Defense set to go:** Coach Mike Tomlin plans on sitting some of his top offensive players when the Steelers host the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field on Thursday night, including Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
But don't expect the same thing on the defensive side of the ball, where the starters are all expected to play.
"We're in a different stage of development collectively defensively than we are offensively," said Tomlin. "That's just a part of the decision making process as well. We've gotten more long standing continuity at key positions on the offensive side of the ball, whether it's players or coaches. We are not going to miss an opportunity to grow and get better. I think the guys have a complete understanding of that and how that weighs into the decision making."
Young RBs get a shot: With Bell and Williams out, young running backs like Fitzgerald Toussaint and Daryl Richardson will get more playing time as they vie for the No. 3 running back job.
"Different guys bring different strengths to the table and have had their moments," said Tomlin. "It's going to be interesting to see how they work to minimize known weaknesses and show consistency and areas of strength. Fitzgerald Toussaint has been 'Steady Eddie' from a detail assignment standpoint. He has added value to his cause by being a strong participant in special teams. Daryl Richardson has done some nice things with the ball in his hand. Want to see more detail in his work. Want to see more participation from him in special teams. Want to see more splash from Fitz. Those are the type of discussions we are having. All of the men that are candidates have some positive aspects of their game they need to continue to lean on and it needs to consistently show itself. They have areas of need and improvement that the next couple of weeks is going to shape their story and ours in terms of their availability and how we utilize them."
Leading the way: Tomlin said one of the things he enjoys is watching players like William Gay and Mike Mitchell interact with the younger players in the secondary and show them the ropes, just like those before them showed them the ropes. Tomlin recalls watching Gay learn from Deshea Townsend about 10 years ago, and likes that they are paying it forward.
"It's not any formal responsibility," said Tomlin. "It's just they know what comes with being them. They have been around. They understand the drill. It helps when they teach that approach to others and help others in their growth and development. The more they do that the smoother the journey is for all of us. I think that is something all of those guys embrace, and not only embrace but was taught to them and shown to them by those that came before them.
"It's a beautiful thing that is this brotherhood that they are all a part of."