Protect the rock:** Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 16 interceptions this season, but seven of them have come in the last four games, including two each in the last three. Protecting the ball with be a focus for the Steelers this week when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Wild Card game, especially with the Bengals finishing the regular season third overall in the NFL with a 11 turnover ratio.
"We have to do a better job, he has to do a better job of safe guarding the ball," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "We have been in some situations where guys have made some plays as well. I don't want to take anything away from them. As we get into January football the turnover ratio is big, especially when you are playing somebody the quality of the Bengals. Whatever the issues may be, we better work to minimize them this week."
- A.J. executing: The Steelers aren't sure who they will face at quarterback on Saturday in Cincinnati, whether it will be Andy Dalton who has been sidelined since he injured his thumb Week 14 against the Steelers, or A.J. McCarron who stepped in since Dalton has been down. McCarron completed 22 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers in that Dec. 13 game, and has continued to smoothly run the Bengals offense since then.
"I think the number one thing he has proven is he is capable of calling and executing their offense," said Tomlin. 'I see very little schematic difference in how they are attacking people whether he is in there or Andy is in there. It's probably a compliment not only to him and his preparation, his ability to learn and prepare on a limited number of snaps, but also to their coaching staff. They are showing a similar personality. They have some package things they do week in and week out that you have to be prepared for. It might be a little more of that in recent weeks. Largely the things they are asking A.J. to do are no different than the things they ask Andy to do."
- All about the approach: Missed tackles were something that jumped out last Sunday in the win over the Cleveland Browns, and Tomlin said the team will continue to work on that aspect of their game, as has been the case all season.
"Guys work at it daily, formally and informally," said Tomlin. "We have guys who post practice do form tackling on the pop up sleds. We continually talk about the approach to tackling. Often times being an effective tackler is not about the tackle itself, it's about the approach to the tackle, the position you put yourself in order to effectively tackle. You get an opportunity to do that every time the ball is snapped in practice regardless of how you are dressed or the attire you are in or the tempo of the drill.
"We coach the approach and coach it in great detail. I think the guys coach each other in terms of the approach in terms of pursuit of the football, not pursing behind the same colored jersey. Those are some things formally and informally that we do to stay sharp in that area. It's a big component of the game of football."