AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers


PITTSBURGH -- It certainly looked like a fourth preseason game, from the swaths of empty seats at Heinz Field to the uneven play with many starters from each side playing sparingly, if at all.

Carolina parlayed a big pass play into the game’s only touchdown ,and the Panthers beat the Steelers 10-0 Thursday night with the specter of final cuts looming for fringe players on each side.

Landry Jones started at quarterback and completed 14 of 18 passes for 97 yards before giving way to Brendon Kay midway through the third quarter. Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2013, didn’t lead any scoring drives but probably did enough to make the 53-man roster as the Steelers’ No. 3 quarterback.

No Steelers player battling for a roster spot made a particularly compelling argument to stay with the team beyond 4 p.m. ET Saturday, the NFL deadline for finalizing 53-man rosters.

Brad Wing looked like he was on his way to nailing down a roster spot after pinning the Panthers deep in their own territory several times. Then the Aussie unleashed a 25-yard clunker, something that will make the coaches ponder whether Wing is consistent enough to be trusted.

Players such as Wing have made their final argument as far as making the team.

The Steelers’ coaches and front office personnel will meet on Friday to start paring down the roster and could make some cuts then, with the rest coming on Saturday. The Steelers have to cut 22 players to get to the 53-man limit by late Saturday afternoon.

Some other thoughts from the Steelers’ fourth preseason game:
  • It was a very nice bounce-back game for starting outside linebacker Jarvis Jones after the second-year man struggled a week ago in Philadelphia. Jones made his presence felt early against the pass and the run, and the Steelers coaches had to love his hustle after a snap sailed over the head of Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson in the second quarter. Anderson tried to pick the ball up, and when he couldn’t get a handle on it Jones made a diving recovery. He then got up and started to rumble downfield, drawing a personal foul penalty when former Steelers center Fernando Velasco dragged Jones down by his hair. Jones recorded three tackles, including one for a loss, and the fumble recovery before calling it a night.
  • If the Steelers only keep five wide receivers Justin Brown might be headed back to the practice squad. The wide receiver who created such a buzz during offseason practices caught five passes for 32 yards in four preseason games despite playing more snaps than any other Steelers skill player. Hard-charging Darrius Heyward-Bey caught six passes for 44 yards against the Panthers and solidified his spot on the 53-man roster even if the Steelers only keep five wideouts. His speed and experience -- and his production in the Steelers' final two preseason games -- will make Heyward-Bey too difficult to cut
  • David Paulson and Rob Blanchflower needed to beat Michael Palmer for the No. 3 spot at tight end, and neither was able to do it. Palmer had a couple of nice blocks early when the Steelers were able to run the ball, and the fifth-year veteran is solid on special teams. He solidified his spot on the 53-man roster, and Blanchflower looks like a strong candidate for the practice squad.
  • Cornerback Antwon Blake had played well before getting beat badly on a 53-yard catch by wide receiver Philly Brown, setting up the Panthers’ only touchdown. Blake will make the Steelers as a core special-teams player but Brice McCain has clearly established himself as the No. 4 cornerback assuming the groin injury he suffered against the Panthers isn’t serious.
  • The Steelers showed an interesting defensive look late in the second quarter. Josh Mauro, Roy Philon, Daniel McCullers and Ethan Hemer were up front with Vince Williams and Terence Garvin as the only linebackers in the game. However, Shamarko Thomas played close enough to the line of scrimmage that it looked like the Steelers had their big nickel package on the field with four down linemen.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers play their final preseason game Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. ET against the Carolina Panthers. Here is a review the first three games in terms of snap counts. We'll look at offense here, with an examination of the defense in a later post.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger 68, Bruce Gradkowski 68, Landry Jones 48

Notable: Roethlisberger won’t play Thursday night, and Gradkowski is likely to sit as well. Jones is expected start and play most of the way as he tries to show the Steelers he is worthy of a roster spot. Undrafted rookie Brendon Kay may get some playing time so he can put out some game film after not seeing the field in the first three exhibition games.

Running back: Le'Veon Bell 43, LeGarrette Blount 42, Dri Archer 25, Will Johnson 16, Josh Harris 12, Stephen Houston 7.

Notable: Coach Mike Tomlin has said both Bell and Blount will play against the Panthers, but Harris and Houston figure to get the bulk of the carries. One of them has to convince the Steelers to carry a fourth running back behind Bell, Blount and Archer.

Wide receiver: Justin Brown 98, Markus Wheaton 87, Martavis Bryant 80, Antonio Brown 76, Derek Moye 58, Darrius Heyward-Bey 35, Lance Moore 20, Lanear Sampson 8.

Notable: I think Justin Brown is safe as far as making the team. It wouldn’t hurt for him to have a productive game, as the second-year man has caught just three passes for 15 yards despite playing the most snaps of any Steelers skills player. Tomlin praised Heyward-Bey’s play on special teams even though the sixth-year veteran has logged just seven snaps in two preseason games on those units. He should see a lot of action on special teams against the Panthers.

Tight end: Heath Miller 76, David Paulson 53, Matt Spaeth 43, Rob Blanchflower 35, Michael Palmer 18.

Notable: Miller and Spaeth are the only locks to make the team. I give Palmer the edge for the No. 3 spot because of his contributions on special teams. Paulson and Blanchflower, however, are still in the running. Blanchflower may be coming on after a slow start to training camp. The rookie seventh-round pick logged 18 snaps against the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday in a game in which the starters played extensively.

Offensive line: Mike Adams 104, Chris Hubbard 100, Guy Whimper 96, Kelvin Beachum 80, David DeCastro 80, Marcus Gilbert 80, Maurkice Pouncey 80, Ramon Foster 66, Cody Wallace 64, Will Simmons 50, Wesley Johnson 40.

Notable: I have Johnson, a fifth-round pick, making the team, but the rookie may have to show the coaches something against the Panthers. It will be interesting to see if he plays multiple positions Thursday night. The first-team offensive line got plenty of work together as reflected by the starters’ respective snap counts.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who played every snap in 2013 and turned in one of his best statistical seasons, is the team's highest-ranked representative on's list of the NFL's top 100 players on offense and defense.

The question is whether six quarterbacks are better than Roethlisberger, one of only three active passers to win multiple Super Bowls.

Roethlisberger is No. 28 on offense, two spots behind Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who won the 2013 Super Bowl.

Despite throwing for 4,261 yards and 28 touchdowns -- and holding the Steelers together after a ghastly 0-4 start -- Roethlisberger somehow slipped four spots from his 2013 ranking.

The 11th-year veteran has already broken many of Terry Bradshaw's Steelers passing records and is one of only four quarterbacks in the modern era to win 80 games in 113 or fewer starts.

His ranking confirms what I have long thought about Roethlisberger: He doesn't get the recognition he deserves for what he means to the Steelers.

Maybe consecutive 8-8 seasons slightly dimmed opinions on Roethlisberger from a national perspective. Imagine, however, the losing the Steelers would have endured as they rebuilt their defense on the run without Roethlisberger, who is a franchise quarterback in every sense of the word.

That he is still playing at an incredibly high level at the age of 32 is the Steelers' biggest reason for optimism as they try to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Most significant move: The Steelers cut a pair of players who appeared in games for them last season. In the process, their plans along the defensive line came more into focus. The team released defensive end Brian Arnfelt, who appeared in two games at the end of last season, and nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, who played in four games in 2013. Josh Mauro, an undrafted rookie, has the edge for the last defensive spot if the Steelers keep seven defensive linemen, and rookie nose tackle Daniel McCullers, a sixth-round pick, is almost sure to stick on the 53-man roster. Defensive end Ethan Hemer may be the odd man out with defensive end Nick Williams and nose tackle Roy Philon likely grabbing spots on the practice squad. Arnfelt entered training camp with a good chance at making the team, but the second-year man fell out of favor with the coaches and Mauro passed him at defensive end. Williams still has a chance to unseat Mauro if he plays well in the Steelers’ final preseason game Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.

Running back shuffle: The Steelers are down to five running backs after releasing three at that position Tuesday, including Tauren Poole, who got a long look from the coaches. A roster spot is there for the taking if either Josh Harris or Stephen Houston seizes the final opportunity against the Panthers. The Steelers may go with three running backs and fullback Will Johnson even given the uncertain status of starter Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. Coach Mike Tomlin has said the team is considering all options as far as punishment following their arrest on marijuana possession charges. (Bell has also been charged with driving under the influence.) That includes a suspension -- and the Steelers can maneuver around the collective bargaining agreement by simply deactivating Bell, Blount or both for the Sept. 7 season opener against the Browns. I don’t expect the Steelers to sit either for an entire game, and a suspension from the NFL wouldn’t come until next season. That means Harris or Houston will have to play his way on to the 53-man roster, or the two could be vying for a spot on the practice squad. The Steelers will also keep an eye on the waiver wire to see which running backs become available at the end of the week.

Steelers’ moves: Arnfelt, S Jordan Dangerfield, C Chris Elkins, Fangupo, WR C.J. Goodwin, RB Jordan Hall, LS Luke Ingram, RB Miguel Maysonet, OT Emmanuel McCray, WR Kashif Moore, Poole, CB Devin Smith, OLB Vic So’oto, CB Lew Toler, TE Eric Waters
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin praised Darrius Heyward-Bey on Tuesday and said he particularly likes what the veteran wide receiver has done on special teams.

That clinches it for me: the Steelers will keep six wide receivers when they finalize their 53-man roster at the end of the week.

Look for Heyward-Bey to join Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Martavis Bryant and Justin Brown in making the team.

Heyward-Bey, who signed a veteran minimum contract with the Steelers in March, had a quiet training camp in part because he missed significant practice time after sustaining a concussion.

Heyward-Bey flashed in the Steelers' 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday, catching three passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.

"He's done some really good things of late, after he came back from his concussion," Tomlin said. "I'm just as pleased with he's providing us from a special teams standpoint as I am what he's doing at wide receiver. I really like some of the things he's shown us in the kicking game, some things that, quite frankly, I didn't know he had in terms of his willingness and ability to cover punts, his willingness and ability to block for punt returners. It's attractive."

Here are some other takes from Tomlin's news conference:
  • Tomlin said running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount will play Thursday night against the visiting Carolina Panthers. The eighth-year coach has not ruled out playing any of his starters even though quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on Monday he does not expect to play in the Steelers' final preseason game. "If they need to work they're going to get it, whether it's individual or collective," Tomlin said of the game against the Panthers. "That's just my approach to preparation."
  • Defensive end Brett Keisel, who re-signed with the Steelers last Wednesday, will play against the Panthers. And Tomlin strongly hinted that Keisel will play an extended numbers of snaps on Thursday. "I'm interested in taking him to the deep end of the pool to see if he can swim a little bit," Tomlin said. "We'll see how he does."
  • Tomlin said third-string quarterback Landry Jones will play extensively against the Panthers and may start the game. Jones might be battling for a roster spot after playing poorly in an Aug. 16 game against the Buffalo Bills and not getting any snaps last Thursday night in Philadelphia. When asked what he needs to see from Jones, Tomlin said, "Just consistent, above the line play in all areas. That's about as straight of an arrow as I can fire."
  • The Steelers do not plan on bringing in another punter against the Panthers. Brad Wing has been the team's only punter since the start of training camp with Adam Podlesh out because of a family issue. Wing's net punting average in three games is only 35.8 yards, but Tomlin gave him a vote of confidence. "I like what Brad has done," he said.

Antonio Brown climbs in #NFLRank

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
Antonio Brown finished second in the NFL with 1,499 receiving yards and 110 receptions in 2013 yet he is only the 14th-ranked wide receiver on the list of the top 100 offensive players.

Brown is No. 38 overall, a number that is hard to fathom since the fifth-year veteran made the Pro Bowl last season as both a wide receiver and a returner.

Brown joined DeSean Jackson (2010) as the only players to make the Pro Bowl at two different positions in the same season. It should be noted that Brown made one of the biggest jumps in the top 100, moving up 57 spots.

Among the wide receivers ahead of Brown in the latest release of’s top 100 player on offense and defense are the Buccaneers’ Vincent Jackson (No. 37), the Packers’ Jordy Nelson (No. 35) and the Bears’ Alshon Jeffery (No. 32).

Getting overlooked is nothing new for Brown.

The two-time Pro Bowler lasted until the 195th pick of the 2010 draft, and he wasn’t even the Steelers’ first sixth-round pick that year.

The Steelers took Brown after selecting running back Jonathan Dwyer earlier in the sixth round.

All Brown has done since then is make the Pro Bowl as a kickoff returner, punt returner and wide receiver and twice won the Steelers’ MVP Award. He also holds team records for most receiving yards in a season as well as most all-purpose yards in a season (2,211 in 2011).

I’m guessing the Steelers don’t think there are 13 wide receivers better than Brown.
Team president Art Rooney II echoed similar sentiments to what quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said about the Pittsburgh Steelers' 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I think there are people that like to jump to conclusions about what your team's going to be after one game or two games or three games in the preseason. It's one game and our goal is to continue to work at it and get better," Rooney told "I feel good about the people we have that are going to do that."

The Steelers raised the level of their fans' collective anxiety with how they lost the preseason game in which starters saw their most extensive action.

The defense couldn't stop the run or Eagles quarterbacks Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez. It got so bad that at one point in the third quarter Troy Polamalu's voice was among the loudest of the players yelling at one another on the sidelines.

The offense did not fare much better.

The starters managed just one touchdown despite playing into the third quarter, and the Steelers did not score until the Eagles had built a 24-0 lead.

Rooney said he won't put too much emphasis on one game -- and a preseason one at that.

"It's a not journey where you stop and say, 'Oh, OK, we're a good team' or 'Oh, OK we're a bad team,'" he said. "You've got to keep working and you've got to try to keep getting better so I don't try to jump to that conclusion two weeks into the preseason."

Rooney is pleased the Steelers were able to accomplish one of their main offseason goals of adding more team speed.

"Having said that we do have new faces so there are people that have to learn how to work together," Rooney said. "We'll see how quickly people can get to where they need to be. We're going to have a younger team than we've had in awhile.

"Sometimes that's good, sometimes there's bumps in the road that come along with that. I think it's going to be an interesting season to see how all of that unfolds. Whatever we are on Sept. 7, hopefully we'll be better on Dec. 1."
PITTSBURGH -- Sean Spence said the injury he sustained in the Steelers' 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles is only a minor setback and that he hopes to be ready for the start of the regular season.

Spence sprained the post collateral ligament (PCL) in his right knee last Thursday night and the injury will prevent the third-year man from playing in the Steelers' final preseason game.

But Spence said he will sit out the Steelers' game Thursday night against the visiting Carolina Panthers only as a precaution.

"It's not a very serious injury. I should be good," Spence said. "I'm going to sit out this week and try to give it a go next week."

When coach Mike Tomlin announced last Thursday that Spence had been hurt in the Eagles game it resonated with fans because of what the 2012 third-round pick has overcome just to get back on the field.

Spence shredded his left knee two years ago in the Steelers' final preseason game, tearing all of the major ligaments and dislocating his kneecap. Spence also sustained nerve damage and the injury almost ended his career.

Spence has made it all the way back from that devastating setback, and he is a lock to make the 53-man roster.

The 5-11, 231-pounder said the severity of the injury he suffered two years ago let him know that he didn't experience anything close to that last week in Philadelphia.

Spence actually returned to the game briefly after hurting his knee.

"I went out there and did another play and it just didn't feel right," Spence said. "It's smart that I did stop because I didn't want to make it worse than what it was."

Neither Spence nor starting outside linebacker Jason Worilds practiced on Monday, Tomlin said.

Worilds also hurt his knee against the Eagles but Tomlin said it is not a serious injury.

Among the players who had been hurt but practiced in at least a limited capacity on Monday, Tomlin said, were wide receiver Lance Moore (leg), safety Will Allen (hamstring) and cornerback Devin Smith (hamstring).

Pouncey, Polamalu crack top 100

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
PITTSBURGH -- Two more Pittsburgh Steelers surfaced on’s list of the top 100 NFL players for both offense and defense.

Center Maurkice Pouncey is No. 42 on offense and strong safety Troy Polamalu is No. 46 on defense.

Polamalu dropped 13 spots from his 2013 ranking after the Steelers slipped to No. 13 in total defense last season, when they had trouble stopping the run and were vulnerable to big plays. Polamalu still made his eighth Pro Bowl in 2013 after finishing third on the Steelers with 85 tackles, forcing a career-high five fumbles and tying for the team lead with two interceptions.

Polamalu, who is entering his 12th season, played every snap last season.

Pouncey, was on the other end of the spectrum in 2013, missing all but eight snaps after tearing several ligaments in his right knee, including his ACL.

The three-time Pro Bowler was hurt when teammate David DeCastro crashed into his lower leg after missing a cut block in the Steelers’ season opener against the visiting Tennessee Titans.

Pouncey has since made a full recovery, and the Steelers signed the fifth-year veteran to a five-year, $44 million contract in June, making him one of the highest paid players at his position.

Pouncey, who moved up 12 spots from his 2013 ranking, is ahead of centers such as Carolina's Ryan Kalil (No. 47) and the the Jets' Nick Mangold (No. 49).

Steelers DBs adjust to less contact

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
PITTSBURGH -- Mike Mitchell does not shy away from voicing his opinion any more than he does leveling a wide receiver who has the temerity to catch a pass in his vicinity.

But the Pittsburgh Steelers free safety took as diplomatic a route as possible when asked about the flurry of flags the NFL’s emphasis on calling pass interference and illegal contact has produced in the preseason.

“I thought we would get more offensive calls but I don’t have any negative opinions, positive opinions,” Mitchell said. “I just play the game the way I’m supposed to.”

The game has become increasingly harder to play for defensive backs with the league trying to minimize the amount of shoving and grabbing that takes place beyond the 5-yard zone in which contact is allowed.

Pass interference and illegal contact penalties called on defensive backs are up across the board, and the Steelers were flagged six times for those penalties in a 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night.

The conventional thinking is that both infractions are being rigorously enforced in the preseason so players can adjust to the point of emphasis in the regular season. Whether penalties for illegal contact and pass interference will subside once the games start counting remains to be seen.

The reality is that is has become even harder to play defensive back, and cornerback in particular, as William Gay found out in Philadelphia.

Gay was flagged twice for defensive holding in Philadelphia though the eighth-year veteran did not grouse about one of the NFL’s point of emphasis two days after the loss to the Eagles.

“Flags have been thrown since the game started so we just try to work on our skills and get better for the season,” Gay said. “The refs have a job. We have a job.”

Included in the point of emphasis on passing plays is watching for wide receiver who push off to gain an advantage. But if the Steelers’ first three preseason games are any indication the bulk of the calls for illegal contact have been made against defensive backs.

“They’re saying we’re going to have to adjust our game, kind of like the hitting up high, but it’s just so hard to do," Mitchell said. “Someone pushes you, you usually pull them but if you’re calling it every time you pull but you’re not calling it every time you push it’s going to be hard. It’s an offensive league, that’s kind of what they want. We just all have to adjust our games to play accordingly.”
PITTSBURGH -- Brett Keisel isn’t thinking about his first game even though the Pittsburgh Steelers open the regular season in two weeks.

“I’d like to get a padded practice first and go from there,” he said.

A padded practice will be Keisel’s first step toward getting into the football shape necessary for the veteran defensive end to play significant snaps -- or even start -- Sept. 7 against the visiting Browns.

Keisel re-signed with the Steelers last Wednesday, and coach Mike Tomlin said the 6-6, 285-pounder is in “great shape.” But Keisel acknowledged he has to work himself into a different kind of shape.

“The stop and go, the change of direction, stuff like that: There’s certain things you can do (in training) but really until you play the game, you’re not going to be in the type of shape you need to be to be a good, consistent player,” said Keisel, who took part in the light practice that the Steelers held this past Wednesday, the day before they played the Philadelphia Eagles. “As far as cardio and strength I feel good. It’s just getting back to my technique, making sure I’m playing with good pad level and using my hands right and those types of things that make a good defensive lineman.”

Keisel said he has enough time to get in shape, and he is hoping to get extended playing time Thursday night in the Steelers’ final preseason games against the visiting Carolina Panthers.

“But that’s up to coach (Tomlin), what he wants to do,” Keisel said.

A couple of injury updates:
  • Defensive end Cameron Heyward said he is fine after spraining his ankle in the Steelers’ 31-21 loss to the Eagles this past Thursday. “I can’t talk about it but working towards playing this week,” Heyward said. Linebackers Sean Spence and Jason Worilds each sustained knee injuries in the loss to the Eagles, but neither are believed to be serious. Per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Spence won’t need surgery to repair the posterior collateral ligament (PCL) he hurt in his right knee.
  • Lance Moore did not play last Thursday night because of what the veteran wide receiver called “tightness” in his leg. Moore would not specify whether he experienced tightness in his groin or hamstring. “It was kind of a situation where they don’t want to potentially make something worse if they don’t have to,” Moore said of not playing in Philadelphia, “and obviously it was a chance for some of the other guys to get some more time and try to get me back to 100 percent.”
PITTSBURGH -- Snoop Dogg voiced his displeasure with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night in a profanity-laced video he posted on Instagram, and the famous rapper directed his ire at offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

Haley’s response?

He will try to get Snoop Dogg to cool down -- literally.

Haley plans to take the Ice Bucket Challenge and then challenge Snoop Dogg to do the same, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised millions of dollars and become a national phenomenon because of how it gets passed along.

People who volunteer to have a bucket of ice water dumped on them challenge others to do the same after they have received their cold shower or donated $100 to ALS research.

Many who have participated in the fundraiser have done both, and Haley will also use it to have a little fun with Snoop Dogg, a noted Steelers fan.

Snoop Dogg ripped Haley during the Steelers’ 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and he called on coach Mike Tomlin to fire Haley, who is in his third season as offensive coordinator.

The Steelers’ starters did not score a touchdown against the Eagles until the third quarter, after Philadelphia had scored the game’s first 24 points on the way to the easy win.

“Obviously, we didn’t play very well,” Steelers tight end Heath Miller said. “It took us three quarters to get on the board and I think we would all agree that we are better than that.”

Miller did not advocate anything as extreme as Snoop Dogg.

He and the rest of the Steelers watched film from the loss to the Eagles Saturday afternoon at team headquarters.

“Often times [a loss] is never as bad as you think it is and hopefully that’s the case,” Miller said. “We were on the verge of points a couple of times and we just didn’t finish off. We’ll be excited to get back at it.”
PITTSBURGH – That the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive starters were yelling at each other on the sidelines last Thursday night is not surprising.

That one of the quietest players on the team was among those shouting might qualify as shocking.

And Troy Polamalu’s rant is at least telling of how poorly the Steelers’ defense played in a 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I hope everyone appreciates it because you don’t hear (that) from him real often,” Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward said Saturday. “If anybody’s going to do that, I appreciate Troy doing it, because he’s been in this. It’s not like he’s going to take plays off. He wants to be great and now, and everybody should want to be great now.”

The Steelers were anything but great in in their third preseason game.

They allowed the Eagles to go up and down the field and score 24 unanswered points on the way to an easy victory. The game raised concerns that for all of the changes the Steelers have made on defense, they won’t be appreciably better on that side of the ball following consecutive 8-8 seasons.

“It wasn’t good, obviously,” Polamalu said of the loss to the Eagles.

The eight-time Pro Bowl safety tried to downplay his rare outburst, which happened in the third quarter, and he was considerably more muted on Saturday than he was on the sidelines two nights earlier.

“I try to play the game with emotion,” Polamalu said before the Steelers reviewed film from the Eagles’ loss. “There’s a lot of room for improvement. Guys were definitely playing with urgency, but we’ll see when we watch the film.”

When asked if the message Polamalu sent by turning up the volume has resonated with the Steelers’ defensive players, Heyward said, “If it doesn’t, what are we doing? It just shows he cares. When someone wants more from you, the whole defense has to step up. We’ve got guys that really care about this defense, guys who have been in this defense. It’s up to everybody to play with that sense of pride.”

And play better.

“Hopefully that’s not a telling story of how we’ll be this year,” Polamalu said of the Steelers’ defensive showing in Philadelphia. “Hopefully we’ll be able to learn from these mistakes and get better.”
PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin did not have to review film from the 31-21 loss at Philadelphia on Thursday night to identify one of the many areas where the Pittsburgh Steelers came up short following their trip across the state.

“In a nutshell not enough guys coming off blocks and making tackles,” the Steelers coach said. “Defensive football is very simple at times. It’s about defeating blocks and making tackles.”

The Steelers did not do nearly enough of that against the Eagles.

And they have been lacking in that critical component of defense the entire preseason.

The Eagles gashed the Steelers for 182 rushing yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. They were still able to run the ball at will even after LeSean McCoy left the game after the second series with a thumb injury.

And the Eagles’ success on the ground was not an aberration.

The Steelers have given up 4.8 yards per carry in three games. What is troubling about that is they yielded 115.6 rushing yards per game last season, so it’s not like the Steelers can expect to just begin stopping the run once the games start counting.

“I think this humbled us,” starting nose tackle Steve McLendon said. “We’re going to watch film, we’re going to correct it and we’re going to get better from this.”

Ryan Shazier echoed similar sentiments after the rookie inside linebacker didn’t play nearly as well as he had last Saturday night in his NFL debut.

“We were feeling pretty good coming in and but [the loss] really showed us that we have to get back in the office and keep working,” Shazier said. “It will humble us a little bit.”

A review of the film from the loss should give the Steelers a better idea of what they need to clean up.

It should also heighten the urgency in practice this week even though the starters will be sparingly if at all Thursday night against the visiting Carolina Panthers in the final preseason game.

“We have to play for the team. We have to play for each other,” McLendon said. “We can’t let this distract us from our goal. We all know what the common goal is.”

They also know that the Steelers have no chance at that goal -- competing for a seventh Super Bowl title -- if they can’t do something as basic as stopping the run.