Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, right, practices hand off to runningback Jonathan Dwyer as offensive coordinator Todd Haley tries to get out of the way during practice Wednesday on the South Side.
We can only wonder if Ben Roethlisberger will start some sort of practice fashion trend with his pantleg up/pantleg down ensemble Wednesday as the team began on-field preparations for the game against the Bengals Sunday at Heinz Field.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ben Roethlisberger offered an apology, but Rashard Mendenhall did not in the latest episode of As The Steelers Turn.
The soap opera that has been the 2012 season took another twist when Roethlisberger apologized, not necessarily for what he said after the loss Sunday against Dallas that some took as criticism of coordinator Todd Haley, but for his words being misinterpreted and causing a "storm."
"I came in and I apologized to Todd, I apologized to Mike [Tomlin] and I apologized to Mr. Rooney because I let my frustrations jump out after a game," Roethlisberger said. "I don't usually do that. Usually, I keep it under control. I was just frustrated with myself and I'll be better at that."
After his interception in overtime set up the winning score in their 27-24 loss against Dallas, Roethlisberger accepted blame. He also mentioned a call was made on a 30-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller that turned out not to be a good call because the Cowboys dropped into a prevent defense.
It was not a criticism of the original play-call, Roethlisberger said.
"What I said was they called a prevent defense and the play we had called was not a good play call. The play was called before we saw the defense. They just came out in a defense that had us thumped. There was nothing we could do. We just improvised and made a play. It had nothing to do with seeing a defense and calling a bad play. It was just that the play that was called, they ran the perfect defense for it. We improvised, and Heath made a play."
As for his comments that they stopped throwing to Miller in the second half after he caught six passes in the first, Roethlisberger explained it this way:
"Any time you have a pass play, you have multiple options. We usually don't just send one guy out. There's probably opportunities that anybody can get the ball, whether they're open, whether they're covered, whether I don't see them, there are always things that are like that. There were probably times that I didn't see Heath in the second half that he was open, as with Mike [Wallace], Antonio [Brown], Emmanuel [Sanders], and anybody else that was out there."
Mendenhall made no apologies for skipping the Dec. 9 game at Heinz Field, an action that resulted in a one-week suspension (and loss of $41,000 in salary) from Tomlin that ended Monday.
"I'm really not trying to go back into that," Mendenhall said. "It's good to be back."
But when told that Tomlin used the word "frustration" to describe how Mendenhall felt, the halfback disputed that.
"I wouldn't use that word," Mendenhall said about his reasons for not attending the game. "There's a lot of thought that goes into everything that I do."
Mendenhall practiced Wednesday. Tomlin has not indicated whether Mendenhall will dress Sunday against Cincinnati.
More runs on menu
The Steelers appear to have abandoned the running game lately, and all involved said they need to get back to doing what they did at midseason, running it effectively and more often.
"Some games, it feels like we just go away from it," said Isaac Redman, who ran for 147 yards Nov. 4 against the New York Giants. "We didn't run the ball bad [vs. Dallas], we weren't getting smashed the last game, we just didn't run it that much. We had 16 or 17 runs. When we were winning games, we were up in the 30 mark and we pretty much win when we do that. Hopefully, we can get back to that."
The Steelers ran 17 times for 69 yards in each of the past two losses. Redman had three carries for 30 yards against Dallas, Jonathan Dwyer had 9 for 22. Dwyer also said they need to stick more to the ground and not go away from it.
"Just keep implementing it throughout the game with our passing game."
Redman said Haley wants to run the ball more Sunday.
"Coach Haley said we need to run it more Last week wasn't enough runs. So, hopefully, we emphasize trying to get the ball to the running backs' hands a little more."
Dwyer said he believes he will remain the starting halfback for the third consecutive week. "Right now, that's what I am and what I'll prepare myself to be. They haven't told me that I wasn't."
Another test for Lewis
Except for one play, a perfectly thrown, 24-yard touchdown reception along the sideline, cornerback Keenan Lewis did a nice job covering Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant last week. Bryant had three other catches for 35 yards.
Lewis will get the chance to cover another Pro Bowl-caliber receiver exclusively Sunday, Cincinnati's A.J. Green, who was limited to one catch for an 8-yard touchdown by Ike Taylor Oct. 21. Taylor won't play, but he's sharing his knowledge of Green with Lewis this week.
"We're going to sit down and go over the game plan like we always do," said Lewis. "He helped me out tremendously."
Lewis leads all NFL cornerbacks in passes defensed, according to Pro Football Focus. The Steelers coaches list him with 26.
King eyes fast track
Cornerback Justin King practiced with his hometown team for the first time Wednesday and believes he can get up to speed quickly and help them out.
"I can help immediately on special teams and on defense; it's just a matter of picking up the schemes and learning different terminology," said King, who played at Gateway High School and Penn State. "It's little surreal to be here now, I've come full circle."
Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward did not practice Wednesday. The Steelers gave no reason other than it was not because of an injury. Safety Troy Polamalu was rested and defensive lineman Al Woods was sick. Lewis, Sanders and offensive tackle Mike Adams were limited in practice. Cortez Allen, who did not play last week because of a groin injury, went through a full practice and is on pace to start at cornerback.