On the Steelers: Mike Tomlin is a man with a plan

Listen up: Mike Tomlin is using his weekly news conference to deliver messages to his players



Mike Tomlin's news conference has turned into a must-watch television and must-listen radio show this season, not so much for the media or Steelers fans but for the coach's players.

He sends out more messages to his players over that 20 minutes or so every Tuesday at noon than he has on his Twitter account, which has been dormant since Oct. 3, when his last message was "Let's Go Buccos."

Take, for instance, what he had to say Tuesday about punter Zoltan Mesko.

Tomlin talks about Timmons' injury, running game

At his news conference today, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin talked about Lawrence Timmons' broken hand, the release of Isaac Redman and other topics. The PG's Ed Bouchette puts it all in context. (Video by Steve Mellon; 10/22/2013)

"He's been inconsistent. Just about every game over the last three games, he's had what you call a 'junior-varsity' punt. Thankfully, we only punted once in the game from a collective standpoint. Obviously, negatively for him, he didn't get an opportunity to redeem himself from that punt. We need more consistency there."

Mesko might want to take note of his coach's words.

So, too, should cornerback Curtis Brown, a third-round pick in 2011, who did not suit up for the game Sunday against Baltimore: "Curtis is a top-flight special teams player but hadn't been playing that way over the last several weeks."

He went on to criticize his offense for pre-snap penalties and his defense for allowing four third-down conversions by the Ravens on their 73-yard drive that tied the score, 16-16, with 1:58 to go.

But not all the messages Tomlin sends his players are negative. A week earlier, he called rookie halfback Le'Veon Bell "great" for his play against the New York Jets, when he gained just 34 yards on 16 carries. After Bell ran for 93 yards on 19 carries against the Ravens, Tomlin, in the middle of his postgame news conference, asked if anyone had any questions about Bell.

He explained Tuesday that his message was directed to Bell.

"You guys know that I don't care what it is you say or write, but I realize that he is a young guy and he may. So, I felt the need to assure him that he was doing the right things a week ago and he's doing what we're asking him to do in the manner in which we're asking him to do it.

"I don't want him listening to the elevator music. I want him listening to what matters, and that's the opinion of the people that evaluate him. So, that's why I took the stance that I took last week in regards to some of the things written and said about how he plays, because I don't want him to pay attention to that."

After all, what are news conferences for but to talk to your players?

Injury updates

Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons paid for his 17 tackles against the Baltimore Ravens with a broken hand that occurred in the third or fourth quarter, Tomlin said.

It won't stop him from playing Sunday against the Raiders in Oakland, though. He will play with a cast on it.

Timmons has a wide lead with 66 tackles for the Steelers, an average of 11 per game. Safety Ryan Clark is second (44). Timmons also has one of the team's two interceptions.

Both starting tackles are on the injury list: Kelvin Beachum with a rib injury and Marcus Gilbert with the quad injury that drove him from the game against the Ravens.

Other injured players who might be limited in practice but should play Sunday are outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (knee), defensive end Brett Keisel (ribs) and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (abdomen). Defensive end Cameron Heyward is sick but should be OK to play.

Rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton will miss his third consecutive game with a broken pinky finger. Richard Gordon, the tight end the Steelers signed last week who then missed the game with a toe injury, is questionable again this week.

Sean Spence, who came off the physically unable to perform list to practice last week for the first time since his devastating knee injury in the final preseason game of 2012, had another setback in practice last week. He came down with a hand injury that Tomlin said was "medically fixed."

About those finishes ...

Ben Roethlisberger has now led 31 winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime when his team either was tied or behind, all but three in the regular season.

He directed three last season, including his most recent one before Sunday. That came Nov. 4, 2012, when, down, 20-17, against the New York Giants, the Steelers moved 51 yards on nine plays and scored the winning touchdown on Isaac Redman's 1-yard run with four minutes left.

Roethlisberger threw interceptions late in two other games last season, however, that led to losses in Dallas and at home against Cincinnati.

"That was exciting," Roethlisberger said of the winning drive Sunday that ended with Shaun Suisham's 42-yard field goal as time expired. "Obviously, you do not want to be in that situation. To get the ball, tied with two timeouts, you just have confidence."

Quick hits

* The Steelers signed former University of Cincinnati running back George Winn (5-11, 210) to their practice squad. This will be the fourth team for the rookie, who signed with Houston after he went undrafted. They cut him before camp, New England signed him and cut him, and he most recently was on the practice squad of the Oakland Raiders. He ran for 1,204 yards on 227 carries last year for the Bearcats.

* Antonio Brown's 47 receptions are the most by a Steelers receiver through the first six games of the season, at least since 1960. Hines Ward had 43 in 2004 after six games.

* Heath Miller became the fifth player and first tight end to catch 40 touchdown passes for the Steelers. Next up: Buddy Dial, with 42. Ward holds the team record at 86.

* Shaun Suisham has kicked the winning field goal six times with the Steelers -- two in overtime, three with no time left in regulation and one with four seconds left in regulation. He has eight in his career, the other two coming in overtime in 2007.

Steelers - Mike Tomlin - tomlin - zoltan mesko - curtis brown - lawrence timmons - brett kiesel - isaac redman

Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.

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