Pittsburgh Steelers: Phil Taylor

Emmanuel Sanders a game-time decision

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
2:15
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders practiced Friday and will be a game-time decision Sunday in what could be his final contest with the Steelers.

Sanders
Sanders (knee) and outside linebacker Jason Worilds (abdomen) are listed as questionable for the 1 p.m. ET game against the visiting Browns. Linebacker Terence Garvin (knee) is the only Steelers player who has been ruled out for the regular-season finale at Heinz Field.

Worilds practiced on a limited basis Friday while Sanders was listed as a full participant in drills.

“Right now I’m 50-50,” said Sanders, who sprained his knee last Sunday while making a cut on the muddy turf at Lambeau Field. “I practiced today and the pain was bearable.”

Sanders said he will play Sunday if he can’t make the injury any worse.

“I’ve always played through injuries no matter what,” said Sanders, who has played in every game this season and caught 65 passes for 714 yards and six touchdowns. “I’m not going to hold anything back, and that’s always been my mentality.

Sanders will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and he is among a handful of Steelers players who face an uncertain future.

In addition to Sanders, right guard David DeCastro (back) practiced on Friday after missing drills the previous day. DeCastro said his back won’t limit him against the Browns, who will be without starting nose tackle Phil Taylor (concussion).

"Back's fine," DeCastro said. “I’m good to go."

DeCastro, defensive end Brett Keisel (foot), outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (illness), wide receiver Markus Wheaton (finger), safety Troy Polamalu and tight end Heath Miller are all listed as probable for Sunday.

Pro and con: Steelers' no-huddle offense

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
8:00
AM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Todd Haley did not tip his hand regarding the topic that has dominated talk at Pittsburgh Steelers' headquarters this week and more than a few Western Pennsylvania establishments that serve adult beverages.

But the question had to be posed to Haley, and it dealt with whether or not he would be more inclined to run the no-huddle offense from the start of the Browns game given the success the Steelers had with it in beating the Lions.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarBen Roethlisberger and the Steelers jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Lions using the no-huddle.
“I am not going to divulge anything like that,” the Steelers offensive coordinator said with a laugh. “Sorry.”

What makes it just as difficult to project how much the Steelers will use the no-huddle offense against the Browns is a handful of variables as well as this: Arguments can be made for the Steelers to go no-huddle a lot in Cleveland or hardly use it at all.

The case for: The Steelers opened in a no-huddle offense against the Lions to keep Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley from settling into the game, and they also wanted to try to wear out the mammoth tackles.

The Browns are just as stout up front as the Lions, and nose tackle Phil Taylor is better than Suh or Fairley. The Browns also like to play a lot of defensive linemen and not huddling would limit how much Cleveland could substitute.

The most obvious reason for going with the no-huddle a lot is that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger thrives in it, and it may be the best way to attack a Browns defense that probably isn't going to give up a lot of rushing yards.

The case against: Rain didn't hamper the Steelers' ability to run the no-huddle against the Lions. Snow and the wind that whips off Lake Erie may be a different story. If the weather is as bad, as expected, the last thing the Steelers need to do is run a hurry-up attack that could leave them prone to turnovers.

The Steelers committed eight turnovers in a 20-14 loss at Cleveland last season, and their top priority Sunday should be hanging onto the football.

Haley lauded the communication that took place among the players and coaches against the Lions, but that becomes increasingly more difficult when playing on the road and in a stadium where fans boo and bark at the visiting team.

Haley says: “I thought Detroit was real good (on defense) but I think this team's better. It starts inside with Taylor and (defensive end Ahtyba) Rubin. The front seven in general, I think, is probably the best front seven we've seen. We've got our work cut out for us because as we move into late November and December you've got to be able to run the ball effectively when they know you're running it.”

My take: the Steelers should use the no-huddle sparingly against the Browns. The weather and crowd increase the difficulty of running it effectively, and it's not like the Steelers are going to need a lot of points to win a shootout with journeyman Jason Campbell starting for the Browns.

If I'm coach Mike Tomlin I lean toward a more conventional approach on offense and lean on my defense and special teams. Make Campbell beat you; don't do it to yourself.

Haley impressed with Browns defense

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
5:48
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- The Cleveland Browns defense is apparently as impressive on film as it is on paper.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said he thinks Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin are even better than the Detroit Lions' defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.

The Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t run on Suh and Fairley last Sunday as they mustered just 40 rushing yards in a 37-27 win over the Lions.

Next up for the Steelers are the Browns, who are yielding just 98.5 rushing yards per game and are fifth in the NFL in total offense. The Browns are one of three teams this season that have not allowed a 300-yard passer or 100-yard rusher in a game.

“I thought Detroit was real good but I think this team’s better,” Haley said on Thursday. “The front seven in general, I think, is probably the best front seven we’ve seen. We’ve got our work cut out for us because as we move into late November and December you’ve got to be able to run the ball effectively when they know you’re running it.”

Weather could be an issue in Cleveland as snow has been forecast for late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Snow and that wind that always seems to swirl off nearby Lake Erie could limit how much the Steelers throw the ball -- and run the no-huddle offense that worked so well against the Lions.

The Lions held Le'Veon Bell to 36 yards last Sunday, and the rookie running back is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. Haley said he is pleased with the progress Bell has made, citing his contributions in the passing game as well as some timely runs the former Michigan State star has made.

Haley said the Steelers need more big plays to improve a rushing attack that averages 76.5 yards per game.

“I want to see one of those breakout runs here pretty quick,” Haley said. “We’ve had to work for every yard but I do feel like we’re making progress even with some of the moving parts and different people we’ve had to plug in. What we need is a few of breakout runs. We’re going to keep working, keep working technique and I think it will happen and hopefully it’s happening at the right time.”

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