Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin met the media today for his weekly press conference in preparation for the Steelers AFC wild card game this coming Sunday on the road against the Denver Broncos. Tomlin previewed the Broncos on both offense and defense and updated the injury status of running back Rashard Mendenhall, cornerback Keenan Lewis, cornerback Cortez Allen, running back Mewelde Moore, guard Doug Legursky and linebacker LaMarr Woodley to name a few.
Injury wise, Tomlin said Mendenhall (knee) is done for the year with his ACL injury and they are working towards specifics of when he will get it fixed. We fully expect to move forward with them men we have working. Tight end David Johnson (elbow) hyper extended his elbow in the game Sunday and he should be fine to play against the Broncos. The ankle of Ben Roethlisberger appears to be doing OK , but he might be limited at the early portion of the week in practice. Allen (shoulder) was termed questionable at best for Sunday with his right shoulder injury suffered against the Browns. They will see what the week has in store for Moore (knee), but Tomlin termed him questionable at best right now. Legursky (shoulder) and Woodley (hamstring) back in action this week per Tomlin. Tomlin met with Ryan Clark and told him he will not be playing in Denver this week due to his past problems with the sickle cell trait. Tomlin said the reasons were obvious as to why. MRI showed very little damage in hamstring of Lewis and he should be able to play Sunday.
Below is the audio from the Tuesday presser and I will add more recap and talking points below.
Tomlin said he respects that the Broncos are AFC West champs and that they are going to their house. The story of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has been well documented this year. He said when he looks at Tebow he sees a guy that just wins and he is at his best in significant moments and makes those around him better because they buy into what he is selling. Tomlin said he has natural, charismatic leadership abilities. We have to fight that battle said Tomlin. Tomlin said they will see Willis McGahee again and that is business as usual seeing him in the playoffs. Tomlin said the Broncos run game is very formidable, tops in the league. Tomlin said they have to make sure to get them behind the chains and that they do a good job at staying on schedule in their manageable third downs. Stopping the run is a priority this week. Receiver wise, Tomlin said Tebow has a nice set of receivers in Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal. Up front Tomlin likes the Broncos offensive line, many of which the Steelers have looked at in recent years in drafts like Zane Beadles and Orlando Franklin, who they looked at big time out of the University of Miami. They play well for them said Tomlin.
When you start up front for the Broncos defensively, Tomlin noted Marcus Thomas, Brodrick Bunkley and Elvis Dumervil. Tomlin said the things you have heard about Von Miller is very true based on the tape he has looked at over the last 48 hours. He has all the the physical attributes of a standout football player per Tomlin and he is good versus the run and the pass. Tomlin said the club on the right hand of Miller has not slowed down his productivity. Tomlin expects them to find ways to get Miller on running backs, bring him off the edge against tackles and move him around. Tomlin noted their veteran secondary group led by Champ Bailey and of course safety Brian Dawkins.
Tomlin announced the re-signing of Anthony Madison to help them on special teams. He has a very established resume as a special teams performer and obviously they need his assistance in that area after losing Curtis Brown for the year a few weeks ago and status of Allen this week with his shoulder injury. Tomlin said they are running thin at gunner-like bodies and they are very comfortable having Madison back in the fold.
Tomlin said there was not much of a conversation with Clark in regards to his status this week as Tomlin talked to the medical experts and then called in Clark to tell him he was not playing and Clark said, OK. Tomlin did say that Clark would make the trip to Denver. Tomlin said they did the MRI on the injured hamstring of Lewis yesterday and saw very little or no damage so they expect him to proceed in practice this week and play on Sunday.
Tomlin said they could potentially end up bringing in another running back, but it is not something that they intend to do today. They will look at the guys they have working and prepare and maybe add to those guys as the week proceeds, but not as he sits there today.
Tomlin acknowledged that the option will be an element of the Broncos attack and it is something they will have to work hard at this week to prepare for. Tomlin called their option more of a read and spread type and not the classic dive-like option that Oklahoma and Nebraska had run. He called it more of a spread attack option.
Tomlin called Ryan Mundy starter capable as he has proven that. They also have a great deal of confidence in Will Allen as well. He called both of them strong special teams players as well. There is a strong chance that Legursky will back at left guard this week, but it will be based on his level of health throughout the course of the week. They will be excited to have him back in the starting lineup if he is 100% according to Tomlin.
The spy aspect on Tebow is a call per Tomlin and it could be and end, a linebacker or a safety depending on formation and personnel of the offense.
Tomlin called the level off participation this week of Woodley as “to be determined”. Tomlin said he is at the end of this thing (hamstring) he will be able to play. They have not thought about a snap count as of yet on Woodley and he will ponder those things as they get closer to game-time after they have evaluated his preparation over the course of the week.
The lights will not be too bright for Bryant McFadden if called upon to play Sunday in the rotation said Tomlin. The rotation has yet to be determined based on the health of the other players.
Tomlin said they are very comfortable still with the ball security of Isaac Redman despite the two fumbles on Sunday versus the Browns.
Tomlin characterized the condition of Roethlisberger as no worse than it was before the Browns game. He has yet to see him today and they will see how he is moving forward. He said he is not overly concerned about his physical state and preparation for the game on Sunday. Tomlin does not believe the ankle injury has hindered his passing, but said he would be better to answer that question.