Mike Tomlin spent time between the Super Bowl and training camp studying offenses in the NFL and found one he would like the Steelers to emulate: the New England Patriots.
"I think the great teams are capable of winning in many forms or fashion and playing to their strengths on a week-to-week basis based on a matchup," Tomlin said yesterday. "I thought a great deal about that, frankly, this offseason.
"You study a team like New England, and they walk into a stadium offensively, and week to week they can be whatever they choose to be. They can beat you in three wides, four wides, three tight ends, and it makes them very difficult to prepare for and ultimately beat."
Who wouldn't want to have an offense like that? The last time the Patriots went through a season with Tom Brady at quarterback (2007), they scored 589 points, an average of 36.8 per game when they went 18-0 right up until the New York Giants upset them in Super Bowl XLII.
Brady threw 50 touchdown passes and for 4,806 yards, and the Patriots scored 17 more touchdowns rushing with 1,849 yards on the ground that season.
The Steelers' offense has a long way to go to reach those proportions, but it does not mean Tomlin and coordinator Bruce Arians cannot aspire to it.
"We've got a desire to win a bunch of games," Tomlin said. "We've got a bunch of guys capable of making plays. We've got three and four wideouts that we're comfortable with, two and three tight ends that we're comfortable with, two or three backs that we're comfortable with. We want to create that same persona."
The Steelers have not accomplished that goal on offense after two games. They rank in the middle of the pack in the NFL (16th) in total yards and 29th in total points (27).
They also have not struck the kind of balance Tomlin would like to see them achieve. They average 262 yards passing per game and just 70.5 rushing. They have attempted 84 passes (six resulting in sacks) and 45 runs, three of them scrambles by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
But it's early.
"I think two weeks in is too early to place a persona on anyone," Tomlin stated. "I think over time it will become obvious what we are, and we're not interested in giving anybody a heads up. ...
"You can't truly be successful unless you have some form of balance. Ultimately, though, we're interested in winning football games."
Tomlin did not mention Santonio Holmes among the injured at his news conference, but the NFL's second-leading receiver was spotted wearing some kind of small cast on his left wrist at the Steelers' headquarters yesterday.
It might be merely something to keep the wrist stabilized for a few days, but it is notable. Monday, Holmes wore a big wrap on the wrist that looked as though he were icing it.
Holmes acknowledged Sunday that he injured his left wrist while bracing himself when he hit the ground against the Chicago Bears. He and Steve Smith are tied for second in the NFL with 214 yards receiving behind leader Dallas Clark's 222 for Indianapolis.
Holmes dropped three passes Sunday in the rain in Chicago, one in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Lawrence Timmons likely will start at inside linebacker Sunday in Cincinnati. He missed the opener with a high ankle sprain and played mostly in the nickel defense in Chicago.
Tomlin said he had Timmons on a "snap count" Sunday to ease him back into the field of play. Timmons did well in his limited play with three quarterback pressures, two passes defensed and two tackles.
"The way that we chose to monitor that is we let Keyaron Fox play in base and him work in nickel to a certain degree, and then we balanced it out by having Lawrence play base to get more work," Tomlin said. "I thought it went relatively well. He played a decent number of snaps. Both contributed on special teams.
"I think with another week of work he's going to be ready to go and proceed there without worrying about snap total."
Tyrone Carter, playing for injured Troy Polamalu at strong safety, has a bruised left thigh, but Tomlin thinks he could practice by tomorrow.
"If he can't go, Ryan Mundy steps up, and he's been playing some for us in sub-package football," Tomlin said. "We also have some veteran corners who have position flexibility in Deshea Townsend and Keiwan Ratliff."
Also, wide receiver Limas Sweed, who missed the game in Chicago with a sprained foot, ran yesterday and should be ready to go, according to the coach.
Well, they're both 1-1