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Tomlin Report - Shufflin' Off To Buffalo

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The Steelers march north to Buffalo after a thrashing of the Oakland Raiders, a game in which the team recaptured their identity as defensive terror. The Bills have won two in a row after an 0-8 start.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) at Buffalo Bills (2-8)

Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY

Sunday, November 28 – 1:00 PM on CBS

Steelers: 7-3, tied for first place AFC North

Favorite: Steelers by 6


Bills: Beat the Bengals 49-31 in Cincinnati

· It was a tale of two halves in this game; with Cincinnati taking a 31-14 lead at the half. The Bills, however, refused to go quietly and scored 35 unanswered points to claim their second victory of the season.

· Cincinnati looked sharp early, executing a thirteen-play drive that saw the team convert all four of its third-down chances. A two-yard touchdown from QB Carson Palmer to WR Chad Ochocinco gave the Bengals a quick 7-0 lead.

· Buffalo answered with a twelve-play assault of their own, tying the game on a seven-yard run by RB Fred Jackson.

· The Bengals retook the lead with Palmer’s second touchdown pass of the day, this time a four-yard strike to WR Terrell Owens.

· An interception by CB Jonathan Joseph two plays later set up another touchdown for Cincinnati. RB Cedric Benson took a handoff and pushed his way into the endzone for a one-yard score.

· Joseph got his hands on a second interception three plays after that, but decided to keep it himself for a 21-yard return touchdown that put Buffalo in a 28-7 hole.

· Buffalo was finally able to answer late in the half with a 28-yard touchdown pass from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to WR Donald Jones. Jones finished with five catches for 70 yards on the day. A last-second field goal by Bengals kicker Aaron Pettrey ended the half with Cincinnati leading 31-14.

· Buffalo came out of the locker room with a purpose, pushing its way down the field on the first drive of the second half. Eventually, Fitzpatrick found WR Steve Johnson for a 28-yard touchdown.

· Two plays later, Bengals RB Cedric Benson fumbled. CB Drayton Florence scooped it up and took it to the house for a 27-yard touchdown making it a 31-28 game.

· The Bengals looked ready to score again with another long drive, but it ended on the thirteenth play thanks to an interception by George Wilson.

· That interception (which was returned 56 yards), allowed Buffalo to take a 35-31 lead with a second connection between Fitzpatrick and Johnson, this time from eleven yards out. Fitzpatrick completed 21 of his 34 passes on the day for 316 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

· A Cincinnati three-and-out coupled with a shanked punt gave Buffalo another chance to score, and score they did. Fitzpatrick found Johnson for the third time on Sunday to take an eleven-point lead with a 32-yard passing touchdown. Johnson finished with eight catches, 137 yards, and three touchdowns.

· A missed field goal and an interception ended the day for Cincinnati and Fred Jackson iced the game late with a 30-yard touchdown run, finishing with 116 yards and two touchdowns on the day.

Steelers: Beat the Raiders 35-3 in Pittsburgh

· Pittsburgh used a dominant defensive performance to bury Oakland, despite racking up 163 yards worth of penalties.

· Oakland opened up the scoring with a 41-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski while the Steelers offense struggled early.

· Pittsburgh got its act together on the third drive, though, moving down the field in fourteen plays ending with a five-yard touchdown run by RB Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall received 23 carries in the game, but accumulated only 59 yards on the ground.

· Pittsburgh held the Raiders to a three-and-out and appeared to take a bigger lead thanks to a 67-yard punt return touchdown by Antonio Brown, but the score was nullified by a penalty and the offense stalled.

· A second three-and-out by Oakland did result in some points, with QB Ben Roethlisberger scrambling 16 yards for a touchdown. Big Ben was a monster on the ground, rushing three times for 55 yards.

· A forced fumble by CB Ike Taylor set up Pittsburgh’s third touchdown of the second quarter, a 22-yard strike from Roethlisberger to WR Emmanuel Sanders.

· Following that touchdown, tempers flared between the two teams and Raiders DE Richard Seymour was ejected for the game for shoving Big Ben in the face. Roethlisberger shook it off and the team took a 21-3 lead into the half.

· Neither team scored in the third quarter, though a pick-six by Ike Taylor was wiped out by a roughing the passer call.

· QB Bruce Gradkowski replaced starter Jason Campbell late in the third quarter, but was intercepted by Troy Polamalu on his first drive.

· Two plays later, Big Ben hooked up with Mike Wallace, who turned a short slant into a 52-yard touchdown. Wallace led the team with three catches for 116 yards.

· RB Isaac Redman finished the scoring late in the fourth quarter with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger. It was Redman’s first career touchdown. Big Ben finished 18-of-29 for 275 yards and three touchdowns through the air.

· Pittsburgh’s defense limited Oakland to 182 yards on the day, even though many of the Raiders’ drives were extended by penalties (five free first downs).

· The pass rush was excellent, notching six sacks and a season-high eighteen hurries. LB James Harrison led the team with two sacks. LB James Farrior, CB Brant McFadden, LB LaMarr Woodley, and rookie LB Jason Worilds all had one sack.

· James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, and Ike Taylor all had interceptions, with Harrison and Taylor also forcing fumbles.

· James Farrior led the team with eight total tackles.


A Look Around the AFC North

Cleveland (3-7)
lost its second straight game, this time to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Apparently the new hot thing for Browns quarterbacks is sprained ankles, considering that Colt McCoy suffered one on Sunday, making him the third quarterback to suffer such an injury this season. If he can’t go, Jake Delhomme (who had two sprains to his name), will serve as the starter.

Even with his turnover history, he should be good enough to grab a win courtesy of the 1-9 Carolina Panthers

Baltimore (7-3) has recent experience dealing with Carolina, who was on the receiving end of a 37-13 rout that featured two defensive touchdowns by the Ravens on back-to-back plays. Ed Reed has revived the defense and has notched four interceptions in as many games. The Ravens will host 7-3 Tampa Bay this weekend.

Cincinnati (2-8) has lost seven straight games, none more humiliating than the most recent loss to Buffalo, which saw the Bills score 35 unanswered points in the second half to turn a major deficit into a rout of the Bengals. “We are terrible,” said WR Terrell Owens after the loss. “I don’t blame the fans for booing us. We have made enough mistakes in the last six ballgames to last a lifetime.”

Owens, who is third in the NFL with 897 receiving yards, has been the lone bright spot for a Cincinnati team that is imploding at an unreal pace. This week, however, Owens will play Thanksgiving night against the 8-2 New York Jets sporting a healthy Darrelle Revis, whom Owens referred to as “an average corner.” Considering Revis has held Andre Johnson to 32 yards and Calvin Johnson to 12 yards in his past two games, it’s fair to say that he might be a bit better than average.

Cincinnati’s own secondary is reeling from the Buffalo game, as both safety Roy Williams and corner Jonathan Joseph are likely to miss Thursday’s game with injuries. The team also placed DT Tank Johnson on IR.


Seeing his team bounce back with an impressive win following the crushing defeat against New England.

“It was what was required,” said Tomlin. “I liked the response that our team had to a disappointing outing that we had a week prior. I thought the energy was awesome. I thought plays were delivered from a variety of people from all three phases. It’s good to see signs of those things from a football team at this time of year, particularly in response to a sub-par performance.”


WR/PR Antonio Brown has some swelling in his knee and should be limited in practice early this week, though coach Tomlin stated that, for a rookie, missing practice time could affect his availability. Depending on how much time he misses, he’ll be classified as either QUESTIONABLE or DOUBTFUL for Sunday.

TE Matt Spaeth suffered a concussion against the Raiders and will need to pass post-concussion tests to be eligible to play, making him QUESTIONABLE to see action this week.

DE Brett Kiesel continues to work through a hamstring injury, but Tomlin anticipates that he will be available for Sunday. I’d call him PROBABLE at this juncture.

S Troy Polamalu (Achilles strain) may be limited in practice but is PROBABLE to suit up against the Bills, given that he played with the injury last week.

C Maurkice Pouncey left Sunday’s game with a quad contusion, but is PROBABLE to play on Sunday.

S Will Allen (concussion) has been cleared to return to duty and is PROBABLE this week.


LB Shawne Merriman, who suffered an Achilles injury shortly after being signed by Buffalo, has yet to play a snap for the Bills this season and will likely remain OUT this weekend.

OG Eric Wood suffered a sprained and bruised knee against Cincinnati and is DOUBTFUL against Pittsburgh.


Can the Steelers use the Bills to work out a few more kinks in time for the following week’s showdown against division-rival Baltimore? And could such an attitude cause them to overlook this week’s contest?


QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WRs Steve Johnson, Lee Evans, and Donald Jones; RB Fred Jackson and RB/KR C.J. Spiller; LG Andy Levitre; DEs Marcus Stroud and Dwan Edwards; NT Kyle Williams; LB Paul Posluszny; CB/PR Leodis McKelvin and CB/KR Terrence McGee; SS Donte Whitner; FS Jairus Byrd


· LB Paul Posluszny attended Hopewell High School and played at Penn State.

· LB Aaron Maybin also played at Penn State but has struggled in his second year, causing him to be listed as inactive for the majority of games this season.

· Head coach Chan Gailey served as the team’s wide receivers coach from 1994-95 before assuming duties as offensive coordinator from 95-96.

· Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris is an Aliquippa native and coached at Pitt in 1996.


“It seems like we always tend to run into people as they get hot, which is fine by us. The only way you’re going to be the team we desire to be is by playing people, playing good people, playing people at their best, playing teams on the rise and finding a way to get it done.”
– Talking about facing a 2-8 Buffalo Bills team whose two wins came in the last two games.

“When you look at the last five games or so for Buffalo, they are really shaping up and identifying themselves. They’ve had some changes with the new coaching staff, but in the last five games they lost at Baltimore by three, they lost at Kansas City in overtime by three and they won their last two. So they are a warm football team. I am sure they are looking to get hot.” – Further discussing Buffalo’s recent history of games. The team’s two wins have come against Detroit and Cincinnati.

“None.  I don’t have a reaction.  I tend to focus on the things that are relevant to our team, moving forward with the things that we can control.  That doesn’t fall into either category.  That is really between Richard Seymour and the NFL office.” – When asked about his reaction to the fine handed down to Richard Seymour this week. Seymour, who was ejected from Sunday’s game for a blow to the face of Ben Roethlisberger following a touchdown, was docked $25,000. There has been much discussion this week about whether the fine was too soft, citing James Harrison’s $75,000 fine for a helmet-to-helmet hit that, illegal or not, occurred during the course of a play.

“Very rarely do I view guys pleased with officiating when it doesn’t go your way.  Such is life.  We are not going to worry about those things.” – Discussing the players’ reactions to the quality and quantity of penalty flags thrown against the Raiders.

“I think each individual circumstance has its own rules that guide you and you develop that mentality as the week develops.  The nature of your lead, how you acquired the lead, are you controlling the line of scrimmage, the potential capability of your opponent to come back , what’s their personality like when they are behind, are they effective in that area, is that a strong suit of theirs or is it not.  There is a myriad of things that go into those decisions, and really makes each individual circumstance unique and those decisions are made accordingly.” – On his thought process when deciding whether or not to keep star players on the field late in games where the Steelers have built up a solid lead. Against the Raiders, Ben Roethlisberger remained in the game despite holding a 28-3 lead in the fourth quarter.

“I hope everybody is looking closely at our team because we want to be that team.  We want to be good.  So I am not concerned about that perception or that talk to be quite honest with you.  If we are as good as we desire to be everybody is going to be looking at us.” – When asked if he was concerned that the NFL is looking more closely at the Steelers compared to other franchises when it comes to the new war on illegal hits.

“He did.  He wasn’t perfect but none of us were.  We like the intensity.  We like the physical presence that he provided.  We liked the way he and Flozell worked together.” – Answering whether Ramon Foster earned himself a start this week at right guard with his play on Sunday. Foster replaced Trai Essex in the lineup in one of the only offensive line moves not associated with an injury this season.


Pittsburgh to find some room on the ground against a Buffalo run defense ranked as the second-worst in the league according to Football Outsiders.


“We better add to that reputation with our preparation and play this week.  That again is my focus, that’s what I want the focus of our team to be.  It’s ok.  People throw stones at the crown.  We don’t wear the crown but we desire to.  So if something comes with that we will embrace whatever that is.”
– When asked if the team’s reputation as one of the league’s top franchises has added extra attention in terms of fines and penalties.

“He’s made plays when given an opportunity.  He continues to prove that it is not too big for him.  More than anything though, when he makes a mistake, he doesn’t go in the tank, and he usually rebounds from it relatively quickly.  He put a ball on the ground in Miami and rebounded from it relatively quickly.  He dropped the third down on the first ball that was thrown at him on Sunday down the field, thought he had the opportunity to make that play, but he quickly rebounded.  So not only is it not too big for him, he doesn’t shadow box, he doesn’t ride the emotional roller coaster, he tends to bounce back from failure pretty quickly.” – On rookie wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who has received some extra playing time of late and has notched a touchdown in each of Pittsburgh’s last two games.

“He’s got a lot of suggestions. I suggest that he prepare for the Buffalo Bills.” – When asked if he might go along with the suggestion from WR Mike Wallace that his (meaning Wallace’s) new nickname be “bag of tricks.” This is in reference to an earlier statement from Tomlin is which he says he regularly calls Wallace “one-trick pony” to get him fired up.

“Oh, it is Thanksgiving. We got a little business. We’re going to handle our business then we’ll have time to eat and be thankful.” – Answering whether the team’s schedule will change given that Thanksgiving is on Thursday of this week.


Rashard Mendenhall is tied for eighth in the league in rushing yards (811) and tied for third in rushing touchdowns (eight), but boasts a success rate of just 42%, which ranks 30th out of 38 qualified runners at this point in the season according to Football Outsiders. FO deems a run a success if it gains “40% of needed yards on first down, 60% of needed yards on second down, or 100% of needed yards on third or fourth down.”

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