Steelers notebook: With Brown out, Miller says everyone must pick up slack

Ralph N. Paulk
| Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, 9:45 p.m.

The Steelers may be forced to alter their game plan offensively with wide receiver Antonio Brown sidelined with a concussion.

And part of that game plan, tight end Heath Miller said, is spreading the ball around to a versatile group of receivers.

“Certainly, Antonio can score touchdowns from anywhere on the field,” Miller said.

“Obviously, you're missing a lot when he's out there. But we have to pick up the slack because we have playmakers in this locker room.”

Running back Will Johnson could see time at tight end, particularly if Jesse James doesn't recover from an illness.

The Broncos, who sacked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger three times in the teams' regular-season meeting, will try to get the Steelers to beat them with a short game.

“I see the short game being a bigger part of the game plan, especially with (James),” said Johnson, who is listed questionable with a hamstring injury. “He's good in blocking, and he's a passing threat.

“They have a great pass rush, but we have to be a security blanket in the pass game.”

The Steelers are hoping Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint can be effective exploiting the Denver secondary.

Toussaint had four catches for 60 yards in the Steelers' 18-16 wild-card win at Cincinnati.

Wheaton has no doubt

Wide receiver Markus Wheaton isn't overly concerned about the Steelers heading into Sunday's divisional round matchup with the Broncos. And he doesn't expect the Steelers offense to deviate from what has worked this season.

“It'll be the same stuff because we're confident in what we have even if Ben sits out,” Wheaton said. “We're trying to win the game, and that's all I'm thinking about it. It's all everyone is thinking about.

“It could be a breakout game for everybody — for Todman, for Fitz (Toussaint), for Sammie Coates. Anybody can be the guy. Anybody can explode at any time.”

Broncos' safety valves

Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was feeling good about his top-ranked secondary before Brown was ruled out, in part, because safeties T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart will be in the starting lineup.

They didn't play against the Steelers in Week 15, a game in which Denver blew a 14-point lead and surrendered a season-high 354 passing yards.

“They're two really good football players,” Phillips said. “They're two of our best players. I think if T.J. wasn't hurt this year, he's an all-star player. He's a Pro Bowl player. He's a heat-seeking missile, I call him. That guy is a tremendous player. Then Stewart has come in, played really well for us and been kind of our quarterback back there. ... We didn't tackle well last game. You're getting two of your best tacklers back.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com .

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