Mike Tomlin, a graduate of the College of William & Mary, an erudite man of many words, invoked one tiny adjective three times in a 19-minute news conference in reference to the Steelers' game Sunday: big.
"Got a big AFC North matchup this week vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, who, of course, are atop the division," the Steelers' coach said yesterday, barely eight hours after returning from a 28-10 road triumph against Denver. "A very hot football team. Respect those guys."
Tomlin later reiterated that this upcoming Heinz Field collision with similarly 6-2 Cincinnati is a "critical matchup" and another instance of "classic AFC North warfare."
Sure, it partly was a motivational ploy to rally his spent troops so soon after they recorded their first road victory this season against a team with a winning record, the heretofore 6-1 Broncos.
"That was a big win for our football team. Something that's absolutely necessary," Tomlin said, measuring a team that won at Detroit but lost at Chicago and at Cincinnati. "You've got to be able to go on the road and win games vs. quality opponents. That's something we hadn't done until [Monday] night."
That was old news, though. Tomlin said the Steelers could not afford to turn back the clock any further.
"We got a short week," he said, adding that he expected to rest several veterans and keep them from practice today. "[Move on] right to Cincinnati. You have to. Time is of the essence. We're on a running clock, man. We're 30-plus hours behind those guys from a preparation standpoint.
"Not going to complain about it. ... The standard will be the standard for us on Sunday."
Tomlin pronounced lightly played fullback Carey Davis "the only significant injury" and ruled him most likely out for the Sunday game, though he admitted there is "not much clarity" to the medical report so soon after the Monday night game.
"I can pretty much imagine it's going to be tough for him to participate this week," Tomlin said. "Usually when you pop a hamstring ... very rarely are you capable of participating the next week."
After that, though, Tomlin wasn't able to report on any of what he termed "minor" aches and pains gained in beating the Broncos. Safety Ryan Clark was held out Monday as a precaution because of his sickle-cell trait that resulted in surgery that removed his spleen and gall bladder two years ago after a game in Denver, but Tomlin wasn't yet sure about the availability this week of defensive end Travis Kirschke and linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Kirschke (calf) and Timmons (ankle) each missed a second consecutive game due to injuries.
"Don't know at this point," Tomlin said. "Really don't know because we haven't had an opportunity to visit with those guys since we've returned from Denver."
On another front, Tomlin declined to talk about the availability of a former Pro Bowl running back who long has wished to play for the Steelers: Larry Johnson of Penn State. Johnson was released by the Kansas City Chiefs Monday after his second suspension in a year.
NOTE-- ESPN reported that the Steelers-Broncos broadcast garnered the second-largest cable audience this year -- behind the Oct. 5 Green Bay-Minnesota game -- and the fifth most-viewed telecast in cable-TV history.
Chuck Finder can be reached at email@example.com .