|Tomlin: Steelers will learn if they compare to Patriots, Colts|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 16 October 2007 11:59|
That didn't prevent the rookie head coach from displaying a smidgen of confidence - or maybe a lot of faith in his players - when asked if the undefeated Patriots and Colts should be getting all the attention in the AFC.
The Steelers (4-1) lost at Arizona 21-14 last month in their only sub-par game, but still have a 132-47 scoring edge for the season. The 47 points allowed in five games are their fewest in 70 years.
Obviously, the Steelers have been very good, with a chance to go 5-1 for only the second time in 10 years if they win Sunday at Denver. For them, the only problem is the Patriots (6-0) and Colts (5-0) have been better, and that's been enough to push the Steelers off the front page.
``We don't worry about the variables that don't matter, whether or not we're flying above the radar, under the radar or who's doing what,'' Tomlin said Tuesday. ``We focus on the things we can control and that's our preparation and our quality of play, and what we do when we walk into stadiums on weekends.''
The Steelers will find out in less than two months how they compare to New England, as they play the Patriots on Dec. 9 in Foxborough. The Colts? They'll have to wait.
``If we're as good as maybe we think we are, we'll run across some of those teams at some point,'' Tomlin said, an obvious reference to the postseason. ``In the short term, we need to focus on being prepared to play the Denver Broncos.''
Tomlin is concerned the Broncos' bye week allowed them to get away - at least mentally - and regroup from a three-game losing streak that included a 41-3 home-field loss to San Diego on Oct. 7.
``It is a dangerous time to be facing them because they are a quality football team,'' Tomlin said. ``They are 2-3 right now, but that is not the story of this football team. They are still writing their story, as are we.''
At the same time, the Steelers' off week allowed three of the four injured starters who sat out their 21-0 victory over Seattle on Oct. 7 to heal.
Wide receivers Hines Ward (sprained knee) and Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and safety Troy Polamalu (rib cartilage) not only are expected to play, but likely will practice all week. Ward would return after missing two games.
Nose tackle Casey Hampton (hamstring) will take it easy in practice Wednesday, but Tomlin is hopeful he will play. Backup cornerback Bryant McFadden (sprained ankle) probably won't go.
Polamalu and Holmes have improved to the point where they probably won't be listed among the injured, Tomlin said. Of course, Polamalu and Hampton weren't on Tomlin's initial injury list two weeks ago and neither played against Seattle.
Ward will be welcomed back by running back Willie Parker as much as he will be by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Ward's downfield blocking is a key to the Steelers' running game, and Parker had his only game with fewer than 100 yards rushing when Ward was out.
The Broncos haven't shut down the run all season, allowing an average of 187.6 rushing yards. Besides Denver, only the Dolphins are allowing more than 149.5 yards per game. Denver has been outscored 102-37 in its last three games.
``Teams have run the ball on them some, but they've also turned the ball over,'' Tomlin said, referring to Denver's 11 giveaways. ``They have three returns for them on touchdowns this year. It is tough to win football games when that happens.''
Notes: Roethlisberger completed 13 consecutive passes to end the Seattle game, two off the team record. The streak carries into the Denver game. He has thrown three interceptions after having a league-leading 23 a season ago. ... Because of Denver's thin air, the Steelers will have a machine on the sidelines designed to generate blood flow throughout a player's body. ... Tomlin said Denver's chop-blocking technique is a problem only when a team hasn't prepared well in advance for it. He said, ``I don't anticipate our guys getting sawed down.''