Steelers notebook: Newly acquired tackle Brown goes on IR
In a reversal of form, the Steelers' offense — even without much of a running game — is outperforming the defense, according to the Pro Football Focus efficiency rankings.
The Steelers are 15th offensively despite a 30th-place ranking in rushing but only 22nd defensively, including 27th against the run. Based on yardage allowed, the Steelers are a much higher sixth in the league defensive rankings.
• Inside linebacker Sean Spence, whose career was endangered by a major knee injury even before he played in an NFL game, will come off the physically unable to perform list to practice this week. It's still not certain if he will play this season, something linebackers coach Keith Butler said last spring would require a “miracle.”
• Coach Mike Tomlin offered substantial praise to running back Le'Veon Bell, even though he managed only 34 yards on 16 carries against the Jets. “I thought he did a great job of picking (holes) and putting the ball where it was supposed to be and running with the type of demeanor that we desire,” Tomlin said. “Obviously the numbers don't exhibit great success.”
• Tomlin apparently isn't concerned that safety Ryan Clark recently critiqued Ben Roethlisberger's performance during an ESPN appearance. Tomlin said, “Ryan is a very seasoned communicator, particularly with the media. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about those interactions.”
• Wide receiver Markus Wheaton (broken pinkie finger) will miss a second successive game, but defensive Brett Keisel (chest muscle) and linebacker LaMarr Woodley (knee inflammation) should be ready. Tight end Matt Spaeth (foot) won't return to practice this week.
• The Steelers have all but shelved the offensive zone blocking scheme they began implementing with considerable attention last spring. Tomlin blamed the injuries to center Maurkice Pouncey and Bell. “We're going to lean to the strength of the men we work with,” Tomlin said. “If that means we're not going to run things that we've spent time executing, then so be it.”
• Roethlisberger cautioned Emmanuel Sanders about somersaulting into the end zone even before Tomlin banned his players from doing so. “Anything could have happened. ... It blows my mind when those guys flip into the end zone,” he said.
— Alan Robinson