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Steelers Get Late-Season Surge Against Bengals, Look To Packers

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By Christina Rivers

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 15: Marvin Jones #82 of the Cincinnati Bengals battles for yards after a fourth quarter catch while being tackled by Cortez Allen #28 and Ryan Clark #25 of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 15, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh won the game 30-20. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Credit, Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Steelers got of to their quickest start of the 2013 NFL Season in their Sunday night game at Heinz Field against the Cincinnati Bengals; 21-0.  While denying last week that he would be doing evaluation of any form other than looking for a win, head coach Mike Tomlin ended up utilizing 44 different Steelers players that resembled a playoff team more than one at 6 wins, 8 losses.  Cincinnati fell to 9 and 5 in the AFC North. While the game had remarkable moments, the Steelers will put it in their hip pocket in order to prepare for a match-up against the Green Bay Packers, another top-level team that has struggled this season.

In his Tuesday press conference, Tomlin expressed the elation of a win and attributed the way the Steelers played as coming from team focus. “I thought we had a great week’s practice last week,” said Tomlin. “There was a lot of speculation about our chances from a playoff standpoint…I thought (the team) displayed the mental toughness in their singular focus and  preparation.

Speaking about the game ahead against the Packers, Tomlin added, “It will be our goal to have a similar approach this week, regardless of circumstance.”

Circumstance may be a key phrase when it comes to the fact that Pittsburgh will be without outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley for the remainder of the season. Placed on the injured-reserve list, Woodley not only was suffering from a left calf injury, but injured his right calf as well early in Sunday’s game and is not expected to recover in time to see any more play. “With injuries to both calves,” Tomlin told the media, “one being further along than the other, [it] makes his availability pretty bleak.”

Rookie Jarvis Jones will be inserted into Woodley’s place on the right and Jason Worilds will remain at his position on the left side of the Steelers defensive line. Worilds, a second-round draft choice in 2010, leads the team with seven tackles and is tied with Cameron Heyward in quarterback pressures (28).

Jones, the first-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, was injured early in the season, had rookie issues, but has shown improvement. “I think (Jones’) whole game needs growth, but I think that he has exhibited steady growth,” defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said last Thursday. “I think the more comfortable he gets; you’re going to see that this guy is going to be a really good football player.” Jones has 10 quarterback pressures on the season. The Steelers also signed linebacker Jamaal Westerman to the team.

Defensive end Brett Keisel appears to less hampered by the foot issue that has kept him from being more involved in the last couple of games. “(Keisel) has been in and worked out,” said Tomlin. “He may even participate in a partial capacity (on Wednesday), definitely on Thursday. We’ll see where the week’s preparation takes us in regards to his availability.”

When asked post-game whether the Bengals game was a reflection of what may have been in 2013, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger responded, “I guess. It is a game of inches and things have to go your way, and tonight they did. We got turnovers…made plays, and that is the complete game.”

Having been asked about his record-breaking single season completions record for the Steelers, Roethlisberger said he wasn’t aware of where he stood in regards to passing the mark set by Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw. “I heard (someone) say something but didn’t know what it was.  I’m just glad we won.  You can throw personal records out the record. I just want to win football games. To me that win [against the Bengals] means more than any personal record.”

Roethlisberger is looking forward to the Packers game because the last time Pittsburgh faced Green Bay, the Steelers quarterback was injured.

Tomlin laughed off questions about whether the Steelers would be prepared to play in cold and possibly unexpected weather in Green Bay, reminding everyone at the press conference that he has experience in that division from his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings. He even laughed off a question that asked if he suffered a “sour taste” from the loss to the Packers in the two teams’ last meeting. The Steelers will not simply focus on Matt Flynn and Aaron Rodgers this week in practice.

“We’re going to prepare for what (the Packers) do schematically because I don’t think it changes very much, regardless of who’s playing quarterback,” Tomlin admitted.  “Obviously, the individual skill sets and talents of the guys make them unique to themselves.” Tomlin continued, “Obviously, as we get close to game time…we’ll hear about levels of participation and practice and so forth…We’ll make whatever adjustments we need to make, relative to that as we go.”

Early Week Injuries

Tackle Kelvin Beachum (knee), tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle), receiver Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), receiver Emmanuel Sanders (foot) and nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) look to be on track to availability against the Packers.  McLendon may have limited time Wednesday, but is expected to be ready to fully participate the remainder of the week.

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
Examiner.com.

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