Despite his team’s poor performance last week in Philadelphia, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said today he will not change his approach and demand more from his starters in Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.
“I don’t live in my fears,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin said he will rest a number of players, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, safety Troy Polamalu and defensive end Cam Heyward, and hold out others who have been bothered by injuries, such as outside linebacker Jason Worilds, receiver Lance Moore and inside linebacker Sean Spence.
“We want to have a good performance, win the game, regardless who is on the field for us,” Tomlin said. “It’s important to finish on the upswing.”
Tomlin said third-team quarterback Landry Jones will get the majority of snaps against the Panthers, though he said he is undecided about whether he will start. However, Tomlin pointed out that Jones, a fourth-round choice in 2013, started last year’s preseason finale in Carolina.
“I’m not opposed to [him starting],” Tomlin said. “I need to see just consistent, above-the-line play from him.”
Defensive end Brett Keisel, who was signed last week and returns for his 12th season with the Steelers, will play. Keisel was in uniform in Philadelphia but did not play, though he said, “I was tempted to run on the field.”
“I’m interested in taking him to the deep end of the pool to see if he can swim,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin said one of the most significant aspects of the preseason finale will be determining which players win spots on the 53-man roster based on their special-teams play. One of those is veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who caught his first three passes of the preseason against the Eagles, including a 33-yard touchdown.
“I’m just as pleased what he’s done on special teams as he has at wide receiver – some things, quite frankly, I didn’t know he had,” Tomlin said. “It’s attractive.”
Because the teams will meet again in Week 3 of the regular season, Tomlin said he will not show many of his offensive and defensive looks against the Panthers.
“I’m sure they’ll do the same,” he said.
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com; twitter: @gerrydulac