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Steelers notebook: Mike Tomlin wants more big plays, better turnover ratio in second half of season

Joe Rutter
| Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, 7:39 p.m.
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (right) has yet to break a long run this season, and coach Mike Tomlin says he wants more big plays from his team.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (right) has yet to break a long run this season, and coach Mike Tomlin says he wants more big plays from his team.

Mike Tomlin wants more splash. More created turnovers, too.

Outlining his goals for the second half of the Steelers' season Tuesday, Tomlin pinpointed two areas where he would like to see improvement: turnover margin and big plays.

At the midpoint of the season, the Steelers are minus-1 in turnover differential. They have created 11 turnovers (seven interceptions, four fumble recoveries) and committed 12 (nine interceptions, three lost fumbles).

“Minus-1 doesn't usually go along with 6-2,” Tomlin said.

Despite having the best record in the AFC, the Steelers are tied for 18th in turnover differential. The NFL-leading Philadelphia Eagles (8-1), for instance, are plus-6. The New England Patriots, also with a 6-2 record, are plus-4.

“One of those games really skews (our) number,” Tomlin said, referring to the five interceptions thrown by Ben Roethlisberger in the loss to Jacksonville. “Nonetheless, to be minus-1 at the turn is an area we would like to be better at.

“We need to take care of the ball better. We need to get the ball more. ... Usually, teams on the rise in the second half of the year do a great job of taking care of the ball and do an increasingly better job of getting the ball, and that needs to be us.”

The timing of requesting more “splash plays” from his team was curious. The Steelers have nine pass plays of 40-plus yards, tops in the NFL. That included the 97-yard catch-and-run by rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster in the 20-15 win over the Detroit Lions. However, running back Le'Veon Bell hasn't broken a 40-yard run, and the Steelers have only three runs of 20-plus yards, tied for No. 23.

“Man, we've left some out there,” Tomlin said.

Tomlin pointed to a dropped pass by Martavis Bryant on the first snap against Chicago and a dropped interception by Ryan Shazier on the Lions' final snap as examples.

“Great teams seem like they have a flair for the dramatic,” Tomlin said. “They make those plays when given an opportunity. Yes, we've made some plays, and, yes, we're in a good spot. But we want to be in a better spot. We've got to make more of those.”

Suspension over

Bryant is out of the doghouse.

Tomlin simply said “I do” when asked whether he plans to play Bryant on Sunday against Indianapolis after his one-game benching.

Bryant was inactive because of his controversial social media posts, and he spent that week of practice working with the scout team.

“He did a nice job of dealing with the suspension and working hard to get better at his craft,” Tomlin said. “That being said, we're moving forward. As in all cases, even with the injured guys, we'll let preparation and what happens in that preparation be our guide. But I'm comfortable with the trajectory of where he is coming off the missed action.”

Asked for specifics of Bryant's improvement, Tomlin said, “He just came to work with a good attitude like everyone else.”

Injury report

Tomlin said right tackle Marcus Gilbert (hamstring), defensive end Stephon Tuitt (back) and tight end Vance McDonald (knee) could return against the Colts.

“We will continue to watch guys that have missed time,” he said.

Safety Mike Mitchell exited against the Lions in the second half with an Achilles injury and was “shut down” during the bye week.

“We'll get him revved back up and see where he is in terms of game readiness,” Tomlin said.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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