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JDSteeler
12-03-2012, 12:41 AM
...is out for significant time...

Preliminary reports say 2-6 weeks...looks like a fracture!!! Hopefully its 2-weeks!!

Cortez can handle it, until the Playoffs!!

JD

Snatch98
12-03-2012, 12:46 AM
Sucks that when we start to get healthy someone goes down. HOWEVER I whole heartedly believe our corners have TURNED a corner. Lewis has been playing out of his mind. Cortez showed something today and Brown made some plays. Carnell Lake is certainly making his presence known much like Kugler with the offensive line. We aren't giving the cushion and our db's are playing physical football. What we say today on the field is very likely the future of our defensive secondary with Lewis and Allen. I certainly want Ike back but Allen should be more than capable of getting us to the post season when Ike should be able to return.

Mister Pittsburgh
12-03-2012, 01:00 AM
Does Curtis Brown become the Nickel now?

Snatch98
12-03-2012, 01:05 AM
Does Curtis Brown become the Nickel now?

I would imagine so, but who do we have after Brown? Van Dyke?

skyhawk
12-03-2012, 01:13 AM
The Pittsburgh Steelers, i mean, um, China Dolls.

hawaiiansteel
12-03-2012, 01:20 AM
I would imagine so, but who do we have after Brown? Van Dyke?

yup, and wouldn't be surprised if the Steelers re-signed CB Josh Victorian to the practice squad after releasing him last week.

Snatch98
12-03-2012, 01:29 AM
The Pittsburgh Steelers, i mean, um, China Dolls.

How is it possible for you to be on this board right now being negative? In the other thread talking about getting dominated in the first half and now complaining that Ike Taylor tweaked the hell out of his ankle. Injuries happen.

papillon
12-03-2012, 01:54 AM
Sucks that when we start to get healthy someone goes down. HOWEVER I whole heartedly believe our corners have TURNED a corner. Lewis has been playing out of his mind. Cortez showed something today and Brown made some plays. Carnell Lake is certainly making his presence known much like Kugler with the offensive line. We aren't giving the cushion and our db's are playing physical football. What we say today on the field is very likely the future of our defensive secondary with Lewis and Allen. I certainly want Ike back but Allen should be more than capable of getting us to the post season when Ike should be able to return.

I hope Allen will be very, very good one day, but right now he's a young cornerback replacing a guy that routinely is tasked with defending the opposing teams best WR. Fortunately, for the Steelers Flacco didn't really attack Allen they way Manning (either one), Brees, Brady, Rogers would have, they would have smelled blood in the water and tested the kid. Rivers next week, Romo, and Dalton coming up, I'd feel a lot better with Ike out there. Next man up Cortez, lets do this.

Pappy

focosteeler
12-03-2012, 03:10 AM
Not to say I am happy about Ike getting hurt, but I like that our young guys will get thrown in the fire and get some real game experience. Jason Worilds, Keenan Lewis, Jonathan Dwyer these guys finally start to get enough real game time and adjust to game speed they seem to be stepping up and making plays.

flippy
12-03-2012, 10:08 AM
Cortez Allen will be better than Ike T. And Brown should be ok in the slot.

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
12-03-2012, 11:17 AM
Cortez Allen will be better than Ike T. And Brown should be ok in the slot.

You must have a much lower opinion of Ike than I do.

I guess we will find out in the next three weeks when Cortez mans up on Malcolm Floyd, Dez Bryant, and AJ Green for most of the game. Oh wait, Allen will not receive that assignment? So I guess we will not find out if he can be better.

That being said, I think that Allen was very impressive, despite the phantom PI call.

Oviedo
12-03-2012, 11:19 AM
Cortez Allen will be better than Ike T. And Brown should be ok in the slot.

I agree he can be better, but isn't right now. Kid has huge upside!

feltdizz
12-03-2012, 11:23 AM
Not to say I am happy about Ike getting hurt, but I like that our young guys will get thrown in the fire and get some real game experience. Jason Worilds, Keenan Lewis, Jonathan Dwyer these guys finally start to get enough real game time and adjust to game speed they seem to be stepping up and making plays.

I feel the same way... these young guys will make a few mistakes but they are much better at playing the ball... these young guys look good IMO.

Slapstick
12-03-2012, 11:30 AM
Allen was not intimidated and recovered nicely after giving up the TD (which was a flatout great play on Boldin's part)...

If he can make 5 tackles and 3 passes defensed on a vet like Boldin, I'm not particularly worried about Floyd, Green or anyone else...he'll have a week of preparation in the defense as the starting CB...

chiken
12-03-2012, 12:28 PM
Allen was not intimidated and recovered nicely after giving up the TD (which was a flatout great play on Boldin's part)...

If he can make 5 tackles and 3 passes defensed on a vet like Boldin, I'm not particularly worried about Floyd, Green or anyone else...he'll have a week of preparation in the defense as the starting CB...

I hope your right but umm GReen is a whole other level.. (thats the one we really cant afford to lose especially if The colts keep pace)

Slapstick
12-03-2012, 12:50 PM
I hope your right but umm GReen is a whole other level.. (thats the one we really cant afford to lose especially if The colts keep pace)

We were rolling the coverage over to Torrey Smith, leaving Allen one-on-one with Boldin in may situations...every CB gets beaten, but Allen more than held his own...enough that Boldin didn't beat us...

With AJ Green, any CB covering him will most definitely have help...

RuthlessBurgher
12-03-2012, 01:14 PM
I hope your right but umm GReen is a whole other level.. (thats the one we really cant afford to lose especially if The colts keep pace)

Yeah, Green already has over 1100 yards receiving and 10 TD's, and the season is only at the three-quarter pole (he had TD's in 9 straight games this season). The only person to even come close to containing him was Ike (1-8-1).

And Dez has exploded over the last month or so. 6-98-2 last night, 8-145-2 the week before that, 12-145-1 the week before that.

feltdizz
12-03-2012, 01:19 PM
Yeah, Green already has over 1100 yards receiving and 10 TD's, and the season is only at the three-quarter pole (he had TD's in 9 straight games this season). The only person to even come close to containing him was Ike (1-8-1).

And Dez has exploded over the last month or so. 6-98-2 last night, 8-145-2 the week before that, 12-145-1 the week before that.

Ike had help with Greene the last game... I believe he was doubled and they rolled coverage his direction. If we do the same thing and we should have the same result.

NorthCoast
12-03-2012, 01:32 PM
Very comfortable with the DBs against teams with only one great WR. LeBeau can come up with a plan for that. But if a team has two great ones, that is when things get dicey. Fortunately, I don't see a team on the remaining schedule that might be a problem.
BTW, I agree that Carnell Lake's presence has definitely been a huge factor for the CBs. It seemed the Steelers were making no progress developing new ones until Lake showed up. One "project" I am closely watching for the future is Van Dyke. Given his raw physical talents and Carnell's tutelage, he could end up being Ike Taylor's replacement in a few years. It will be real interesting after Oakland basically gave up on the guy.

flippy
12-03-2012, 02:03 PM
Very comfortable with the DBs against teams with only one great WR. LeBeau can come up with a plan for that. But if a team has two great ones, that is when things get dicey. Fortunately, I don't see a team on the remaining schedule that might be a problem.
BTW, I agree that Carnell Lake's presence has definitely been a huge factor for the CBs. It seemed the Steelers were making no progress developing new ones until Lake showed up. One "project" I am closely watching for the future is Van Dyke. Given his raw physical talents and Carnell's tutelage, he could end up being Ike Taylor's replacement in a few years. It will be real interesting after Oakland basically gave up on the guy.

I have no clue what Carnell is doing, but the young corner I really liked was Victorian.

SidSmythe
12-03-2012, 02:38 PM
ALLEN gonna be better than IKE?? I hope so, but right now. Not even close. Especially in Run Defense.

You can pin Ray Rice's TD Run on ALLEN.

flippy
12-03-2012, 03:01 PM
ALLEN gonna be better than IKE?? I hope so, but right now. Not even close. Especially in Run Defense.

You can pin Ray Rice's TD Run on ALLEN.

I noticed that too on the replay. But Allen is a pretty good tackler. He hits quick and usually gets his guy down. I think Rice deserves some of the credit on running by him.

The one thing Allen does better than Ike right now is play the ball. He should have had an INT, but he made a play and showed awareness on a ball in the sky that Ike woulda never seen.

Of course he needs time. But Allen does a lot of little things. And he's not hesitant to put his hands on a WR where a lot of young guys often look hesitant out of fear of getting beat or getting a penalty.

Allen has the potential of not needing safety help in the future. He's gotta work, but he's got some natural talent.

SidSmythe
12-03-2012, 03:08 PM
I noticed that too on the replay. But Allen is a pretty good tackler. He hits quick and usually gets his guy down. I think Rice deserves some of the credit on running by him.

The one thing Allen does better than Ike right now is play the ball. He should have had an INT, but he made a play and showed awareness on a ball in the sky that Ike woulda never seen.

Of course he needs time. But Allen does a lot of little things. And he's not hesitant to put his hands on a WR where a lot of young guys often look hesitant out of fear of getting beat or getting a penalty.

Allen has the potential of not needing safety help in the future. He's gotta work, but he's got some natural talent.

IKE would come up and stick a ball carrier. Not so sure ALLEN will ever be that type of tackler.

not only did he not lay a finger on Rice, ALLEN totally lost all containment on that play. If he plays RICE outside, he at least feeds him to KEISEL in pursuit and B.K. makes the tackle. Have no idea what he was thinking on that play...LAKE's gotta coach him up and maybe add a little muscle to that frame.

Oviedo
12-03-2012, 03:27 PM
IKE would come up and stick a ball carrier. Not so sure ALLEN will ever be that type of tackler.

not only did he not lay a finger on Rice, ALLEN totally lost all containment on that play. If he plays RICE outside, he at least feeds him to KEISEL in pursuit and B.K. makes the tackle. Have no idea what he was thinking on that play...LAKE's gotta coach him up and maybe add a little muscle to that frame.

I would argue that has been part of our problem with our DBs. They were selected with an over-emphasis on their run stopping abilities versus their pass defending abilities. That was fine 10 years ago but not in a pass on first down league. We need ball hawks so our team leader in INTs isn't our ILB (Timmons)

flippy
12-03-2012, 03:28 PM
IKE would come up and stick a ball carrier. Not so sure ALLEN will ever be that type of tackler.

not only did he not lay a finger on Rice, ALLEN totally lost all containment on that play. If he plays RICE outside, he at least feeds him to KEISEL in pursuit and B.K. makes the tackle. Have no idea what he was thinking on that play...LAKE's gotta coach him up and maybe add a little muscle to that frame.

Allen's a pound heavier and an inch shorter than Ike. I haven't noticed him shying away from contact at all. It's not like we're talking about Ricardo Colclough. :)

Oviedo
12-03-2012, 03:29 PM
Very comfortable with the DBs against teams with only one great WR. LeBeau can come up with a plan for that. But if a team has two great ones, that is when things get dicey. Fortunately, I don't see a team on the remaining schedule that might be a problem.
BTW, I agree that Carnell Lake's presence has definitely been a huge factor for the CBs. It seemed the Steelers were making no progress developing new ones until Lake showed up. One "project" I am closely watching for the future is Van Dyke. Given his raw physical talents and Carnell's tutelage, he could end up being Ike Taylor's replacement in a few years. It will be real interesting after Oakland basically gave up on the guy.

IMO Van Dyke is in the Tomlin "doghouse" and it will take a lot to get out (Inactive yesterday). I'll be surprised if he is on the opening day roster next season.

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
12-03-2012, 03:52 PM
Ike had help with Greene the last game... I believe he was doubled and they rolled coverage his direction. If we do the same thing and we should have the same result.

Ike received help probably less than half the time on Green. The talking heads just pointed it out when he did. Any other CB on our squad sees the help at least 80% of the time. We are very fortunate with the way Lewis has stepped up his game this season. Hope he is ready for the limelight.

feltdizz
12-03-2012, 04:01 PM
Ike received help probably less than half the time on Green. The talking heads just pointed it out when he did. Any other CB on our squad sees the help at least 80% of the time. We are very fortunate with the way Lewis has stepped up his game this season. Hope he is ready for the limelight.

Not sure if that makes sense but OK...

hopefully they will point it out when we do it next game too. LOL...

RuthlessBurgher
12-03-2012, 05:03 PM
IMO Van Dyke is in the Tomlin "doghouse" and it will take a lot to get out (Inactive yesterday). I'll be surprised if he is on the opening day roster next season.

Well, while Ike is out (2-6 weeks, supposedly), Van Dyke will be active as a 4th CB, since we cannot go into action with just Lewis, Allen, and Brown as our only active corners.

hawaiiansteel
12-03-2012, 09:03 PM
Why Steeler Fans Shouldn’t Worry About Ike Taylor’s Injury

Dec 3rd, 2012 by Craig Gottschalk

http://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/58/files/2012/12/628x471-590x413.jpeg?4c1d59

The grass started to look a little greener last week for the Steelers, and it wasn’t because of the 70 degree temps either. The team welcomed back Troy Polamalu to full practices and a green light for the game against the Ravens on Sunday. Polamalu was being revered as a shot in the arm to a defense that seemed to be a hair’s breath away from being a dominant force – no not splashy, but shut down force. As the game got underway, fortunes changed quickly once again for this Steelers team who is continually fighting off injury after injury. Ike Taylor suffered a leg/ankle injury during the first series and never returned. A full diagnosis has yet to be released by the team, but most ‘experts’ predict he will be out of the lineup 3-6 weeks. And, while most would think losing your #1 corner would spell monumental trouble for a successful playoff run, Steeler fans should take a bit of comfort knowing who will now have to step up and take Taylor’s place.

The Maturation of Cortez Allen

The 2011 4th round draft pick out of The Citadel stepped into the role of ‘#2 corner’ when Ike Taylor went down with his injury against the Ravens on Sunday. Allen split time with Keenan Lewis covering Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. During the first half, the Ravens challenged Allen often, and Allen rose to the occasion. He broke up several passes – often having to catch up in pursuit after the ball was thrown. Allen’s style is very clear: leave some room, let the pass come in, an reach in to break up the pass even if the body is open for a hit.

It was effective and seemed to frustrate the Ravens offense that they couldn’t break Allen. That didn’t stop them from trying, and in the second half, they were able to complete several bigger passes that lead to a TD and a pass interference (which was a bit of a ticky tacky call at the 10 yard line).

Some might argue that Allen (based on his performance) is not ready for that role, but I think that he fairly ready to take up the mantle. Yes, he was beat a couple of times, but he never let it get to his head. He did not grossly change his coverage and knew that what he was doing worked. Quite frankly, Ike Taylor gives up a big pass on occasion, so there’s no difference there.

Let’s look at Allen’s maturation in comparison to his positional brothers. He quickly became the favorite as the slot cover man late last season in his first season with the team. He continued that role during training camp and all through the season – and has performed very well. Allen’s maturation into the #3 guy was expedited by William Gay’s departure and Keenan Lewis’ subpar seasons. Using those two as a litmus, Allen is years ahead of their development. Look how long it took Gay to be a dependable cover corner. Look how long it took Lewis to move into the #2 role and continue to have shaky weeks. In a defense that touts a large learning curve – 3 years or longer – Allen appears to have the natural talent to swim with the big fish AND possess the brain power to ‘undertand’ Dick LeBeau’s defense. I was very pleased to see his performance last night.

Will Allen be a shut down type corner like Taylor? Eh, maybe not percentage’wise. But, I do believe his ball skills raises the chances of the Steelers picking a pass off on a deep or crossing route. Let’s give Allen the chance he seems to have earned. Facing Rivers, Dalton, Romo and Weeden I expect Allen to be challenged but come out successful. If he gets paired against Dez Bryant it will be a nail biter, but can anyone see Keenan Lewis hanging with him all game? In Allen We Trust.

The Lake Effect

I’m not talking snow. I’m talking about Steelers secondary coach, Carnell Lake. Lake signed on with the team last season as the coach, and I think he is working wonders with the new guys like Cortez Allen. How else can you explain Keenan Lewis’ ability to FINALLY cover guys at least 75% of the game? How else can you explain that both Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown are impacting the secondary and special teams at the same time?

How else can you explain that Will Allen and Ryan Clark have been a force in the safety positions during Troy Polamalu’s absence almost all season? How is it that this defense has been #1 in pass defense two seasons in a row? Sure the secondary is full of talented players, but it’s Lake’s coaching that has gelled it all together. What a stroke of brilliance by the Front Office to get Lake on board.

Steelers Continued Pass Rush Success

The Steelers pass rush is starting to come around after being absent almost all season. James Harrison, as he ever creeps back to 100%, is beginning to gain back that explosiveness off the snap. He may not have all of it back, but his speed is improving as is his strength as he fights off blocks. Joe Flacco became ‘Jumpin’ Joe Flacco during the second half. The pass rush got to him a few times for sacks and hit him just after throws.

This cause Unibrow Boy to get jumpy in the pocket and either rushed throws, threw off target, or a combination of both. There was one series that Lawrence Timmons began a pass rush, and fell into an open part of the pocket – either because he slipped or got hit. He landed three feet short of Flacco, but that presence of a black and gold jersey diving towards him was enough to make him throw the ball early to Smith and it was off target.

If the Steelers can keep this up for the rest of the season, QB’s like Rivers and Romo will have tough days behind their line, as they habitually fold under the pressure.

So Steeler Nation, fret not with Taylor gone. Will it be a smooth ride the next four weeks? Absolutely not. But, the defense is far from dire straights as they race for the divisional title and a playoff spot.

http://nicepickcowher.com/2012/12/03/why-steeler-fans-shouldnt-worry-about-ike-taylors-injury/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Jooser
12-04-2012, 09:03 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJBxMIGYK5o

Hurry back IKE! We don't wanna win #7 without you!

Jooser
12-04-2012, 09:03 AM
BTW, best Sig on the board right now HS.

fordfixer
12-04-2012, 11:52 PM
Steelers CB Ike Taylor out with ankle injury
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/football/nfl/wires/12/04/2020.ap.fbn.steelers.taylor.1st.ld.writethru.1059/index.html

PITTSBURGH (AP) - There have been very few constants in Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's six years on the job.
The sight of Ike Taylor in his No. 24 uniform has been one of them.
Until now.
The veteran cornerback will miss at least two weeks with a fractured right ankle, meaning his streak of playing in 135 consecutive games will end on Sunday when the Steelers (7-5) host reeling San Diego (4-8).
"You can say a lot of things about Ike, and a lot of positive things, but probably the thing that sticks out the most is his durability and availability,'' Tomlin said. "This guy hasn't missed practices, let alone football games, since I've been here.''
The 32-year-old Taylor has spent the last seven-plus seasons serving as an anchor on one side of the field. It's not a coincidence Pittsburgh has ranked in the top 10 in total defense each year and is No. 1 overall and in passing yards allowed yet again.
Though Taylor doesn't need surgery, the Steelers will have to rely on second-year reserves Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown against San Diego and Dallas, both of which have two of the more physical receiving corps in the leagues.
It's a task, however, Allen and Brown appeared to be up to while playing extensively last week against Baltimore after Taylor went down. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed just 16 of 34 passes for 188 yards with a touchdown and an interception as the Steelers revived their playoff hopes following the franchise's first two-game losing streak in three years.
To keep it going Pittsburgh will now rely a pair of 2011 draft picks to ease the pain from Taylor's absence. Tomlin likened Allen and Brown to third-year wide receivers Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. The duo were taken in the 2010 draft and have quickly evolved into key contributors.
Tomlin figures it's time for the two cornerbacks to do the same.
"They're both talented young guys who are continuing to improve and prove that the stage isn't too big for them,'' Tomlin said. "Obviously, we need them to answer the bell as we continue to push into a territory that we haven't been in.''
While one familiar face will be out of the lineup, another one could return. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will practice this week with a chance to return since going down with a sprained right shoulder and a dislocated rib in a 16-13 overtime win over Kansas City on Nov. 12.
Roethlisberger threw on Monday, though Tomlin stressed that at the moment backup Charlie Batch is "our guy.''
Batch, who turns 38 on Wednesday, passed for 276 yards and led the Steelers to a pair of late scoring drives in Baltimore. Tomlin, however, stressed the decision on Roethlisberger's availability rests solely on the quarterback's health, not Batch's ability to channel the fountain of youth.
"Ben is our quarterback and if he's capable of playing then we're going to play him,'' Tomlin said. "But we appreciate the efforts of Charlie and all the other men that step up when given an opportunity due to injury.''
Roethlisberger said last week arm strength and pain have been major concerns during his rehab. He appears to have made progress on both fronts in the last week.
"Seven days does wonders for injuries,'' Tomlin said.
So does the prospect of playing significant games in December. Tomlin allowed the victory in Baltimore is among the most significant of the last two seasons, so much so he was in a rush to get to the locker room afterward, one of the reasons the postgame handshake between Tomlin and Ravens coach John Harbaugh appeared strained.
"It took special effort to secure that victory and when I noticed that guys were headed to the locker room I was in a hurry to get there,'' Tomlin said.
And Tomlin is in a hurry to get back to work, though he's not trying to read too much into similarities between the team's position now and the one it was in seven years ago, when the Steelers won their final four regular season games then added four playoff wins to capture their fifth Super Bowl.
"I do think our team has some unique characteristics that are kind of born out of unique circumstances or situations,'' he said. "Quite frankly, it's always 20-20 looking back at it. If we're able to put together a run and win necessary games and get some momentum, then you can say it was unique.
"If we don't, then you can say it was irrelevant.''
---
NOTES: LB LaMarr Woodley will test his injured ankle this week and could play after missing the Ravens game ... WR Jerricho Cotchery's fractured ribs have healed enough that he has a shot to return against San Diego ... Tomlin said he's encouraged by the way S Troy Polamalu played against the Ravens in his first game in nearly two months and could see a heavier workload on Sunday.

hawaiiansteel
12-05-2012, 01:41 AM
BTW, best Sig on the board right now HS.

thanks Jooser, that's a pretty intense look by Tomlin, huh?

skyhawk
12-05-2012, 01:56 AM
Love it. Pretty intense, or even better, a look of who are you and get out of my face!!! ha!

jj28west
12-05-2012, 02:20 AM
saw this too....great point


IKE would come up and stick a ball carrier. Not so sure ALLEN will ever be that type of tackler.

not only did he not lay a finger on Rice, ALLEN totally lost all containment on that play. If he plays RICE outside, he at least feeds him to KEISEL in pursuit and B.K. makes the tackle. Have no idea what he was thinking on that play...LAKE's gotta coach him up and maybe add a little muscle to that frame.

hawaiiansteel
12-06-2012, 02:38 AM
Pittsburgh Steelers forge forward through injury-riddled season

By Aditi Kinkhabwala
Reporter, NFL.com and NFL Network
Published: Dec. 5, 2012

http://static.nfl.com/static/content/photo/2012/12/05/0ap1000000106354.jpg

Sitting at 7-5 now, Mike Tomlin's Pittsburgh Steelers have hit double-digit wins in four of the past five seasons.

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake knew the word on cornerback Ike Taylor's ankle wasn't going to be great. He'd already been without super-safety Troy Polamalu for most of the season; now he was losing his shutdown corner for what he'd eventually find out was a few weeks, and so a reporter was trying to offer a measure of consolation.

"Well, two years ago the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl after having to put 16 players on injured reserve," the reporter said. "And last year, the Giants --"

A booming voice came down the stairs at the Steelers facility: "Is that supposed to make me sleep better?"

Eventually, Mike Tomlin's legs followed his laugh; the Steelers coach was clearly getting a kick out of the happy-face attempt. Tomlin chuckled some more, referencing his sleep again. OK, no, maybe the previous two Super Bowl winners overcoming massive injuries en route to raising the Lombardi Trophy doesn't salve the pain of Ben Roethlisberger's achy shoulder.

But the Packers' and Giants' method (getting hot late) should. And Roethlisberger's prognosis -- he's throwing better and might play this weekend against the San Diego Chargers -- should, too. Besides the Taylor setback, the Steelers are getting healthy, their final stretch is wholly manageable and the NFL -- thank goodness for it -- is not the BCS.

The NFL introduced playoff seeds in the 1975 season. Since then, 20 No. 1 seeds have won it all. Of those 20, 18 came before the 2000 season. Translation: In the past 12 seasons, just two No. 1 seeds have won the Super Bowl: the 2003 New England Patriots and the 2009 New Orleans Saints.

Maybe teams that lock up berths early get too much rest. Maybe teams that are still fighting for their playoff lives have to play with urgency every week. Maybe they don't have to flip a switch they've turned off for a bit, maybe they're accustomed to playing on the edge, maybe there really is a lot more parity between seeds 1 and 6. The moral is: In all the excitement about the Houston Texans and New England Patriots, don't overlook the guys who are not yet officially in the dance. Like the Steelers.

During a season that started with two former Defensive Player of the Year honorees sidelined, one that's seen Roethlisberger's MVP candidacy interrupted, Tomlin has not allowed an instance of woe-is-me. ("Excuses," he says, "are the tools of the incompetent.") He demands (almost) the same excellence of fill-ins, he spouts lines like, "the standard is the standard," and, in the midst of it all, his team has a deep-seated confidence in itself as a whole unit.

How else to explain going into Baltimore with a third-string quarterback three days shy of his 38th birthday and handing the nine-win Ravens their first home loss in two years? In the muddied AFC, this is still the Steelers. The Steelers of a recharged James Harrison and of the fastest group of wide receivers in the land.

These Steelers have the NFL's top-ranked defense, they have an offensive line that can push people around, they have three different starting running backs and they're one Roethlisberger away from being a legitimately scary team.

The aforementioned 38-year-old Charlie Batch winning in Baltimore on Sunday certainly gave the Steelers some breathing room. It raised the question of whether he bought Roethlisberger some time, perhaps an extra week to rest, with the woeful Chargers coming into Pittsburgh. Not a chance, according to the coach.

"Obviously Ben is our quarterback," Tomlin said. "If he is capable, he's playing."

Tomlin knows the Steelers have to get hot again, as they were on their four-game win streak before Roethlisberger got hurt, and they have to do it now. He knows confidence and momentum matter, even as he frankly said Tuesday, "They're almost mystical because you can't measure them."

After this weekend, the Steelers have a trip to Dallas and then two more home games, against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. That Week 16 matchup could well be akin to a playoff game, with either Cincy or Pittsburgh getting to move on. Polamalu is back. Harrison, after offseason knee surgery, is again playing like the man who puts together a game-turning sack-fumble, and Roethlisberger is throwing.

This hasn't been one of the painless 12-win seasons the Steelers have so frequently put together of late, but that might not be bad, come these next two months. A few weeks back, Maurkice Pouncey refused to call the Steelers' run of injuries a hardship, saying, "There's much tougher adversity in the world," and then wondering if the whole roster being called upon now wouldn't help the Steelers down the line. Or, as Tomlin put it: "I do think our team has some unique characteristics that are kind of borne out of unique circumstances or situations."

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000106312/article/pittsburgh-steelers-forge-forward-through-injuryriddled-season