By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t taking their 0-2 start in the 2012 NFL season well. After two heartbreaking losses, the Steelers have spent this week making some changes, and Todd Haley looks ready to shake things up in the offense. News that tight end Heath Miller will be back in the lineup on Sunday against the 2-0 Chicago Bears is good news in itself. The promise of more zone blocking from the offensive line, something the team had mostly deviated from in their first two games, may give life to a nearly non-existent rushing game. Felix Jones has been elevated on the roster to the starting running back. Although they are still not on firm ground, the Steelers will push to give themselves a new image on the turf at Heinz Field in Week Three.
Haley was vocal about the disappointment shared by the team in his meeting with the media on Thursday. “We are frustrated,” said Haley. “We have a chance this week to get to 1-2. We’ve had a good couple of days.” His explanation about where the team should be and isn’t was summarized, “It’s the NFL. It’s hard to win when you have turnovers in plus territory, and run the ball inefficiently for too much of the game…we have to make sure we don’t let it continue to happen.”
At this point, the Steelers are still a team that has a running game by committee, but that could change Sunday. After a good performance by Felix Jones, who had 10 rushes for 37 yards while everyone struggled, the coaching staff took notice. “(Jones) found the holes that were there. We need to do a better job of creating some space for him because he does look like he has some ability if we can get him into some space,” said Haley.
The zone blocking scheme that should allow more holes for Jones will have to be a priority for the offensive line. That will require some mental toughness from an offensive line that has yet to show any start quality after losing center Maurkice Pouncey.
Heath Miller was a full participant in practices this week and is likely to get his first playing time of the 2013 season. It will come down to how his knee feels on game day. After leading the team in receptions in 2012, his appearance, even if on the sideline, should give the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, an emotional boost.
Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell also participated in practices this week, and although he is not likely to be fully ready to play, has shown the ambition to get back to that level. Once he is healthy, his addition to the roster should give the Steelers more offensive weapons.
The only player for the Steelers who will likely be out for Sunday’s game is cornerback Cortez Allen. Allen has not been able to participate in practices this week or last due to an ankle injury.
Dick LeBeau expects the Steelers defense to be able to contain Bears running back Matt Forte after two games in which they did not stop the run effectively. When asked about Forte, LeBeau said, “He is an experienced, talented back and he can do everything.”
Expounding on how the Steelers need to deal with his style of play, LeBeau added, “He’s one of those backs you have to stop. He’s really an excellent player, maybe an underrated player.”
Although both Brett Keisel and Jarvis Jones had some limited time in practice this week, both are expected to be on the field come gametime.
- Cornerback Curtis Brown (illness)
- Defensive End Brett Keisel (calf)
- Linebacker Jarvis Jones (heel)
- Defensive Tackle Steve McLendon (hamstring)
- Tight end Heath Miller (knee)
- Running back Le’Veon Bell (foot)
- Cornerback Cortez Allen (ankle)
The Steelers still have a long road ahead of them. If you have a two running backs league, starting Felix Jones would be a viable option this week. He is sure to get carries. It is the amount of yardage that may not equate to a lot of fantasy points. The Steelers defense looks to be at full strength and is ready to get a start on your fantasy roster. A usually steady Roethlisberger has been a fantasy-killer the past two weeks but looks to rebound Sunday.
For more Steelers news and updates, visit Steelers Central.
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a reporter and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied exercise physiology and sports psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. Her work can be found on