Steelers Notebook: Familiarity trumps experience this year
January 8, 2016 12:00 AM
Steelers running back Fitzgerald Toussaint practices at the team's South Side training facility on Thursday, January 7, 2016.
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
DeAngelo Williams missed practice for a second consecutive day after injuring his right foot in the regular-season finale at Cleveland, moving the Steelers one step closer to starting second-year running back Fitzgerald Toussaint in his place Saturday night in an AFC wild-card game against the Bengals in Cincinnati.
It’s the second consecutive season offensive coordinator Todd Haley is formulating a game plan for a playoff game after losing his starting back in the final game of the regular season, but he said Thursday he feels much more comfortable with his backups this year.
A year ago, Le’Veon Bell could not play against the Ravens due to an injured knee, and the Steelers signed Ben Tate off the street to take his place four days before the game. The Steelers decided this year to go with players who had been on the roster and are familiar with the playbook.
“I think this year and last year are different from that standpoint,” Haley said. “Last year, we had a guy in Dri [Archer] who knew what to do, but some of those physical matchups were going to be an issue. We had a guy who hadn’t been here and didn’t understand protections, so it forced us into a corner as far as some the things we wanted to do on game day.
“I think everyone feels a lot better that way. We have a guy who has been around, is smart, knows what’s expected, knows and understands protections, understands the runs, understands the language we’re using, and I think it shows. I think everyone has a good comfort level that way.”
Haley on Bryant
Haley had no issue withquarterback Ben Roethlisberger calling out wide receiver Martavis Bryant publicly.
“Not at all,” he said. “I think that’s the leader of the team. I think it shows growth in Ben, and, at the same time, trust. He knows we need all these guys, and, at the same time, he’s just trying to get the most out of them all. He’s not trying to break them down. He trusts that these guys are there for him and he just wants the best out of them just like we do.”
Haley noticed a different demeanor in Bryant after hearing from Roethlisberger.
“Last week was a difficult week for him, missing a couple of days of practice and then getting nicked up early in the game,” Haley said. “He wants to do well. He wants to be part of this. He wants to come in with a renewed focus and show that he can be a part of helping us win.”
Brown, Boswell honored
Antonio Brown and Chris Boswell earned AFC player of the month honors for December and January. Brown was the offensive player of the month for the second consecutive month and Boswell was special teams player of the month.
Brown led the NFL in December and January in receptions (51), receiving yards (642) and first downs (34). He also had five touchdown catches. His 51 catches in the final five regular-season games are the most in NFL history over the final five games of the season.
Boswell, a first-year place-kicker, led all kickers in field goals made (12) and points in December and January.
Other than Williams, no other Steelers missed practice due to an injury. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (thumb) and tight end Ryan Hewitt (knee) did not practice Thursday.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.
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