By BOB LABRIOLA
It's a description that has been used by scouts and coaches for decades, and often how it's used turns out to be the difference in whether a player has a professional career or not.
If a certain guy is described as "a player you can win with," then chances are there is an NFL roster spot somewhere with his name on it. Coach Mike Tomlin used that theme in his message to the team before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"A lot of times when you get injuries people ask questions like 'Can you win without Casey Hampton?' 'Can you win without Brett Keisel?'" said Tomlin. "That's not a question that needs to be asked. It is a question of 'Can you win with Hokie (Chris Hoke)?' 'Can you win with Travis Kirschke?' I wanted to make sure those guys took that perspective in regards to some of the things we were facing, not only on the defensive line but on the entire football team.
"It is not about whether we can win without Willie Parker; it is about whether we can win with Mewelde Moore. I did pose some of those rhetorical questions to the team because I wanted them to understand where we are, understand what is expected and what needs to be done. It wasn't about the men who weren't playing; it was about the men who were going to play and were going to be on the field."
The guys who were on the field in Jacksonville helped the Steelers win for only the fourth time there in franchise history, and many of them had stepped into bigger roles to help the Steelers leave there with a 26-21 victory and a 4-1 record heading into the bye weekend.
Hoke and Kirschke started on the defensive line; Moore was in the backfield; Darnell Stapleton at right guard, and when Marvel Smith left the game with cramps Trai Essex stepped in at left tackle. Those were some of the examples.
Tomlin doesn't care to dwell on injuries, because he refuses to allow them to become an excuse, but just listening to him recount the players who didn't take part in Tuesday's workout was evidence enough of their impact on this team.
"We have a laundry list of guys who did not practice for one reason or another," said Tomlin. "Dallas Baker, his shoulder. Keyaron Fox, his hamstring. Santonio Holmes has some soreness in the rib area. Jeff Reed, although he is a lot better, does have a calf strain. Ben (Roethlisberger) just needs a day or two. Marvel Smith has a groin strain. Hines Ward, he gets a day off for being Hines. LaMarr Woodley and Carey Davis continue to get better as with Nick Eason and (Casey) Hampton. Deshea Townsend is resting his heel. Troy Polamalu, his quad. James Farrior is in the Hines Ward category. Some guys with limited participation included Willie Parker; he is marching back and got a little work done at the running back spot. Chris Hoke participated some, as did Aaron Smith. Travis Kirschke and Bryant McFadden, those guys of course took a bunch of reps, so we just wanted to rest those guys up a bit. It was great to get Brett Keisel back today as a full participant. I guess that is the only legitimate news on the injury front."
Being off this weekend allows the Steelers some extra time to heal after three bone-bruising games against the Eagles, Ravens and Jaguars. But on the other side awaits a road division game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and Tomlin had hope that some of the injured will be able to rejoin the effort by then.
Keisel being able to practice was a sign he could be back for the Bengals, and the same goes for Parker. Tomlin said the rest is exactly what Reed needs for his strained calf, and he expects Reed to be doing what he always does by the time the Bengals' game rolls around.
If they are ready, they will be welcomed back, but Tomlin isn't about to send out invitations to a pity-party if they can't because those on the field will be expected to do what they did in Jacksonville.
"They have done what they were called to do and I think that's just the standard that this football team has, not to underscore it by any stretch," said Tomlin. "The guys have stepped up and delivered for us in a big way. That's what is required because we desire to play winning football week in and week out. We acknowledge that injuries are a part of this thing and we are like every other team in this league.
"I made a point to the men when we met; I went over all of the inactive lists from all 32 teams from this past weekend just to make a point to them that every team in the National Football League is experiencing injuries; people have to step up and play. The teams that are the good teams, they find a way. There are many ways to stand up and deliver. Those guys did a nice job and they will be called on to do it again; some guys who haven't probably will be. That is the nature of this thing."