Coach Mike Tomlin always preaches that "the standard is the standard." In other words, if you are a back-up who is asked to step up and play, the level of expectations are the same for you as they would be for all of the starters.
Against the Seahawks, two offensive linemen were called up to live up to that standard and earned praise for their play. Marcus Gilbert started his first game at right tackle for Willie Colon, who is out for the season, while Ramon Foster got the call at left guard for Chris Kemoeatu, who was hampered by a knee injury.
"I thought Ramon did some nice things," said Tomlin. "I like his effort, his finish, and his play demeanor. I think it is what we desire. Marcus Gilbert did some nice things as well. No question when you talk about Ramon Foster or Marcus Gilbert, their performances were above the line."
The Steelers rushed for 124 yards against the Seahawks, but managed only 30 in the second half. Tomlin feels that could be a byproduct of new starters on the line.
"I talked after the game, I thought we moved the ball particularly, I thought we won the line of scrimmage in the first half, not so much in the second," said Tomlin. "Maybe that is a function of conditioning. We've had some guys whose roles have been back-ups in the past playing on the line of scrimmage for us. Maybe the snap count became a factor. I have to address that with them. The reality is that we have to be able to play 60 minutes of football in the manner of which we desire. I didn't think we ran the ball as effectively as you would like to in the second half. Our run game efficiency wasn't acceptable and we will just simply work."
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Winning can cure what ails a team, but it's going to take a lot more than one victory for Tomlin to feel better.
Despite a 24-0 shutout against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at Heinz Field the sting from the 35-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens the week before has not gone away.
"It shouldn't. It really shouldn't," said Tomlin. "Each playing opportunity stands on its own. It is what it is. We accept it and take responsibility for it, for our first performance just like we do our second and ultimately all of them. It's important. I think that's what is so special about this game and this league. You only get so many opportunities to state a case. Each and every one of them are very important and they don't go anywhere."
Players didn't hide from the effort they put forth against the Ravens, to a man admitting that they were flat out beaten. Some indicated that one of the problems could have been playing with an individual effort rather than a team effort, but Tomlin doesn't think too much should be read into that.
"I think sometimes those explanations are in an effort to answer questions. I believe it is very black and white," said Tomlin. "I believe you step into stadiums and you play or you don't. Or you make plays or you don't. We aren't in the business of excuse making. That tape is in our file as is last week's. I am not going to try to explain it away. And I prefer that they didn't.
"Most of the time when you have comments like that from them it is them just trying to be courteous and answer the questions."
The biggest news on the injury front for the Steelers is the grade-one PCL sprain suffered by defensive end Brett Keisel against the Seahawks.
"That will make his participation questionable this week," said Tomlin. "We will see where the week takes us. But he's probably questionable at best."
If Keisel can't go on Sunday, look for Ziggy Hood to see playing time, along with a mix of other players.
"Not only Ziggy but we have a great deal of confidence in all of our guys that are position flexible," said Tomlin. "Chris Hoke is position flexible, Steve McClendon is position flexible and of course the young guy Cameron Heyward has not disappointed us with his performance thus far."
Also on the injury front cornerback Bryant McFadden and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery are battling back from hamstring injuries. Neither played against the Seahawks and their status for Sunday is dependent on practice this week, while rookie Chris Carter should be full steam ahead in practice.
"We will see how available they will be in terms of participation this week," said Tomlin. "We will let that guide us in terms of whether or not they will be available for the game. I believe Chris Carter's hamstring injury is in his rearview mirror now. He really perked up toward the end of last week. We expect to get a full week's participation from him."