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Steelers realize they might be facing must-win scenario in Cincinnati

| Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin joins the NFL's competition committee. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

To Steelers linebacker Larry Foote, it's time to push the panic button. To coach Mike Tomlin, it's time to push the envelope.

Regardless of what push-comes-to-shove analogy they use, the Steelers understand they're not winning close games, and they're not winning on the road. And they probably need to start doing both if they're to climb back into the AFC North race they trail by 2 12 games to Baltimore (5-1).

What better place to start than in Cincinnati, where they've won 10 of their past 11?

Foote illustrated the sense of urgency he feels as the Steelers (2-3) prepare to play the Bengals (3-3) on Sunday by saying Tomlin might not use the word “panic,” but he would.

“I've been there in December, praying for four teams to lose, and we don't want to be in that,” Foote said. “We still control our destiny. ... It's a divisional opponent, and we've got to get this win, whatever it takes.”

Tomlin wasn't quite so dramatic. But he said it's time for some of his younger players to grow up because the Steelers — whose past three games have been decided by last-play field goals — can't wait any longer.

“This is not a patient man's business by any stretch,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “We need growth and development yesterday, if you will, not only in our defensive players but our offensive players. We're always pressing the envelope and trying to be the very best that we can.”

Tomlin also said some of their proven players need to play better.

“We know what we are. We are a 2-3 football team who obviously haven't won on the road,” Tomlin said. “There's no time like the present to change that. That's our mentality, and I think that's the mentality that reverberated throughout the group. Mentality is one thing; actions are another.”

Among those can't-wait-for-later issues is a running game that is the second-worst in the NFL and might be without its top two tailbacks — Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (right ankle) — against the Bengals. Both are questionable.

Tomlin never de-emphasizes any game, regardless of the records or the circumstances, but even he seems to have a must-win sense about this game.

“Obviously, this is a big game for us and for them,” Tomlin said.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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