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Tomlin Report - Hobbled Harrison

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The Steelers bring a 2-2 record back to Pittsburgh and will prepare to face the 3-1 Tennessee Titans on Sunday. However, they'll be taking the field without the services of outside linebacker James Harrison, who will miss a number of weeks with an eye injury.

2011 Week 5
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) vs. Tennessee Titans at
Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA
Sunday, October 4 – 1:00 PM on CBS

Titans: Matt Hasselbeck led a high-quality, low-quantity passing attack to storm the Browns in a 31-13 win on the road. Hasselback attempted just 20 passes, but picked up 220 yards and 3 TDs. Chris Johnson finally showed up with his first 100-yard performance of the season and DB Jordan Babineaux sealed the win with a 97-yard interception return.

Steelers: Despite catching a number of breaks, including a handful of long gains or touchdowns erased by Houston penalties, the Steelers fell to the Texans 17-10. The run defense was shredded by Arian Foster to the tune of 150 yards and the defense as a whole failed to register a sack or a turnover.

A Look Around the AFC North
Baltimore (3-1) picked up its third win of the season in one of the ugliest football games of the season with a 34-17 victory over the New York Jets. Joe Flacco was absolutely dreadful, completing just 10 of his 31 passes for 163 yards and a one interception, which went for a touchdown. Fortunately for the Ravens, New York’s Mark Sanchez was so much worse. Baltimore’s defense scored three touchdowns courtesy of Sanchez.

Baltimore currently sits in first place in the AFC North as it heads into its bye week.

Cincinnati (2-2) crawled back to .500 with a last-second victory over the previously undefeated Bills. A dominant A.J. Green, an efficient Cedric Benson, and a surprisingly effective Bengals defense all made up for the fact that Andy Dalton struggled in his fourth professional start.

Unfortunately, the legal/disciplinary situations surrounding Benson and WR Jerome Simpson still loom. Cincinnati will need to press on with a road trip to Jacksonville on the horizon.

Cleveland (2-2) fell to the Titans in week four in bizarre fashion. QB Colt McCoy attempted 61 (!) passes in the contest, racking up 350 yards in the process. Unfortunately, the offense only scored 13 points all afternoon. Meanwhile, the defense gave up 220 yard and three touchdowns on only 10 completions to Matt Hasselbeck, who they failed to sack in the game.

Like the Ravens, the Browns will enjoy a bye week to kick off October.

The team’s rushing attack in the second half. Isaac Redman and Mewelde Moore enjoyed a measure of success against the Texans after a first half where the running game looked stagnant.

The biggest news of the press conference was expected to be the injury status of Ben Roethlisberger, who – as it turns out – has a foot sprain and is QUESTIONABLE for Sunday’s game, though Tomlin does expect his quarterback to play.

However, Ben’s situation was overshadowed by the news that LB James Harrison would be OUT for a number of weeks with an orbital fracture in his right eye socket.

Complicating the situation is the fact that Harrison’s backup, LB Jason Worilds, is DOUBTFUL against the Titans with a left quad strain.

DE Aaron Smith is also DOUBTFUL with a foot injury suffered against the Texans.

RBs Rashard Mendenhall (hamstring) and Mewelde Moore (ankle) are QUESTIONABLE for this weekend, with Mendenhall boasting a better chance of playing than Moore.

CB Cortez Allen suffered a right ankle sprain and is QUESTIONABLE as well.

LT Jonathan Scott, RG Doug Legursky, and CB Bryant McFadden could all return to action this week. Those three, along with DE Brett Keisel who has missed the last two games, are QUESTIONABLE.

NT Casey Hampton is PROBABLE with a shoulder contusion.

FS Chris Hope, a former-Steeler, fractured his left forearm in a week four victory over Cleveland and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

TE Craig Stevens(ribs) and LG Leroy Harris (ankle) are both PROBABLE for Sunday’s contest.

RB Chris Johnson and the Steelers run defense have both struggled in the first quarter of the season. In a matchup between a stoppable force and a movable object, which side wins the day?

RB Chris Johnson– Johnson, just two years removed from a 2009 season which saw him break the 2000-yard mark, has put up some single-game stat lines this season that would make Ki-Jana Carter look like Walter Payton. A nine-carry, 24-yard opener was followed by a 24-carry, 53-yard stinker and a thirteen-carry, 21-yard disaster. While Johnson finally cracked the 100-yard mark in week four, he has woefully underperformed this season. Is his latest game a sign of a turn-around or are his first three weeks a sign of things to come?

TE Jared Cook– In their two losses this season, Pittsburgh was shredded by the opposing team’s tight end for big catches in big situations. Cook, coming off a week four performance which saw him break free for an eighty-yard touchdown, is the type of matchup that can hassle an under-manned Steelers defense.

CB Cortland Finnegan– Finnegan isn’t among the NFL’s elite at the cornerback position, but he is, unquestionably, Tennessee’s best option. Finnegan is one of the more physical cornerbacks in the league and, perhaps, one of its best agitators. Pittsburgh’s 2-2 and boasts a few wideouts with fiery personalities (Wallace, Ward); if Finnegan can get under their skins, he could force his opponent into a dumb unsportsmanlike conduct penalty like the one Wallace committed last week.


  • Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak played at Penn State University from 1979-1981. Munchak was teammates with Titans special teams assistant Chet Parlavecchio.

  • Titans rookie defensive back Tommie Campbell was born in Aliquippa, Pa. Campbell played for the University of Pittsburgh from 2005-2006 and local Edinboro University in 2007 before transferring to California (Pa.) University.

  • Titans LB Patrick Bailey was originally signed by the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Duke prior to the 2008 season.

  • Titans S Chris Hope was originally drafted by the Steelers in the third round (94th overall pick) of the 2002 NFL Draft. Hope played for the Steelers from 2002-2005, playing in 62 games and starting 32 of them.

  • Titans S Anthony Smith was originally drafted by the Steelers in the third round (83rd overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft.

  • Titans WR Nate Washington was originally signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Tiffin University in 2005.

“It had been a little bit of both. In many instances it’s always the case when you are not performing as you would like. There is a fine line in performing well and sub-standard. Some of the mistakes are mental, some are physical. They are not all centrally located in one person or position. But when you add those things up over the course of a football game, you get 8-10 snaps where someone is letting you down either mentally or physically. Then you have the opportunity to give up some big yards. Really, that is what we have to get more consistent in, assignments and techniques in terms of defending the run, and that is what we intend to do.” When asked if Pittsburgh’s issues in the first four games have been more mental or physical in nature.

“We better have a sense of urgency. I think anytime you are coming off of a sub-standard performance when you lose, there needs to be a sense of urgency in terms of how you bounce back. But we are not going to make something out of this that it’s not. We understand that we are capable of playing better. We expect to play better. We know where the solutions lie, of course within us, and how we prepare and ultimately how we perform. We have to get better technically. We have to get better from an assignment standpoint, not only on defense but also on offense and special teams, and that is what this week is about for us.” Answering whether there is a sense of urgency for this team with how they’ve performed in a 2-2 start.

“We aren’t playing the run as well. I really think it’s quite simple. Like I said after the game and I’ve said recently, there’s nothing mystical about our issues, specifically in terms of stopping the run. We need to be better technically. We have to whoop blocks and make tackles.” On why teams are running the ball more efficiently against them in 2011.

“In the big scheme of things it does but we also have some flexibility in terms of how we allocate those padded practice days. This week might be one of those weeks when we dial up a mulligan.” When asked if the CBA’s limits on padded practices has changed the way the team prepares this season.

“We may practice multiple times in pads this week. You are allowed to do that at least once during the regular season. There’s no time like the present, given how we’ve performed and in terms of putting people in positions to play this week.” Continuing to discuss the CBA’s allowance for padded practices and his plans for this week’s regimen.

Lots of personnel movement in the linebacking corps with Harrison and Worilds both on the sidelines. Timmons will shift to Harrison’s right outside linebacker spot and Larry Foote will step up as a starter in the middle.

Stevenson Sylvester, who has been trained at all four linebacker spots, will be the primary backup for all four starters, with rookie Chris Carter pitching in on occasion. I would also expect practice squadder Mortty Ivy to find his way on to the 53-man roster with the linebacking corps depleted.

“They have Chris Johnson running the football. And how we’ve defended the run recently makes that a doubly important challenge for us. I understand that they’ve had issues of their own in terms of running the football. You will see two scalded groups playing in that regard on Sunday.” On Titans’ running back Chris Johnson, who struggled in the first three games before finding his way a little in week four.

“He’s played about two-and-two, probably about how I’ve coached and the rest of us have played. He’s had his moments. He’s done some good things but not enough for us to be as successful as we’d like or for him to be as successful as he would like.” When asked about the performance of LaMarr Woodley, who has struggled this season and only has two sacks in 2011.

Arian Foster’s 155-yard outing was one of just 15 150-plus rushing yard games against the Steelers since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, and one of just four such games in this millennium.

In fact, no running back has crossed the 150-yard barrier against Pittsburgh since Curtis Martin racked up 174 yards for the Jets back in December of 2003.

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