Tomlin says Steelers hope to rectify 0-2 start

ON THE STEELERS

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A few weeks back, Ben Roethlisberger said he loved his team being under the radar.

"That's fine with me, I like being the hunter," Roethlisberger said as the season opener approached.

He must then be delirious with the Steelers' situation today.

They've gone from under the radar to under water, on the brink of disappearing from the landscape known as winning football.

At 0-2, the Steelers already are in a position that has proven difficult to overcome and reach the playoffs, but 22 teams have done so since 1990 including the Steelers in 1993 and 2002.

But go 0-3, and the task turns Herculean -- only three teams have lost their first three and reached the postseason, and none has done it since 1998.

"We understand what that is," Mike Tomlin said of his team's 0-2 record. "We are working hard to rectify that."

If the past is any inspiration to them, the present is not.

The Steelers have the second-worst running game in the NFL, the second-fewest yards produced on offense and the third-fewest points scored of any team in the league.

For all the faults on defense as well -- no turnovers, one sack and an unusual number of yards on the run allowed -- Tomlin put the blame squarely on his offense for much of the poor start.

"Probably, the most significant of reasons is that we aren't scoring enough points -- 19 points in two football games is not going to win a lot of football in this league. If you would have told me we would have scored 19 points through the first two games, I would have told you we would have had an opportunity to be 0-2."

That's an opportunity not lost.

Tomlin did not specifically answer a question about whether he thought there was a problem with the play-calling on offense.

"There's been a problem with our functioning," Tomlin said. "There's been a problem with our production. There's been a problem with our points. You can point to whatever you want to point to in regards to that, and, obviously, if the plays aren't working well, then we're susceptible to that judgment."

Miller to try full practice

Tomlin will put tight end Heath Miller through full practices with the offense this week, and it's possible he could make his 2013 debut against the Chicago Bears Sunday night at Heinz Field.

"Make no mistake, we are not expecting Heath to step out of a phone booth with a cape on," Tomlin said.

"But we are looking forward to watching him work and let the result of that work guide us in terms of how we proceed throughout the week."

Miller, the team's MVP in 2012, led them in receptions last season and the tight-end position has been a mess without him as he recovers from triple knee ligament damage.

Veteran Matt Spaeth, re-signed to be the No. 2 tight end, is on the short-term injured-reserve list with a Lisfranc foot injury.

Starter David Paulson caught his first pass this season Monday night, good for 34 yards, and then promptly fumbled the ball away at the Bengals 16.

"Obviously, he is a good player and is going to be a positive contributor to our efforts when he comes back," Tomlin said of Miller. "But we aren't sitting around holding our breath waiting for him to come back."

RB Jones shows good signs

Felix Jones might get his second consecutive start Sunday night at halfback against the Chicago Bears and not because of injury this time.

"Our running game, obviously, is below the line," Tomlin said. "But I was encouraged by some of the things Felix Jones was able to do and probably will be able to do moving forward."

Jones started unexpectedly against the Cincinnati Bengals Monday night after starter Isaac Redman was hit in the head on the opening kickoff. Redman returned to play in the second quarter but ran just three times for 4 yards. Jones, who did not have a carry in the opener, ran 10 times for 37 yards in Cincinnati, including a draw play in the fourth quarter that gained 14.

Those totals lead the Steelers after two games.

Until rookie Le'Veon Bell's right foot heals and he works his way back into the lineup, Jones could be No. 1.

"I was encouraged by some of the things that Felix did, specifically knowing when to bounce the ball to the perimeter, knowing when to stick his foot in the ground and get vertical and take what's there, and when to challenge people," Tomlin said. "I thought he showed some natural run instincts and some things that are exciting and we can build from."

CB is added to roster

As expected, the Steelers cut veteran kicker Shayne Graham. What was perhaps unexpected, they added another cornerback rather than a linebacker to their 53-man roster. They signed Isaiah Green from their practice squad.

They signed Graham last week as insurance because kicker Shaun Suisham had a hamstring injury. Suisham, however, was deemed healthy enough to play Monday in Cincinnati and kicked a 44-yard field goal. Graham, inactive for the game, earned $55,000 for his efforts on the practice field last week.

Tripping call irks Tomlin

Four times, Tomlin mentioned his disagreement with the penalty called against tackle Marcus Gilbert that negated a 33-yard pass to Antonio Brown that would have given the Steelers a first down at the Cincinnati 30 with the score tied, 10-10, in the third quarter.

"It wasn't a trip" he said, then called it a "poor call" and that "it wasn't the correct call."

Asked if he might receive an apology from the league on it, "I don't have to wait for a phone call or a letter to know about that call."

More injury updates

In other injury developments, Tomlin said:

• Cornerback Curtis Brown should be fine this week after missing the game Monday night with an unannounced illness.

• He is optimistic that cornerback Cortez Allen will return from the ankle injury that sidelined him Monday, although he has not yet been evaluated this week.

• Bell "is going to ramp up his activity" in individual work and maybe more.

• The following have injuries that could curtail their practice starting today but not their participation Sunday night: Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (heal), defensive end Brett Keisel (calf) and nose tackle Steve McLendon (hamstring).

Steelers

For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.


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