By Christina Rivers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been preparing for their divisional round game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday with renewed purpose this week. While a lot of the focus is on how the team will plan for their second meeting with the Broncos, the buzz around Pittsburgh has also been on injuries to Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and DeAngelo Williams as well as the mindset this team has heading into their eighth postseason meeting with Denver since 1970.
Coach Tomlin considering all options
In his Tuesday news conference at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin spent a lot of time answering questions about player injuries. The most notable being those to veterans Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and DeAngelo Williams. An MRI revealed that Roethlisberger has a sprained AC joint and torn ligaments in his throwing shoulder. “We'll manage him day-to-day,” said Tomlin. “We'll deal with him in an appropriate manner and let the quality of his performance be our guide in terms of his availability.” Roethlisberger has made it clear that he would like to be in the game on Sunday and Tomlin said he's listening to his veteran quarterback, but it will ultimately come down to the medical staff making the decision. “I'm not a doctor and Ben's not a doctor, and we both respect that,” Tomlin said.
While Roethlisberger is allowed to push himself physically, the Steelers are giving Landry Jones as many snaps as they can at practice as the week progresses. It isn't out of the question that the Steelers will dress Mike Vick as well for the game Sunday, but Tomlin said with Jones getting more physical prep, the expectation is for a better result on the field if he gets an opportunity to play against the Broncos.
Brown has been progressing through the league's mandated concussion protocol. The Steelers plan to respect that protocol and despite early reports by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that Brown was “said to be fine and should be able to play against the Broncos,” those statements are in question now. The Steelers may be playing the injury close to the vest, not allowing Denver to know his status to prevent game planning for Brown's potential play-making abilities.
“DeAngelo Williams is still on the outside looking in,” Tomlin added. “He is a savvy veteran player. If he perks up at the end of the week, I have no issue in terms of giving him an opportunity to assist us in our efforts.” Williams injured his foot in the season finale against the Cleveland Browns and reportedly visited a specialist, making his return an uphill battle.
The mindset of the Steelers has always been 'next man up', and to Tomlin that mantra is more than mere words for his team. “The preparation and ultimately, the play of the guys is what makes it more than (words). Our guys embrace that.”
Todman and Toussaint hope to deliver more
Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint were relatively unknown to Steelers fans prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals that propelled Pittsburgh to the divisional game against the Broncos. The tandem put together a nice performance, surprising many, for an offense that needs a boost in the running game. “We both have been patient here,” said Todman after he and Toussaint combined for 123 yards on the ground. “We have a great stable of running backs here, from Le'Veon (Bell) to DeAngelo (Williams). They set the bar at a high standard for us.” The two are preparing for whatever is asked of them on Sunday. “We went out there and handled business,” said Toussaint. “We prepared for it. I feel like we went out there and got the job done and there is more to come.” Both running backs feel that developing a rhythm helped them to contribute in a big way and are confident there is more to come.
Sunday is eighth all-time postseason meeting between Steelers and Broncos
Pittsburgh owns an 8-14-1 all-time regular-season record against Denver and on Sunday, these two teams meet for the eighth time in the postseason in series history that began in 1970. The Broncos lead the postseason series, winning four out of seven games. The Steelers would love to repeat the 2005 AFC Championship game's success this Sunday. In that former game, the Steelers pulled off a 34-17 win on their way to Super Bowl XL.
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on
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