12:00 AM EST, December 12, 2013
NFL Team Report - Pittsburgh Steelers - INSIDE SLANT
With the Pittsburgh Steelers' playoff chances pegged at 8 percent even if they win their final three games, it could be time for coach Mike Tomlin to experiment or evaluate young players as he looks toward 2014.
Except, he said he will not do that.
"That's not my mentality," Tomlin said.
"Let me say this. I am continually evaluating young talent in the midst of doing the things we desire to do, which is prepare and win this week. It's not like it's a one or the other proposition.
"The evaluation of young talent is not only within stadiums but it's also within this building in terms of some of the things they do on the practice field. That's forever. It's always ongoing. I really think it's kind of naive and not realistic to assume that you either do one or the other. I am always in continual evaluation of the talent. And I also put preparing and winning this week at a premium."
Tomlin, though, is tinkering with the lineup anyway and probably will continue to do so on Sunday.
Mike Adams returned to start at left outside linebacker after he lost his job in the fifth game of the season to Kelvin Beachum, who was out with a knee injury last Sunday. Beachum is ready to return and went through a full practice Wednesday, but the guess is that Adams will stay at left tackle because they need to find out more about their 2012 second-round draft picks.
On defense, Jason Worilds replaced LaMarr Woodley at left outside linebacker last Sunday because he has been most effective from that side. Woodley, who had missed three games with a calf injury, returned to start at right outside linebacker last Sunday. He split time there with rookie Jarvis Jones.
It's possible Jones will get more playing time over these next three games, as could rookie receiver Markus Wheaton.
Tomlin insists he will play his best players down the stretch.
"There's no question about that. I didn't lead any of the discussion in that direction at all, so that would be very clear, yes."
SERIES HISTORY: 87th regular-season meeting. Steelers lead series that began in 1970 with the NFL merger, 52-34. They also lead 28-15 in Pittsburgh. However, the Bengals won at Heinz Field in the next-to-last game of 2012 to virtually vault over the Seelers into the wildcard playoff spot. They also won on Sept. 16 in Cincinnati 20-10 and will try to make it three straight on Sunday. The Steelers won their only post-season meeting during the 2005 season on way to their fifth Super Bowl victory.
NFL Team Report - Pittsburgh Steelers - NOTES, QUOTES
-- Mike Tomlin, a member of the NFL's competition committee, said while the league wants to make the game as safe as possible, "Football is dangerous."
"Obviously we are going to do everything in our power to make the game as safe as we can make it. Just the function of playing football there is a potential for injury. I think that all players know that. All coaches know that, and obviously all members of the Competition Committee. That being said, we are going to do everything in our power to work to minimize injury, particularly ones that we deem avoidable."
--The Steelers lead the league in a category they do not want to have the lead - they have allowed 11 plays longer than 50 yards against their defense.
BY THE NUMBERS: 21 -- Games the Steelers have gone without a 100-yard rusher, the longest draught in the NFL.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think sacks have gone down, turnovers have gone down and points have gone up." - Ben Roethlisberger explaining why his offense has improved over the past several games.
NFL Team Report - Pittsburgh Steelers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Steelers released halfback Ray Graham from their practice squad and signed defensive end Hall Davis.
--LB Jason Worilds leads the Steelers with seven sacks even after he had one taken away from him on Wednesday from Sunday's game.
--DE Brett Keisel (foot) did not practice on Wednesday but Mike Tomlin said he thinks he might be able to play after missing all but seven snaps of the past four games.
--OT Marcus Gilbert (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday but Tomlin also said he should be able to play Sunday.
--QB Ben Roethlisberger picked up the first positive yards receiving of his career when he ran five yards with a lateral Sunday. He now has minus-two yards receiving in his career.
The Steelers have the 31st-ranked run team in the league, the 7th-best pass offense and they managed just 44 yards rushing in their first meeting against Cincinnati. They will come to pass on Sunday. On defense, they could not stop the run or the pass in their first meeting, but hope to do something different and stop the run on Sunday, which they have not done well this season.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Steelers CB Ike Taylor vs. Bengals WR A.J. Green, who caught four passes for 41 yards in their first meeting this year.
--Steelers LOLB Jason Worilds, who leads the team with seven sacks (three in last 2 games) vs. Bengals RT Andre Smith.
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