By Christina Rivers
In an unusual week, there are bound to be some expectations that can’t be predicted. Coach Tomlin is an adaptable man and his Tuesday press conference reflected that he will do what he can to get the team ready to play despite Sandy. The Steelers are to face the New York Giants this Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Steelers will have to prepare for whatever may come.
When asked about the game site and time, and whether they might be changed, Tomlin said, “I acknowledge that some of those things are possibilities, but I haven’t spent any time pondering them. I’m simply focused on the things within our control, and that’s our preparation.”
The Steelers use the first part of every week spending as much time studying film and exercising their game plan geared towards their next opponent. Tomlin said that plan didn’t change this week, regardless of the weather and service disruptions on the East coast. “I’m sure the National Football League office in New York is looking at options, and we’ll just simply wait to hear what they have to say, or not to say,” Tomlin added. “In the meantime, we’re going to proceed with the plans until we hear otherwise.”
Part of that plan will be monitoring safety Ryan Clark, who sustained a concussion in the game last Sunday against the Washington Redskins. Clark had been playing strong safety in place of injured Troy Polamalu. As far as Tomlin is concerned, Clark will undergo the full battery of tests before he can be medically cleared to play. In the meantime, that means that Will Allen will need to step up even more in practice, especially if Clark isn’t ready by Sunday. It also puts added expectations on the rest of the defensive backfield to get acclimated to the chance that there may be some positional moves to improve the options for the defense. With the Steelers releasing safety Damon Cromartie-Smith to make room for reinstated nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu, Ryan Mundy and Robert Golden will be their backup options.
Running back Jonathan Dwyer strained his right quad muscle during the game against Washinton, but hopes are that he and Rashard Mendenhall will both be able to practice this week. Coach Tomlin believes that Dwyer will be ready to practice Thursday, while Mendenhall will start individual work to come back from his own injury. Isaac Redman on schedule to practice, so all the weight of the rushing game doesn’t necessarily fall on Chris Rainey and Baron Batch.
When asked if he was concerned about who would be at running back, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, “No. We always say it’s the next guy up and whoever’s ready to go. That’s really the case. We’ve got a lot of capable guys that we feel confident and comfortbale with.”
Dwyer was asked about the possible return on Redman. “The good thing is that we have another guy back,” Dwyer said. “We have Red back to help us out and to have presence make us an even better running back group.” Over the season, when both have been healthy, Redman and Dwyer have complimented each other on offense. “I think it’s just good that whoever gets tired, fresh legs can come in,” Dwyer commented. “[The Giants defense] will get the same dose of the type of running style we both have. (Redman’s) abilities on third down and stuff like that will also help us as well.”
Defensively, it appears that LaMarr Woodley may have a leg up on Stevenson Sylvester, literally. Woodley is suffering from a hamstring issue and was limited early, but will be evaluated over the course of the week in practice. Sylvester is at a precarious stage right now with his own hamstring issue and may see very limited time in practice, if at all. Brandon Johnson is scheduled to practice the rest of the week.
Marcus Gilbert and Polamalu have not practiced and will continue to miss preparation time on the field due to their injuries. Polamalu’s calf continues to hinder his ability to be game-ready, and Gilbert is still dealing with an ankle injury sustained the the game against Tennessee on Oct. 11.
David DeCastro continues to work individually, but the Steelers staff have put no timetable on when he will be able to return fully to practice.
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Christina Rivers is freelance journalist and photographer with a life-long love of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Credentialed with the organization, Christina provides a unique perspective gained through her knowledge and understanding of Steelers history, the Rooney family and relationships with past and present players. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.