Steelers notebook: Jones sickness juggles defense
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, 9:39 p.m.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones was inactive Sunday for the Steelers' 38-31 win over Green Bay at Lambeau Field. Jones was slated to start ahead of LaMarr Woodley, who is out for the season with an injured calf.
Jones' unexpected absence forced Chris Carter into a starting role. Carter, who narrowly survived the final roster cut in training camp, made his first start since filling in for James Harrison at the beginning of the 2012 season.
Carter was credited with one tackle — a touchdown-saving stop of running back Eddie Lacy at the Steelers' 14 late in the second quarter.
“We live by the creed next man up, and that's what it came down to,” Carter said. “We did what we had to do to help us win. They told me as I was putting on my pads that I was starting.”
Sanders, Worilds injured
Receiver Emmanuel Sanders and linebacker Terence Garvin sat out the second half with knee injuries. Sanders sustained a right knee injury in the second quarter, and Garvin was lost with a left knee injury.
Sanders, who caught a 1-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, said he is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday.
Linebacker Jason Worilds, who had one sack and three tackles, left the game in the fourth quarter with an abdominal injury and a shoulder (stinger) injury. Worilds' injury forced the Steelers to juggle an already-depleted linebacker corps. Carter moved to left outside linebacker, and Stevenson Sylvester played right outside linebacker.
Kickers matter on special teams
Punters and kickers proved they can influence special teams when they aren't accounted for. The kickers were the last line of defense on three first-half returns that might have resulted in TDs.
Green Bay kickoff returner Micah Hyde needed only one more block to reach the end zone on the opening kickoff. Kicker Shaun Suisham, who had two tackles, tripped him at the Green Bay 38. Green Bay punter Tim Masthay shed a block to tackle Antonio Brown at the Green Bay 48 after a 41-yard punt return. Then Sanders slipped through a seam on a kickoff late in the second quarter, but kicker Mason Crosby altered his path down the sideline.
Steelers rookie safety Shamarko Thomas made the biggest tackle on special teams when he chased down Hyde, who returned the kickoff 70 yards to the Steelers' 30 with 1:25 left, helping preserve the Steelers' slim playoff chances.
McBriar delivers big throw
The Steelers found the perfect time to call a fake punt, but it took a perfect throw from punter Mat McBriar to tight end David Paulson. Paulson's sixth catch of the year went for 30 yards, and a roughing-the-passer penalty set up quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 13-yard scoring run that put the Steelers up 17-14 with 11:51 left in the third quarter.
“I've had enough practice with it that I felt really good about it, and I think everyone else did too,” McBriar said. “There were times a few weeks back maybe I was thinking ‘this could be nuts' but as you get more comfortable with something are not used to doing, I felt better about it.”
Keisel makes strong return
Defensive end Brett Keisel had been slowed by a foot injury the past month, but he had a strong performance against Green Bay. He had a sack, a quarterback hurry and recovered quarterback Matt Flynn's fumble to set up the game-winning touchdown. “It was awesome. It was a game to remember,” Keisel said. “It'll be a game I can tell my kids about and be happy about.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
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