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Tomlin Report – Monday Night in Cincy

The Steelers look to get back on track when they play their third straight road game Monday night in Cincinnati for their first of two showdowns with the AFC North rival Bengals. Kickoff is 8:30 on ESPN.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-5)

at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, OH

Monday, November 8 – 8:30 PM on ESPN

Steelers: 5-2; second place AFC North

Favorite: Steelers by 4.5


Bengals: Lost to the Dolphins 22-14 in Cincinnati

· Cincinnati managed to keep Miami out of the endzone until the fourth quarter, but ultimately fell under the weight of its own offensive struggles as the Dolphins chipped in field goal after field goal for the win.

· The Bengals started strong with a mammoth 15-play drive resulting in seven-yard touchdown strike from QB Carson Palmer to WR Terrell Owens. Cincinnati converted four third downs on the drive, including the touchdown pass. It was the first time the Bengals scored on their opening drive of either half all season.

· Miami pushed its way downfield to answer with a field goal of 38 yards by kicker Dan Carpenter, followed by a second kick of 42-yards on their next trip out, leaving Cincinnati leading by a score of 7-6.

· An interception of Miami QB Chad Henne by CB Morgan Trent gave Cincinnati the ball in Miami territory late in the half. Carson Palmer made a poor throw on the first play out, but the ball bounced out of safety Chris Clemons’ hands and into the arms of Terrell Owens, turning an interception into a 37-yard touchdown pass. T.O. led the team with five catches, 65 yards, and two touchdowns.

· Miami responded by driving into the redzone, but failed to come up with a touchdown. Instead, Dan Carpenter came in and booted a 24-yard field goal.

· A three-and-out by Cincinnati gave Miami enough time for one more short drive, which set up Carpenter’s fourth field goal of the game, this time a hit from 54-yards away that cut the Bengals’ lead to two at 14-12 going into halftime.

· After stalled drives by each team to open the second half, Miami drove into the redzone only to come up short again, but did take the lead at 15-14 thanks to Carpenter’s 31-yard field goal, his fifth of the game.

· After three-straight three-and-outs to end the third quarter, Miami took over in the fourth, executing a 98-yard touchdown drive that ended with a one-yard plunge by RB Ricky Williams.

· Cincinnati entered Miami territory one more time before the end of the game, but a Carson Palmer interception allowed the Dolphins to run out the clock and escape Paul Brown Stadium with a 22-14 win over the Bengals.

· Palmer regressed from a 300-yard passing performance last week, completing only 17 of his 38 attempts for 156 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

· RB Cedric Benson continues to struggle, gaining only 69 yards on 20 attempts.

· Cincinnati’s defense failed to register a sack in the game.

Steelers: Lost to the Saints 20-10 in New Orleans

· After a quiet first quarter, a 38-yard punt return by rookie Emmanuel Sanders gave the Steelers great field position. It appeared as though the team would score a touchdown, though instant replay overturned the call, leaving the team with a first-and-goal from the one-yard line. However, three runs failed to find the endzone resulting in a 19-yard field goal by Jeff Reed and a 3-0 lead.

· Three drives later, an interception by CB Ike Taylor set Pittsburgh up with another chance at some points, though a holding penalty put the team behind the chains and Jeff Reed’s 51-yard field goal attempt failed.

· The Saints capitalized on that advantageous field position to tie the game with a 31-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley, leaving the score tied 3-3 at the half.

· New Orleans received the ball after halftime and drove into the redzone, but came up short on a second-straight drive, settling for a 23-yard field goal.

· A failed attempt to convert on fourth down on Pittsburgh’s ensuing drive left New Orleans with great starting field position once again, which they parlayed into a 16-yard touchdown pass from QB Drew Brees to WR Marques Colston.

· Pittsburgh’s offense showed signs of life on the very next drive and answered with a touchdown of its own on a 38-yard romp by RB Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall finished with 71 yards on 15 attempts and a touchdown and also added two catches for 14 yards.

· CB Bryant McFadden sacked QB Drew Brees on the following drive, forcing a fumble that was recovered by OLB LaMarr Woodley, giving the Pittsburgh a chance to score down 13-10.

· However, TE Heath Miller gave the ball right back, fumbling on a pass reception. That play led to an eight-yard touchdown pass from Brees to WR Lance Moore, giving the Saints their 20-10 margin of victory. An interception of Ben Roethlisberger by CB Leigh Torrence sealed the game for the defending champs.

· Pittsburgh’s defense could not stop Drew Brees in the second half. Brees finished the day completing 34 of his 44 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, though he only missed on two passes in the second half.

· Roethlisberger completed 17 of his 28 passes for 195 yards with one interception. The Steelers’ leading receiver was Mike Wallace, who pulled in only three catches for 43 yards.

· Bryant McFadden and OLB James Harrison both registered sacks and ILB Lawrence Timmons led the team with 12 total tackles.


A Look Around the AFC North

Baltimore (5-2) took over first place in the AFC North with the Steelers’ loss, as the Ravens own the head-to-head tiebreaker over their division rival. The hope is that Ed Reed can continue to improve a secondary that was abused by the winless Buffalo Bills in a shootout win in overtime going into the bye week. Baltimore is failing to generate turnovers in the passing game, registering just five interceptions in seven games (two of which came in Reed’s first game back), a figure that ranks in the bottom-third of the league. Baltimore’s pass rush is also noticeably absent as they’ve only picked up 12 sacks on the season, another figure that ranks in the bottom-third of the NFL.

This week, the Ravens host Miami, who has yet to lose a game on the road and boasts a big-name wide receiver in Brandon Marshall. If the Ravens can’t contain Marshall and slot receiver Davone Bess, their reign over the AFC North could be short-lived.

Cleveland (2-5) comes out of the bye week with a question mark at their most important position: quarterback. QB Jake Delhomme, who has been nothing but a free agent flop for the Browns, continues to rehab a high ankle sprain. QB Seneca Wallace seems to be ready to play after recovering from his own ankle injury, and has stated that he’d like the team to pick a quarterback and stick with him.

The intrigue comes with the team’s third option, QB Colt McCoy, who started against the Steelers and Saints. His numbers don’t stand out, but he showed great poise for a rookie and managed to do something Wallace and Delhomme couldn’t, which is hold on to the ball. Coach Eric Mangini had better pick a man and prepare him fast. Home games against the Patriots and Jets loom in the next two weeks followed by a stretch of four road games in five weeks.


The performances of defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Nick Eason on Sunday as they started in place of injured ends Aaron Smith and Brett Kiesel.


Due to injuries to defensive ends Brett Kiesel and Aaron Smith, Pittsburgh was forced to call up defensive lineman Steve McLendon from the practice squad for the third time this season. That roster spot came at the expense of rookie OLB Thaddeus Gibson, who was placed on waivers but never made it to the practice squad. The San Francisco 49ers claimed the fourth-round pick out of Ohio State off of waivers over the weekend. The Steelers have yet to fill the open spot on the practice squad.


RT Flozell Adams and RB Isaac Redman both suffered minor ankle sprains during Sunday night’s game, but both returned to play later in the game. They are not expected to miss practice time and will be PROBABLE for Monday.

DE Brett Kiesel will participate in some practice this week after missing the team’s last two games with a hamstring injury and should be QUESTIONABLE for this week’s game.

DE Aaron Smith’s timetable for return from a torn triceps was pegged around eight or nine weeks, which means he could return to the team sometime in December.


The only major injury of note for the Bengals was to CB Adam Jones, who was placed on IR last week thanks to a neck injury suffered in Cincinnati’s loss to Atlanta in Week 7.


Who will win in a battle of dueling Jekyll-and-Hydes in a matchup between Bengals QB Carson Palmer and Pittsburgh’s secondary?


QB Carson Palmer; RB Cedric Benson; WRs Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, and Jordan Shipley; TE Jermaine Gresham; DTs Domata Peko and Tank Johnson; DEs Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson; LBs Dhani Jones, Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers, and Brandon Johnson; CBs Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph


· Head coach Marvin Lewis is a McDonald, PA native. Lewis coached at Pitt from 1990-91 and served as the Steelers’ linebackers coach from 1992-95.

· Defensive line coach Jay Hayes is originally from South Fayette, PA and was the Steelers’ special teams coach from 1999-2001.

· His younger brother, Jonathan Hayes, played tight end for the Steelers from 1994-96 and now coaches the tight ends for the Bengals.

· Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski was the Steelers’ wide receivers coach from 1999-2000.


“This is a big week for us. We’re back in AFC North action, and more importantly than that, AFC North road action. If you’re going to be a dominant team, which is what we desire to be in our division, you have to be able to go into other people’s places and play winning football, and it’s a tough thing to do. It’s easy to say and tough to do. But we’re going to take the approach of saying very little and getting about the business of preparing to do the job.” – On the team’s upcoming Monday night matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, who swept the Steelers last season and were a perfect 6-0 in the division. So far this season, they are 1-1 within the division.

“If I see it on the field and I think it’s a challengeable play, I’ll challenge it. If I get information from upstairs, where we think it’s a challengeable play, we will. If we don’t, we generally rely on the players that are on the field. I’ve been here long enough where I know when I am going to get legitimate information or emotional information. That’s our general process.” – Detailing the process that he, the coaching staff, and the players go through in determining whether or not to challenge a ruling on the field. Tomlin noted that he may have missed a challenge opportunity on a goal-line play in the first half, but that he was much more concerned about the team’s failure to punch the ball in with three cracks at the goal line.

“I think we settled down as the game went on, but quite frankly not soon enough. I thought that they had similar issues early in the game. I thought that it was an excitable, hostile environment and I thought that it was an environment dominated by both defenses early. Drew Brees and company got going quicker than we did in the second half of that game. So it put us behind the eight ball and made the margin for error very slim.” – Discussing the flow of the game, particularly as it played out in third-down situations, where Pittsburgh converted just three of its ten chances.

“I’ve got a high level of trust for Jeff [Reed]. I base my judgments on range from what happens in pregame. He was pretty consistent in pregame and I acknowledge from time to time that you are going to miss 51-yard kicks.” – Answering why he decided to have Reed attempt a 51-yard kick and his thought process regarding such a decision.

“They’re 2-5, and I think that dictates some of the things that occur, as opposed to last year. I’m just being honest. When you’re winning you’re going to feed Cedric Benson. When you’re losing there are probably going to be more passes thrown. That’s just football.” – When asked if he thought the Bengals were spreading out their offense a bit more compared to last year’s run-centric offense.

“I’m disappointed, but I realize that is a big part of our profession. We knew there was a strong possibility of him getting claimed by someone when we put him out there. When you’re a 5 -1 team and you let a man go, some teams whose records aren’t as good are going to assume yours is better than theirs. That’s today’s NFL.” – Discussing OLB Thaddeus Gibson, who was waived to make room for DE Steve McLendon. Gibson never made it to the practice squad, as he was claimed off waivers by the San Francisco 49ers.

“A lot of people when injured get in a position to go outside the organization for potential solutions. We like the men that we work with and we believe that if they prepare themselves, and if they are ready, we like to start there in terms of giving them opportunity’s to answer the bell. He has provided a nice platform for the other young men in how to prepare you, and put yourself into position to answer to bell. I think the work that he has done and is doing is creating opportunity for others.” – On McLendon’s performance this season.


The Steelers to have some success on the ground Monday night as Rashard Mendenhall squares off against the fifth-worth run defense in the league according to Football Outsiders.


“The tight end, Jermaine Gresham, is doing a nice job. They’re asking him to do a myriad of things. He’s in the backfield. He’s a move guy. He’s on the line of scrimmage; he’s a vertical route runner. He’s a very talented guy and is playing extremely well for them.” – On Bengals rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham, who was selected with the 21st pick of the first round by Cincinnati. Gresham currently is third on the team with 29 receptions.

“This is not a patient man’s business. He’s not a patient young man. I like that about him. But his progress is going to be measured in snaps and snap opportunities. And for him and for me, it can’t come quick enough.” – Discussing Ziggy Hood’s comments that he (meaning Ziggy) needed to grow up.

“I think [offensive line coach Sean Kugler] has done a really good job, but then again we are not about patting ourselves on the back. We’re just trying to win football games. We are not interested in evaluating our work, whether if it’s a time period or a specific group within our unit. We are trying to win as a team. One of the most enjoyable things about this football team, the 2010 Steelers, is that we don’t care about style points or who gets the job done. We’re just trying to step into stadiums, win games and go home. Sean’s a big part of that.” – Discussing the performance of offensive line coach Sean Kugler, who is in his first year with the team and has had to work around numerous player injuries over the first half of the season.


Though the Steelers running game is generally characterized as “smashmouth,” the team has had much more success running to the outside than inside. According to Football Outsiders, Pittsburgh is a top-10 rushing team when taking the play wide of either tackle, but ranks no higher than 19th rushing anywhere between the tackles.

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