On the Steelers: Tomlin promises changes to lineup
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin: "Moving forward this week and beyond, we can't continue to do what we've been doing and assume that that pattern of behavior is going to change and those outcomes are going to change."
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Since his players did not respond to "Redemption Sunday" in Baltimore and "unleash hell" against Oakland in Heinz Field, coach Mike Tomlin has decided to take things into his own hands.
He stuck no catchy name on this one but implied he will make changes in his lineup for Thursday night's game in Cleveland.
"It's appropriate at this point to acknowledge we have an undesirable pattern of behavior, which produces a series of outcomes that are not what we're looking for," Tomlin said a day after his Super Bowl champs lost their fourth consecutive game to slip to 6-6.
"Moving forward this week and beyond, we can't continue to do what we've been doing and assume that that pattern of behavior is going to change and those outcomes are going to change. So we're analyzing all aspects of what we're doing here, specifically this week, and are going to be aggressive in terms of looking at potential changes in not only what we do schematically, but who we have do it in all three phases."
Tomlin quickly mentioned his two rookie cornerbacks as most likely to benefit from a change in lineup. Joe Burnett, who dropped an interception that would have staved off Oakland's comeback victory drive with 40 seconds left Sunday, probably will start at left cornerback, whether William Gay (concussion) can play or not.
"It's going to be Joe Burnett," Tomlin said. "Keenan Lewis is going to get an opportunity to play. We want to see both of those guys. They're young guys; they've been working. We want to see both of those guys play."
He indicated that veteran starting cornerback Ike Taylor might be affected in a shake-up.
"Certainly," Tomlin responded. "I think that's appropriate that we look at giving guys some opportunities to see if they can play. What that means or to what extent that means changes will be made I think is a little premature, but I acknowledge that that's taken place."
Taylor's string of starting 45 consecutive games at cornerback is in jeopardy. He has been their most consistent cornerback and often has been assigned to guard the opposition's best receiver. But former coach Bill Cowher demoted Taylor during the 2006 season, not starting him for five games because of poor play.
Other possibilities as new starters are rookie defensive end Ziggy Hood, safety Ryan Mundy, guard Ramon Foster and possibly even linebacker Keyaron Fox.
"We can't stay status quo in terms of how we're approaching this thing and expect the pattern of behavior or outcome to change," Tomlin explained. "That's unrealistic. That's hoping. This is not a hope business. I'm not a hope-mentality person. I think our guys are of the same mindset, so I don't expect any surprise or discontent in regards to this approach, to be quite honest with you."
Tomlin said his changes could come on offense, defense and special teams -- he added Hood, their top draft pick, to the kickoff team Sunday.
"When you're squandering scoring opportunities offensively, you're giving up plays and not making plays at critical moments defensively, you have a pattern of behavior that's unacceptable that's going to produce losses, which is what has happened," Tomlin said. "We acknowledge and accept responsibility for that. We're going to take appropriate action.
"At this time I think appropriate action is looking at doing some things differently and potentially with different combinations of people."
One necessary change will come because of a hamstring injury to Hines Ward that occurred on the next-to-last play of their 27-24 loss Sunday to the Raiders.
Limas Sweed would join the three wide receiver formation and either he or Mike Wallace would start. Tomlin said the team would sign another receiver if Ward cannot play. They released veteran receiver Shaun McDonald Nov. 28 and carry only four on the roster.
Veteran defensive end Travis Kirsche will return to play after missing his fourth game in the past five with a calf injury. Troy Polamalu almost surely will miss his fourth consecutive game and eighth overall this season with a sprained knee.
"His availability is based on his health and we're not going to let circumstance change that approach," Tomlin said. "That's not the right thing to do, so when he is ready to play we'll play him."
Quarterback Charlie Batch will change into a soft cast on his broken left wrist because "we're going to get some participation out of him at practice, or at least attempt to," Tomlin said.
Halfback Rashard Mendenhall has a sprained ankle but Tomlin expects him to play Thursday night.
First Published December 8, 2009 12:00 am