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Steelers notebook: Tomlin stands by not pulling Big Ben

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By Alan Robinson
Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, 7:54 p.m.

• Coach Mike Tomlin still doesn't regret not pulling Ben Roethlisberger, even with the Steelers down 24 points in the closing minutes at New England. Roethlisberger said Tomlin would have had to call a timeout to get him off the field. “We are a group that needs to improve,” Tomlin said. “That was an opportunity to continue to do that. The healthy guys were going to stay on the field.”

• Wide receiver Antonio Brown was healthy, but he was pulled for the final possession. Tomlin said he didn't carry out his assigned route during a pass that was intercepted. “He was frustrated at the end of that football game, and rightfully so,” Tomlin said. Brown, who leads the NFL with 61 catches, will start Sunday against Buffalo (3-6).

• Right guard David DeCastro (ankle) and wide receiver Markus Wheaton (broken finger) will return to practice Wednesday, Tomlin said. Limited early in the practice week will be left tackle Kelvin Beachum (hip flexor), defensive end Cam Heyward (bruised knee), center Fernando Velasco (bruised thigh), right tackle Marcus Gilbert (right ankle), cornerback Ike Taylor and linebacker Vince Williams (concussions). Williams and Taylor must clear a series of tests before they can play again.

• Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, waived injured during training camp, returned in case Taylor can't play Sunday. Cornerback Isaiah Green was waived. Van Dyke lost his job as a special teams player last season because of excessive penalties.

• Tomlin won't put all of the blame for the Patriots' huge offensive game on his defense. “There were some tight coverages on some of those (pass) plays, to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said. “I thought a couple of the throws and, catches, to (Rob Gronkowski) were exceptional.”

• The Steelers must decide by Wednesday whether to put inside linebacker Sean Spence on the 53-man roster, on the injured reserve list or cut him. Spence, a highly regarded third-round pick last year from Miami, badly injured a knee during a 2012 preseason game and has never appeared in an NFL game.

• This is only the fifth season in which the Steelers have allowed both a 50-point and a 40-point game. The others were 1991, 1989, 1969 and 1966.

• The Steelers have allowed 32 sacks, tied for the second most in the NFL, while the Bills are tied for third with 29 sacks. A Bills pass rush led by $100 million defensive end Mario Williams (11 sacks) is a concern to Tomlin.

• Tomlin won't alter safety Troy Polamalu's many-faceted role despite one of the worst games of the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year's career. Polamalu admittedly made several coverage mistakes, and was called for three penalties, against New England. “Troy's a versatile guy. He has a unique skill set,” Tomlin said. “We need that skill set to do a variety of things for us. ... He will continue to play safety for us, he will continue to play linebacker. He will continue to play deep in the box, continue to cover in zones and man, and blitz as well.” Polamalu still grades out as the No. 7 safety in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. By contrast, former Ravens star Ed Reed (Texans) is 60th.

— Alan Robinson

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