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Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger critical of media reports

| Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, 7:39 p.m.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger plays against the Bills on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger plays against the Bills on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013 at Heinz Field.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger responded Friday to NFL Network reports questioning his work ethic and trade rumors involving him.

“How does anybody know what I'm doing at home, when I'm watching film or I'm looking through my playbook at home, unless someone someone's got cameras set up in my house and they're spying on me?” Roethlisberger said during a radio interview. “But then they'd see the truth that I am doing that stuff.”

Roethlisberger declined to comment following Friday's practice.

The Steelers, who face Detroit on Sunday at Heinz Field, largely agreed that the report hasn't been a distraction. The Steelers (3-6) are marred in the AFC North cellar, but upcoming games against Cleveland and Baltimore could prove pivotal with the division title still up for grabs.

“I think people outside this locker room will cause a distraction regardless of our record,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “We're not going to let this carry on to the field. We've got a good group of veterans who know how to handle this situation.”

Tight end Heath Miller said most players ignored the trade rumors.

“We've got more important things to focus on.” Miller said. “When you're not playing as well, this stuff tends to come up out of nowhere. It's not an issue for us in the locker room.”

Injury front

The Steelers will be without safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) on Sunday, while guard Ramon Foster (ankle) and defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) are questionable.

Linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) is listed as doubtful after missing every practice session this week, and center Tight end Heath Miller (not injury related) is listed as probable along with five offensive linemen: center Fernando Velasco (ankle), guard David DeCastro (ankle) and tackles Kelvin Beachum (hip), Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and Mike Adams (ribs).

Guy Whimper could get the start if Foster can't play, and Keisel will be replaced by Al Woods or Ziggy Hood. Woodley likely will be replaced by Jason Worilds.

Coach Mike Tomlin typically doesn't play those sidelined all week with injuries.

Tough assignment

Cornerback William Gay has faced Calvin Johnson before, and he concedes it's difficult to get into the All-Pro receiver's head. “He doesn't talk,” Gay said. “You can't talk smack with a guy who ignores you.”

Gay added the Steelers aren't likely to try gimmick defenses such as gunner coverage, which necessitates two defensive backs challenging Johnson at the line of scrimmage. Bush still a threat

The Steelers are cautious that they don't ignore running back Reggie Bush.

Bush has become the perfect complement for Joique Bell, giving the Lions the big-play threat they were missing last season.

“We were at the bottom of the NFL in explosive runs, and he's gone a long way to reversing that trend,” said Lions coach Jim Schwartz.

Bush, who had 105 rushing yards in win over Chicago last Sunday, has a team-high 623 rushing yards. He has added 34 receptions for 343 yards and four touchdowns.

“Reggie is going to be the variable no matter if they hand him the ball or throw it,” rookie linebacker Vince Williams said. “It's going to be up to us to disrupt the timing of their offense because they depend on being on schedule.”

Slow the tempo

Roethlisberger figured a shootout with New England was probably bad idea. And he didn't sound overly confident about getting into a fast-break game with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“They obviously have some big-time players and can do a lot of things on offense,” he said. “We are going against their defense, so we have to be the best we can be.”

The Lions are averaging 26.4 points compared to the Steelers' 19.9.

Adams settles into new role

Mike Adams said he hasn't gotten over losing his job at left tackle to Kelvin Beachum. But he's getting accustomed to his role as an extra tight end. When asked if might get involved in the red-zone passing game, he said, “It'll be pretty cool if it happens, but we'll have to wait and find out.”

Adams said he views his role as an opportunity to prove himself.

“It's a way to get back on the field and a way to get better at my craft at tackle,” he said. “I wasn't active for a week, so I'm motivated. At first, I didn't know how to take it.”

“I think he's done nothing but keep a positive mindset and taken on this role of playing some tight end and doing the best job that he can at that,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “That's where he's been out there and that's where he's been productive for us.”

Back in stride again

The right pinkie finger of rookie receiver Markus Wheaton is bent, and it could be some time before it heals. But it didn't keep him from fighting his way back onto the field. Even though he didn't make a catch Sunday, he regained his mental edge when he sprinted 57 yards to chase down Buffalo cornerback Jairus Byrd, who had intercepted a pass intended for Wheaton.

“I feel like anytime your on the field, you have to keep playing,” said Wheaton, who will be fitted with a clay-based cast. “I'm going to do what I can to make a play even if I'm injured. If I was tentative, they wouldn't have me out there. So I play as if I didn't have the injury. It was tough mentally at first because I wasn't able to contribute.”

Wheaton is expected to return punts along with Antonio Brown.

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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