By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers are taking advantage of their ‘bye’ week during NFL week 12 in 2014 to focus on some internal items, as well as celebrating late-season successes before they get back on the field. Tuesday’s press conference was an unusually brief one, with Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley focused on the future instead of the turmoil surrounding the release of their number two running back. Jerome Bettis and Kevin Greene are once again nominees to be admitted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Steelers players, like Lance Moore and Will Johnson, are using the extra time to get healthy and prepare for the remainder of the regular season. Here are three takes on the Steelers during this time period.
Tuesday’s press conference brought revelation about the type of expectations the Steelers organization and coaching staff have from their players, but focused more on how Dri Archer and Josh Harris will step into new roles on the depth chart. When Tomlin was asked about Harris, Tomlin admitted that he didn’t have a lot of experience, but said, “I do like his attention to detail and how he has worked at practice. He is a young guy that has worked hard and is deserving of an opportunity.” Haley admitted excitement over Harris’ potential. “He is a guy that definitely came in and as Coach likes to say, ‘He put his hand in the pile’,” said Haley. “(Josh) has worked hard. He’s been a consistent guy. He is built well. He is quick. He has some speed. We are excited to see what he brings.” Any questions about whether Tomlin or Haley believed that Archer would not find a place in the Steelers offense were put to rest. “We haven’t had an opportunity to really use him,” Haley admitted, “which I know has probably been frustrating to him…But he can run inside and out, and he has shown us that since day one. The things with him is that you give him a crease and he can take it all the way.”
Tomlin said that as things stood on Tuesday, the Steelers organization was not looking to bring in a running back from outside the organization. The team firmly believes that Le’Veon Bell will continue to be able to be their main running back and be able to carry the load as number one. “I’m still going to go out there and play my heart out like I usually do,” Bell said. “Whatever the team asks me to do I’m going to try my best to do it.” Bell added that he spent the entire offseason training as if he wouldn’t come out of a game, keeping his energy up. “I can still finish the fourth quarter, I don’t feel fatigued or tired. I’ve been working at that and continue to work at it in practice.”
“Thirty-three (carries) looked good (at Tennessee),” Haley said. “He was out here today (at practice), pep in his step. He’s a young, energetic guy. He said to me during practice, ‘Keep giving it to me, I can take it.’ Until we see any kind of decline or drop off or he’s starting to get too beat up, we’re going to give him what we can and take from him what he can give.”
Once again, there are Pittsburgh Steelers players with their names in the running for Modern-Era semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class (of 2015). Running back Jerome Bettis and linebacker Kevin Greene have been nominated previously and missed the ‘cut.’ Bettis has been a finalist four four-straight years and many expect that the 2015 Class will be his year. The six-time Pro Bowl rusher recorded 13,662 career yards overall in his career, ranked sixth all-time in the NFL. Greene has been a finalist the past three years, having played three seasons with Pittsbugh (1993-95) during his 15 seasons in the league. While with the Steelers, Greene recorded 35.5 sacks and was a two-time Pro Bowl selection.
Steelers fans have been actively petitioning for Bettis, in particular, to garner the spot they have long-felt he deserves in the Hall. There are social networking pages dedicated to his enshrinement that have been actively sending out their suppport. The finalists will be announced on January 8, 2015, with the Class of 2014 being announced in Phoenix, Arizona, on Saturday, Jan. 31 as a part of Super Bowl XLIX weekend events.
Utilizing the ‘Bye’
When asked about the timing of the ‘bye’ week, Tomlin told the media, “I haven’t run into a bye week that hadn’t come at an appropriate time. You can always convince yourself that it is the ideal time to have a bye week, but such is the case for us. We have a lot of guys that are on the cusp of coming back from injury. Hopefully they will be on the other side of that as we come out of this thing and get back to playing football.”
Two players that could get a major boost of extra time to rehab and return following the bye that are sorely needed are safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker Ryan Shazier. While it remains unlikely that the extra time will heal Ike Taylor’s forearm any quicker, the team will have time to work out Ross Ventrone and Shamarko Thomas as well, possibly giving a defensive backfield that struggled without depth in Tennessee a shot in the arm. Cortez Allen, who had been demoted, could use the time to get back into good graces. Getting defensive tackle Steve McLendon back from a shoulder injury would add power to the defensive front.
“There is always work to be done,” said defensive end Brett Keisel. “There are always ways to improve and get better. That is what the bye week is for. Guys that are nicked up can get some rest. Guys that need the work and need to get out on the field and work can do that. It’s beneficial in a lot of ways and helps you prepare for your next game.”
Wide receiver Lance Moore hasn’t seen the level of participation in games that was initially expected when he signed with Pittsburgh, but said that the bye week is a gift. “It’s a good thing because we are getting rest late when other teams are piling games in a row,” said Moore. “It’s a chance for us to get our bodies back together and have a chance to have our minds refocused when we come back.”
Although there has been no mention from the coaching staff in regards to whether fullback Will Johnson will be used more in rushing situations while they get Archer and Harris acclimated, Johnson is looking ahead to the remainder of the 2014 season. “I personally like having the bye week later in the season like this,” Johnson admitted. “This is my first year having it this late. It will be a good time to get my body right.”
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