys like Kelvin Beachum, guys like Jarvis Jones that haven’t been in this position a bunch.

So I’m watching those guys and watching them closely, and I like the way they’re wearing the urgency of these moments. They’re utilizing it for good. They’re not being consumed by it. They’re staying singularly focused at the task at hand as they should.”

What's interesting to note is that the AFC playoff field could be filled after this week’s games.

The New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts have already won their respective divisions.

The Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are also in, according to ESPN Stats & Information, if the Steelers beat the Chiefs, the Bengals beat the Broncos, the Ravens beat the Houston Texans and the San Francisco 49ers beat the San Diego Chargers.
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin isn’t worried about the mumps stalling his team’s push for the playoffs.

Tomlint
Tomlin
Tomlin, in fact, didn’t even know that several Pittsburgh Penguins players have been sidelined by mumps, including star center Sidney Crosby, when a reporter asked the eighth-year coach if the Steelers are taking any precautions.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “I’ve kind of been in a cocoon the last 48 hours or so.”

The Steelers have won two games in a row to improve to 9-5. If they beat the visiting Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday they will clinch their first playoff berth since 2011.

The Penguins, meanwhile, have been testing their players and staff members since Crosby was diagnosed with mumps last weekend. Crosby is past the infectious stage, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has said, and he could return to the ice later this week.

Forward Beau Bennett, however, has been quarantined after showing symptoms of mumps.
PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin has not heard from the NFL about a questionable roughing the passer penalty called on outside linebacker Jason Worilds last Sunday.

Nor is the Pittsburgh Steelers coach waiting by his phone.

“I don’t have time to wait for calls from New York,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “We’ve got a big game this week and we’re moving on.”

Worilds made what appeared to be a textbook sack of Matt Ryan in the Steelers’ 27-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

He drilled Ryan in the chest in the second quarter but did not hit the Falcons quarterback in the neck or head. The ferocity of the hit caused Ryan’s head to snap back. The seventh-year veteran stayed down for a little bit and was visibly woozy when he got up.

Worilds was flagged for roughing the passer, negating what would have been his third sack of the season. The call gave the Falcons a first down and three plays later Ryan threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Devin Hester to cut the Steelers’ lead to 13-7.

Defensive end Cameron Heyward said the call was “horrendous” after the Steelers improved to 9-5. Worilds declined to comment and the Steelers were generally tight-lipped about the call.

Later that day, a roughing the passer penalty called against the San Francisco 49ers loomed large in their 17-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The NFL has since admitted that 49ers linebacker Nick Moody should not have been penalized on the play in which he sacked Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Tomlin said all teams have to deal with the reality that such calls are going to be made with the NFL intent on protecting quarterbacks.

“You can waste a lot of time crying about it. I want to play within the rules, our group wants to play within the rules because when we do it increases or chances of winning,” Tomlin said. “When we wear negativity and not move past plays like that it hampers our effort so that’s all you’re ever going to get from me regardless of my opinion regarding those plays.”
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are getting healthy as they make a push for an AFC North title and a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

 Coach Mike Tomlin said it looks “positive” that outside linebacker James Harrison, right tackle Marcus Gilbert and cornerback Ike Taylor play Sunday against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs.

Gilbert has missed the past three games because of ankle and knee injuries while Harrison has been out the past two weeks because of a knee injury.

Taylor did not play in the Steelers’ 27-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday because of shoulder and forearm injuries.

“We’ll work with those guys and evaluate as we prepare.” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

Gilbert practiced last week and had been listed as probable for the Falcons game. The Steelers de-activated the fourth-year veteran, Tomlin said, because he simply wasn’t healthy enough to play in Atlanta.

“We’d been getting quality work from Mike Adams, who is healthy, so we decided to go with the healthy hand,” Tomlin said. “We’ll go through the same process this week.”

Two Steelers players will be monitored this week as they work through injuries.

Tight end Matt Spaeth hyperextended his elbow against the Falcons, while free safety Mike Mitchell strained his groin in the Steelers’ ninth win of the season.

If Mitchell is unable to play against the Chiefs, Will Allen will likely start at free safety, Tomlin said.

The Steelers will clinch a playoff berth if they beat the Chiefs.
ATLANTA -- There were a couple of ominous developments through the first 25 minutes of football at the Georgia Dome, strong signs the Pittsburgh Steelers might be headed for another bad loss in a season that has had too many of them.

They dominated the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons yet had only a pair of Shaun Suisham field goals to show for it.

New Orleans, anyone?

A bad call negated a Jason Worilds sack that would have left the Falcons with third-and-Augusta in the second quarter. The Steelers could not overcome the call that went against them and three plays later Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Devin Hester that chopped a 13-0 Steelers lead in half with 4:19 left in the second quarter.

Curse of the wretched NFC South, anyone?

Just when it looked like the NFL's worst division in football might end up haunting the Steelers' eighth season under coach Mike Tomlin, the offense put together one of its timeliest drives of the season.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a 12-play, 80-yard drive right before the end of the half, and Le'Veon Bell capped the march with a 1-yard touchdown run.

"It was big," Tomlin said after the Steelers' 27-20 win against the Falcons. "I feel comfortable when we're in our two-minute [offense] particularly before the half. We've had a lot of success with it. It was significant to get the seven [points] as opposed to the three."

The Steelers got seven because they were efficient and methodical, twice converting on third down while patiently taking what the Falcons gave them to move inside Atlanta's 30-yard line.

Antonio Brown then struck, hauling in a 28-yard pass along the Steelers' sidelines that was ruled an incomplete pass.

Replays, however, showed Brown tapping his left foot before his momentum carried him out of bounds. It proved to be an easy challenge for Tomlin, who said Brown is the "best in the world" at getting both feet down while making difficult sideline catches.

The Steelers won the challenge, putting the ball at the 1-yard line, and then they fooled the Falcons. Atlanta expected Pittsburgh to run a counter trap to the left, but the Steelers instead ran Bell right at the Falcons.

Pulling left guard Ramon Foster stood up blitzing safety Kemal Ishmael, allowing Bell to barrel into the end zone for a touchdown that meant so much more than seven points given the timing of it.

"It's so big for an offense to answer an opponent's score," Roethlisberger said. "A field goal you'll take but you'd like to get seven because momentum starts to shift because momentum is huge in this game."

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