By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers play host to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Heinz Field. Both teams enter the contest with a 6-5 record on the season. Coordinators Keith Butler and Todd Haley spoke on how the team has been addressing issues that hurt them last week and where they think the team will focus against the Colts. Although the Steelers only have one player on the injury report that will not play in week 13, they have several players – including key pieces to their offense and defense – that spent time healing. “You always give attention to the stuff that hurts you,” Butler said on Thursday, “so we’re giving it attention for sure.”
Linebacker Sean Spence is the lone scratch for a start on Sunday with a hamstring injury he sustained in week 12 after coming into the game for an injured Ryan Shazier. Shazier suffered a concussion, but looks to have cleared the mandatory league protocol. Fellow linebacker James Harrison is dealing with a knee injury, making it possible that the Steelers will utilize Jarvis Jones and Vince Williams more this weekend.
The Steelers saw tight end Heath Miller leave the game last week with a rib injury and return only to head to the sidelines. The injury has limited Miller, making it likely that rookie Jesse James will once again be called on to play a bigger role in the offense. “He’s doing a very good job,” Haley said of James. “He was patient, but he kept working. When he got (it), he stepped in and (did) a good job.” James has benefited from the tutelage of veterans Miller and Spaeth. “With Spaeth going down for a couple of weeks gave (James) a chance. We say all the time, once you get a helmet, don’t give it up. Don’t let us take it away.”
There may be a shakeup in personnel in the Steelers’ defensive backfield this week. After a disappointing performance and with safeties Will Allen and Mike Mitchell nursing injuries, Butler indicated that moves are likely. “We felt like we needed to get some guys some reps and we’ll see what happens when we get to game time,” Butler said. He wouldn’t say who would start at safety or corner, adding that it is due to not wanting to give Indianapolis a heads up.
As for what he expects, Butler said, “We have to do a better job of covering, we have to tackle and be where we are supposed to be…we have to do a better job, we have to stop people when they get turnovers, we have to stop them and make them get (field goals).” Robert Golden and Shamarko Thomas are the next men on the depth chart at safety, but neither has had an outstanding season. At corner, the Steelers have a handful of players to select from and rotate. “We’re close,” Butler said about the defense being at a level of competition that helps wins game, “but close doesn’t get us anywhere.” He remained noncommittal about whether Brandon Boykin or Doran Grant may be added to the rotation.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is expected to start the game, but with an injury to Martavis Bryant the Steelers may use Darrius Heyward-Bey more this week in the pass. When Bryant struggled, Haley and head coach Mike Tomlin approached Heyward-Bey last week. “We have an unselfish group [on offense] that is a special group,” said Haley. “We have to take care of business this week.” As for Markus Wheaton, Haley said, “He got opportunities and it paid off. You love to see it…when the opportunities came, (Wheaton) made big plays for us and gave us a chance to win.”
Sean Spence (LB, hamstring)
Heath Miller (TE, rib)
Will Allen (S, ankle)
Martavis Bryant (WR, hip)
James Harrison (LB, knee)
Mike Mitchell (S, knee)
Ben Roethlisberger (QB, concussion)
Ryan Shazier (LB, concussion)
Matt Spaeth (TE, knee)
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist 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 as well as a published author. Her work can be found on