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Tomlin Report - Silver and Black Attack

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The Steelers look to get back in the win column when they welcome the surprising Oakland Raiders to Heinz Field on Sunday. Newly signed kicker Shaun Suisham makes his Pittsburgh debut.

Oakland Raiders (5-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)

Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA

Sunday, November 21 – 1:00 PM on CBS

Steelers: 6-3; tied for first place AFC North

Favorite: Steelers by 7.5


LAST WEEK

Raiders: BYE WEEK


Steelers: Lost to the Patriots 39-26 in Pittsburgh

·
Pittsburgh allowed the most posts in a single game of the Mike Tomlin era as Tom Brady and Woodland Hills grad Rob Gronkowski shredded the Steeler defense.

· A quick three-and-out gave way to New England’s first touchdown of the day. Brady found his tight end, Gronkowski, down the middle for a 19-yard score to take an early lead at 7-0. The Patriots added to that lead with a 31-yard field goal on their next drive.

· Ben Roethlisberger saw lots of pressure early, hitting the turf three times in the team’s first three drives, but managed to lead Pittsburgh into the redzone midway through the second quarter. However, the Steelers failed to score a touchdown and settled for a 22-yard field goal by Jeff Reed.

· After halftime, Brady and the New England offense put on an encore performance of their first drive of the game, all the way up to a second touchdown pass to Gronkowski, this time from nine yards out.

· On the ensuing drive, the Steelers again drove into the redzone with no touchdown to show for it. A miss on a 26-yard attempt by Jeff Reed meant that the team had no field goal to show for it either.

· New England took  23-3 lead on the following drive, with Brady keeping it himself on a three-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown.

· Pittsburgh got its first touchdown of the day early in the fourth quarter as Roethlisberger hit rookie WR Emmanuel Sanders for an eight-yard touchdown. It was the first touchdown of Sanders’ career and he finished the game with five catches for 41 yards.

· A defensive stop gave Pittsburgh another chance to cut into the 23-10 deficit, but a pick-six by safety James Sanders ensured that the deficit would only continue to grow.

· Roethlisberger shook off the turnover and led his team down the field before hitting WR Mike Wallace for a 15-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 13 points again.

· However, the Brady-Gronkowski duo had one more connection to make, with the rookie tight end catching his third touchdown of the game, a 25-yarder, to put the Pats up 36-26.

· Mike Wallace caught his second touchdown pass of the game from 33-yards out on the following drive, but it was too little, too late for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A 36-yard field goal by Shayne Graham ended the scoring at 39-26 in favor of New England.

· Roethlisberger finished 30-of-49 for 387 yards and three touchdowns, but 281 of those yards and all three scores came in the fourth quarter after the team was down by 20 points. Roethlisberger also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and was sacked five times.

· Wallace led all receivers with eight catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Heath Miller, Mewelde Moore, and Antwaan Randle El all had five catches apiece. Hines Ward was held without a catch after leaving the game with a concussion, ending his streak of consecutive games with a catch at 186.

· Pittsburgh’s defense came up empty in terms of sacks and turnovers and gave up 100+ rushing yards for the first time all season.

· Bryant McFadden and James Harrison tied for the team-lead in tackles with nine each.

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

A Look Around the AFC North

Baltimore
(6-3) participated in the first Thursday night game of the 2010 NFL season and came out with a last-minute loss to NFC-power Atlanta. Baltimore took the lead with a minute remaining only to see Atlanta’s Roddy White score with 20 seconds left. The White play has been one of the week’s hot topics as it appeared that he pushed off of his defender. No flag was thrown and the play stood as called.

Thanks to the Thursday game, the Ravens will get a little extra time off before they head to Carolina to face a battered 1-8 Panthers franchise.

Even with the loss, Baltimore still leads the division by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker over Pittsburgh. The two teams will meet again in the first week of December on Sunday Night Football.

Cleveland (3-6) failed to capture its third win in a row and fell to the New York Jets in the waning seconds of overtime thanks to a 37-yard game-winning touchdown by former-Steeler Santonio Holmes. Rookie QB Colt McCoy, who completed his third straight game without a turnover, continues to impress and has locked up the starting job for the remainder of the season.

The Browns lost two key players in Sunday’s loss with defensive-captain Scott Fujita set to miss some time with a knee injury and RG Billy Yates out for the season with a biceps injury. Despite their injuries (and their record), the Browns figure to be a dangerous opponent over the second half of the season.

Cleveland now receives a break in the scheduling department. After a five-game stretch of playoff contenders (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, New England, New York), the Browns will embark on a five-game stretch against middle-to-bottom-tier opponents, though four of the five games will be on the road. They’ll play at Jacksonville and then host Carolina before embarking on a three-game road trip against Miami, Buffalo, and Cincinnati.

After that, the Browns will be in position to play spoiler in what figures to be a tight division race between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. They’ll host both teams (Ravens in Week 16, Steelers in Week 17) to close out the season.

Cincinnati (2-7) dropped its sixth-straight game to the Indianapolis Colts in a contest that wasn’t as close as the 23-17 score suggested. The Bengals turned to ball over five times with QB Carson Palmer contributing three of the errors. The six-game losing streak is currently the longest-active streak in the NFL.

Cincinnati will match up with the team that had them beat in that category (until this past week) in the Buffalo Bills, before hitting a gauntlet of teams similar to the one the Browns just escaped from. Starting next week, they’ll draw the New York Jets, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, the Browns (who they’ve already lost to once), San Diego, and Baltimore in the final week of the season.

MIKE LIKED…

The opportunity to bounce back from a tough loss against a team playing good football. “This is the kind of opponent we need, coming off our last performance,” said Tomlin. “We got to get back into the world of the competent and the competing. This is a great opportunity for us, one that I’m sure our guys will be excited about taking advantage of.”

STEELERS TRANSACTION NEWS

Jeff Reed’s nine-year career as the kicker of the Pittsburgh Steelers is officially over. Reed was in the midst of the worst year of his career, having missed seven of his 22 attempts on the season, with some of the misses occurring at some rather inopportune times. Reed missed two field goals (45 and 49 yards) in a 17-14 loss to division rival Baltimore, a 46-yarder late in a close win over Cincinnati, and a 40-yard try that would have been a regulation game-winner against Atlanta (Pittsburgh went on to win in OT). His three other misses were a 26-yarder this past Sunday and two 50+ tries. Despite the misses, Reed hit two kicks of 53 yards this season, a career-long.

While Reed had been solid on-the-field until this season, he’s had numerous issues off it, most notably his assault on a helpless paper towel dispenser in a local-area Sheetz convenience store bathroom.

To replace the departed Reed, the Steelers have signed free-agent kicker Shaun Suisham, who originally tried out with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2005. Since then, he’s had stints kicking with the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys (twice). The Steelers were the fourth team Suisham has tried out for this season. He has hit 79.1% of his field goals in his career.

STEELERS INJURY UPDATE

S Will Allen experienced headaches over the weekend after sustaining a concussion against Cincinnati last Monday and, as such, was inactive. He will need to pass post-concussion tests this week and will be QUESTIONABLE for Sunday’s game.

CB Crezdon Butler strained his quad against New England and is QUESTIONABLE for this week.

DE Brett Kiesel missed Sunday’s game with a lingering hamstring injury and is somewhere between QUESTIONABLE and DOUBTFUL for the weekend.

LG Chris Kemoeatu is working through an ankle sprain that left him inactive against the Patriots and is also QUESTIONABLE this week.

LB Lawrence Timmons has a hip contusion and is PROBABLE to play in Weel 11.

SS Troy Polamalu strained his right Achilles which may limit his practice early in the week, but he is PROBABLE to start on Sunday.

WR Hines Ward left the New England game with a concussion and has passed post-concussion tests, leaving him PROBABLE to play against Oakland.

RAIDERS INJURY UPDATE

TE Zach Miller (foot) is expected to practice this week and is QUESTIONABLE for this weekend after missing the Raiders last game before the bye week.

CB Nnamdi Asomugha is suffering from an ankle injury and is also QUESTIONABLE for Sunday.

MAIN STORYLINE FOR SUNDAY

Last season, the Steelers were 6-2 before suffering a five-game losing streak with one of those losses courtesy of the Oakland Raiders. Can the Steelers put memories of 2009 to rest and avoid the same fate on Sunday?

RAIDERS TO WATCH

QB Jason Campbell; WRs Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey; RBs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush; FB Marcel Reese; TE Zach Miller; DEs Richard Seymour and Matt Shaughnessy; MLB Rolando McClain; CB Nnamdi Asomugha; SS Tyvon Branch; FS Michael Huff

LOCAL CONNECTIONS

· QB Bruce Gradkowski attended Seton-LaSalle High School in Pittsburgh.

· LB Bruce Davis was originally drafted by the Steelers in the third-round of the 2008 draft, but was cut before the 2009 season.

· Quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett was the head coach at Pitt from 1990-92.

ACCORDING TO TOMLIN

“His background is attractive to us. He’s kicked at Bowling Green. He’s from Canada originally. He’s no stranger to the elements, which are things that are critical components for kicking for us.”
– On one of the reasons why the team pursued Suisham as the replacement for Jeff Reed.

“The kicking position is one that merits a special consideration. It is unlike other positions where you can simply bench someone and go to their backup. There’s one only kicker on a football team, so you don’t take these decisions lightly when you have to make a move again.” – Talking about the difficulty of making a personnel decision such as the one made on Tuesday.

“I think we are all pretty familiar with the climate of the NFL in regards to concussions. With a competitor such as Hines Ward, you respect the want that he has. He was able to pass a test at the stadium, but sometimes you have to protect the extreme competitor from themselves, and Hines Ward is that. We love and respect that. It’s a part of what makes him who he is, but we had to act in his best interest on Sunday night.” – Discussing the situation of WR Hines Ward, who left Sunday’s game with a concussion and did not return. The NFL has placed emphasis on protecting players from recurring head injuries and has strict rules regarding in-game concussions. A player who fails a concussion test is ineligible to return, though those that do pass the test are frequently held out as well.

“Our pass defense is a culmination of a lot of people. Not only corners but safeties and linebackers and so forth and rush. A lot of the things that went on with that game, many of them were underneath throws that aren’t directly involving cornerback play. We all accept responsibility for our inability to consistently stop the New England Patriots. Coaches, players and everyone. Not only the cornerback position.” – When asked what the cornerbacks need to do to improve in pass defense this week after a game in which QB Tom Brady threw for 350 yards.

“Offensively they pound you with the run. They throw the ball vertically. They have a myriad of tricks, reverses and flea-flickers. They’re similar to what they’ve been in the recent past. They have a great deal of success with it.” – Discussing the offensive style of the 5-4 Oakland Raiders.

LOOK FOR…

No improvement in terms of kickoffs for the Pittsburgh Steelers under Shaun Suisham. With Reed as the kicker, Pittsburgh hasn’t escaped the bottom-ten in kickoff distance since the 2005 season and was dead last in 2009. During Suisham’s time in Washington (he never played a full season in Dallas), the Redskins were also a bottom-ten team in terms of kickoff distance.

SPLASH TALK

“They are two different schematic systems and two different guys in terms of what they bring to the table. Drew [Brees] is a movement guy, play action pass guy, changing the launch point, whether it is roll out or resetting the pocket behind tackles. His effectiveness is based on his mobility and the way that he moves.  Of course Tom [Brady]’s strengths are in his decision making and making quick decisions of getting the ball out of his hands.”
– Discussing the differences between the two quarterbacks who have handed Pittsburgh its last two losses, the Saints’ Drew Brees and New England’s Tom Brady. Brees’ movement before the throw is the result of his stature- Brees’ listed height of 6’0” is considered very short for a quarterback.

“I would imagine that a team that is hot and has won their last three games is going to continue to do what they have done.  But I am also going to acknowledge that we’ve got some unflattering tape out there that might be a window into how to attack us on Sunday, if they are looking.  We will see on Sunday I guess.” – When asked if he believes the Oakland Raiders will adopt a Patriots-like gameplan on Sunday, given how well the Patriots offense played this past weekend.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMM…

Ex-Steeler Santonio Holmes hasn’t been setting the world on fire so far with the New York Jets, but he is making a number of what Mike Tomlin would call “timely plays.” Just take a look at New York’s last three wins.

Week 6 at Denver – Holmes draws a 46-yard pass interference penalty on fourth down with less than two minutes remaining and the Jets trailing. The penalty sets up the Jets offense at the two-yard line and LaDainian Tomlinson pounds it in for a touchdown for a 24-20 win.

Week 9 at Detroit – On the second play of overtime, Holmes catches a 52-yard pass to set up a 30-yard field goal by Nick Folk, giving the Jets a 23-20 win.

Week 10 at Cleveland – With the clock running low in overtime and the NFL bracing itself for what would have been a rare tie game, Santonio Holmes caught a short slant and broke loose for the 33-yard game winning touchdown with only 20 seconds left in OT for a 26-20 Jets win.

Keep in mind that those three contests make up 3/5ths of Holmes’ season so far (he was suspended for the first four games of 2010).

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