Tomlin says Steelers will stick with what they have
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Mike Tomlin has no magic wand to wave over his offensive line to make it better, and that includes signing tackle Flozell Adams.
The Steelers coach made that perfectly clear when he said he will go with what he has when they play Sunday in Houston.
"Make no mistake, we intend to prepare with the men that we have here," Tomlin said Tuesday. "Those will be the guys that will help us win this football game. Anyone we add will be simply for the purposes of practice or numbers."
And Adams, who started all 19 games for the Steelers at right tackle through the Super Bowl last season, will not be rejoining the Steelers merely for practice. They might sign no linemen to their 53-man roster. Tomlin said they merely will look into the possibility after the practice week progresses and he sees how his injured linemen perform.
He gave the green light on rookie Marcus Gilbert to return to play right tackle against the Texans. Gilbert left the Sunday night game at Indianapolis in the third quarter with a left shoulder injury. He returned to finish out the final few plays at left tackle after Jonathan Scott departed with a sprained left ankle.
Tomlin called Scott questionable for this week and said if he cannot play Trai Essex would start at left tackle. He also called Doug Legursky questionable with a left shoulder injury. Although he did not say it, Ramon Foster would replace Legursky if he cannot go.
Former Steelers starting tackles Adams and Max Starks remain free agents after the team cut them as training camp began, but the club has shown no interest in either. Starks reportedly was to work out for the Vikings this week, the same team that cut Bryant McKinnie, now the starting left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. When the Steelers lost starting right tackle Willie Colon in the first game for the rest of the season, they looked at neither Starks nor Adams and signed Jamon Meredith, a third-year pro cut by the New York Giants.
Partly because of the play of the offensive line and partly because of the play of the Colts' Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, Ben Roethlisberger was under siege Sunday. He was chased, hit, sacked three times, lost two more fumbles and threw an interception.
It will not get much easier for him or whatever line they run out there Sunday in Houston because outside linebacker Mario Williams and the Texans also know how to pressure the quarterback. The Texans have seven sacks, same as the Steelers, and Williams has two. His sacks have dipped since his 14 in 2007 to 8.5 last season, but he is a proven rusher who can line up over either Scott or Essex and pull a Dwight Freeney. Williams previously lined up at end before the Texans converted their 4-3 defense to a 3-4 under new coordinator Wade Phillips.
"Whether you call him an end or an outside linebacker, it doesn't matter," Tomlin said of Williams. "You better keep him out of your backfield. He's a dangerous man ... he's been to multiple Pro Bowls."
The Texans also use first-round pick J.J. Watt at right defensive end and a disruptive Antonio Smith at left end. That defense also includes inside linebacker Brian Cushing, the 2009 rookie defender of the year.
"Their first-round pick, J.J. Watt from Wisconsin, is an awesome addition," Tomlin said. "He appears to be playing extremely well. He's very aware. He utilizes his hands and his length very well. He was one of those 3-4 end guys that we evaluated. We held him in high regard.
"Brian Cushing is a sideline-to-sideline, chase-and-tackle football player."
Tomlin is concerned about both the Steelers turnovers and their inability to force turnovers. They have 10 of the former and one of the latter, although that one on James Harrison's sack/fumble and Troy Polamalu's 16-yard return of it for a touchdown helped them beat the Colts.
"This is why they concern me: We are not doing a good enough job of protecting the ball, and we are not doing a good enough job of getting it," Tomlin said. "Those two things together make you extremely uncomfortable. We are a blessed group to be sitting here 2-1 after being minus-nine after three games."
Roethlisberger has eight of the turnovers -- four interceptions, four fumbles.
The Steelers will not wear shoulder pads in practice until Thursday this week rather than Wednesday because Tomlin wants to go easy on his injured players who might practice.
"We believe that approach will help us deal with some of these injuries, and be inclusive in terms of practice and give some guys an opportunity to practice Wednesday and give them another day, 24 hours or so to participate on Thursday."
About injuries other than the offensive linemen, Tomlin said:
• Wide receiver Mike Wallace has a rib cartilage injury that might affect him in practice, but "it shouldn't prohibit him from playing."
• Defensive end Brett Keisel (sprained knee PCL) will be evaluated as the week goes after he missed the game in Indianapolis
• Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring) has not played yet but is a candidate to do so this week. So, too, is cornerback Bryant McFadden (hamstring).
• Linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring) played Sunday and experienced soreness but should be able to practice.
The coach gave receiver Emmanuel Sanders a pass for jumping over and not downing defensive back Joe Lefeged, who made a diving interception and returned it 25 yards to set up a Colts score.
"Really, there was no need to talk to him," Tomlin said. "He understood where he was wrong. Sometimes, coaching the obvious is silly. That's a mistake that was made and acknowledged immediately. It's probably more important that we moved on to things that were less obvious."
• Game: Steelers (2-1) at Houston Texans (2-1), Reliant Stadium, Houston.
• When: 1 p.m., Sunday.
• TV: KDKA.
• Inside: New York Super Bowl flaunts the fact its game in 2014 could involve snow, Page D-3.
First Published September 28, 2011 12:00 am