Steelers notebook: Toussaint steps into the spotlight
January 5, 2016 2:01 PM
Fitzgerald Toussaint, above, will fill in for DeAngelo Williams if Williams' ankle injury keeps him out of the lineup against Cincinnati on Saturday night.
Fitzgerald Toussaint runs the ball in the Steelers win against Cleveland on Sunday.
DeAngelo Williams holds his right ankle, which was injured in the first half of Sunday's game at Cleveland.
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers are preparing for their AFC wild-card game against the Cincinnati Bengals with the assumption that reserve Fitzgerald Toussaint will be the featured back. Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference that starting running back DeAngelo Williams is day-to-day with a right foot injury, but the Steelers will proceed as if Toussaint will be the starter Saturday night and Jordan Todman will be his backup when the Steelers visit Paul Brown Stadium.
“DeAngelo is being evaluated and getting treatment,” Tomlin said. “I don’t know what his availability will be in terms of the game. Like we do in all instances, we will let practice participation be our guide in terms of what to expect from him. We will give him an opportunity to do that if he is capable. … In the meanwhile, I think it’s appropriate to build our plan around Toussaint and Jordan Todman, guys that have been here, guys that are healthy and guys that are willing and capable of being positive contributors to our efforts.”
Tomlin: Toussaint likely featured running back against Bengals
Mike Tomlin said in his weekly news conference that Fitzgerald Toussaint likely will be Steelers' featured running back against Bengals. (Video by Andrew Rush; 1/5/2015)
Toussaint filled in for Williams after he was injured in the first quarter of the regular-season finale against the Browns. He finished the game with 24 yards on 12 carries, but Tomlin and the other players on the roster are big believers in Toussaint, who spent most of the season on the practice squad before being elevated to the active roster late in the season.
“I thought he did a rock-solid job,” Tomlin said. “I am not surprised by that. He is a diligent worker. He brings a business-like approach. I think he’s one of those guys that everybody is excited about seeing play. They are excited about seeing him get an opportunity because he’s a guy that doesn’t say much. He’s extremely low maintenance. He really works hard to put himself in position to be a positive asset to us when given the opportunity. He was given that on Sunday, and he delivered.”
In the wake of Williams’ injury, the Steelers signed running back Abou Toure to their practice squad to provide some depth at the position. They could elevate running back Raijon Neal from their practice squad to the active roster this week.
Tomlin reported no other major injuries from the finale against Cleveland. He does not anticipate outside linebacker Jarvis Jones having any issues this week after he played just 13 snaps against the Browns. The same goes for receiver Martavis Bryant, who dealt with an illness and a minor neck injury against the Browns and played only 12 snaps.
Keeping them fresh
The Steelers have been using a variety of players on defense at almost every position. Tomlin said it is an approach that keeps players engaged.
Against the Browns, starting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier played 62 snaps but occasionally was replaced by Vince Williams or Sean Spence, who played 12 and nine snaps, respectively.
There has been a rotation all season at outside linebacker and for the second half of the season at cornerback. Safety Robert Golden has been utilized as a sixth defensive back in some packages as well.
“Vince has been a capable guy, he had a good week of practice,” Tomlin said. “The game was unfolding, and it fed into his skill set. Vince is a high-energy guy, a good communicator, a guy who’s at his best in some of those circumstances. We’re going to continue to work to try to be inclusive with all of those guys.”
Tomlin said he is not concerned about his players being overemotional for the third meeting of the season against the Bengals. When these two teams met Dec. 13 in Cincinnati the NFL doled out nearly $150,000 in fines for illegal hits.
Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict accumulated nearly $70,000 in fines for three illegal hits against the Steelers, but several Steelers players were fined in that game as well, including safety Mike Mitchell for $23,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert.
“I know our group,” Tomlin said. “We’re singularly focused on the opportunity of the playoffs and that’s winning games.”
Bengals march on with McCarron
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said again Tuesday he is preparing AJ McCarron to be his starting quarterback against the Steelers.
The Steelers never have prepared a game plan specifically for McCarron, but Tomlin said their approach won’t change much this week because the Bengals haven’t changed their approach since Andy Dalton exited the lineup with his thumb injury.
“I see very little schematic difference in terms of how they’re attacking people, whether he’s in there or whether Andy is in there,” Tomlin said. “It’s probably a compliment not only to him and his preparation and his ability to learn and prepare on a limited number of snaps, but also to their coaching staff. Hue Jackson and those guys, they’re teachers. Their program hasn’t skipped a beat.”
The Bengals are 2-1 with McCarron as their starting quarterback.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.
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