By Teresa Varley
After allowing opponents to score on kickoff returns in the last two games more focus is being placed on stopping the big play in the return game.
"Not necessarily any changes, but an emphasis," said Coach Mike Tomlin of what the plan is. "And the emphasis is geared around fundamentals, always has been, always will be. When things aren't going well, when something's broken, that's how I know to fix it. To get back to the minute details in terms of how schemes are built, or adjusted and played; that's what we're doing."
Joshua Cribbs returned a second-quarter kickoff 98-yards when the Steelers beat the Browns at Heinz Field on Oct. 18 and the Vikings Percy Harvin took a fourth-quarter kickoff back 88-yards for a touchdown at Heinz Field.
"We're looking at putting together the best combination of people, maybe moving some people around, maybe inserting some people, removing some people," added Tomlin. "That's what you do when you're not having success. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's any better than the original plan; if it was, you'd have probably done it the first time. But when you're not having success, you make changes. And that's what we're in the process of doing."
Tomlin also acknowledge that Steelers return specialist Stefan Logan has been close to taking one back as well, and that sometimes it can be just one small detail that either keeps a guy from going all the way, or getting stopped in their tracks.
"You'd be surprised at how closed each individual kick is to going to the house," said Tomlin. "That's just the National Football League. We have a young man who we believe is an exciting return man, he's had a few that were close. We've had some that have been close against us; we've had some that have gone the distance. There's a fine margin for error in the National Football League, not only on kickoff coverage units but every time that ball is snapped and put in play."
Tomlin reiterated on Tuesday that no decision has been made yet if safety Ryan Clark will play against the Broncos in Denver on Monday night.
Clark has the sickle cell trait and had when he played in Denver in 2007 his blood reacted poorly to the Denver air, resulting in an illness that resulted in him having his spleen and gall bladder removed and missing the remainder of the season.
He has been given medical clearance to play, but the decision doesn't need to be made yet and hasn't.
"We still have yet to determine if we're going to allow him to do that, he has yet to determine whether or not he is willing to do that," said Tomlin. "What we're going to do is just continue to prepare this week with he and others and make that decision at an appropriate time. What we don't want to do is come to a decision too early in the week and then have second thoughts later in the week. We're going to make the decision once, and then we're going to play football.
"Regardless whether or not Ryan (Clark) participates in this game, the standard will be the same for not only our secondary but for our football team."
On the injury front defensive end Travis Kirschke is questionable with a calf strain he suffered against the Vikings. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons is fighting an ankle sprain he sustained against the Vikings. Offensive lineman Ramon Foster could be limited early in the week with back discomfort.