Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: Mike Tomlin has Steelers preparing for Ravens with an edge

November 23, 2018

Mike Tomlin started his weekly news conference in a serious tone and finished with a sing-song answer and a smile.

The Steelers coach expressed concerns about turnovers, controlling the line of scrimmage and defensive personnel, but provided levity when the final question was asked about Le’Veon Bell.

“Any other questions?” Tomlin answered. “Good evening!”

1. Big Ben broken: It’s just a finger on his non-throwing hand.

The most important revelation from Tomlin is that Ben Roethlisberger has a fractured index finger on his left hand, an injury sustained in the second quarter against the Browns.

“It didn’t prohibit him from being effective in the second half of the game,” Tomlin said, but could affect his practice time.

Tomlin said the broken finger shouldn’t affect whether Roethlisberger can play Sunday at the Baltimore Ravens.

Any injury to the starting quarterback is a concern, especially one that could cause problems with handling the snap.

2. Prepare with an edge: That was Tomlin’s favorite phrase of the day, but he could have been talking about preparing for an edge.

Tomlin was less concerned with Big Ben and more so with the Ravens’ defense, which leads the NFL with 27 sacks this season.

“The pressure they put on the quarterback is a signature of their play,” Tomlin said. “They get after your quarterback, they have good blitzers, they beat your blocks, they put consistent pressure on your passer. They couple that with tight coverage.”

Not only did Tomlin focus on the “versatility and cohesion” of Ravens safeties Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson but noted that cornerback Jimmy Smith is back after missing the first meeting.

“We have a lot of respect for him,” Tomlin said. “He’s a quality, shutdown corner.”

3. Fighting for control: Tomlin talked about the need to control the game on possession downs the singular most deciding factor in the 26-14 loss to the Ravens on at Heinz Field.

The Ravens were 8 of 17 on third downs and converted their lone fourth-down attempt, while the Steelers were 2 of 12 on third downs and failed a fourth-down attempt.

“I don’t know if they controlled the line of scrimmage as much as they controlled possession downs,” Tomlin said. “Some were very manageable for our offense, some were very long for their offense. We didn’t get off the field on defense or sustain on ours.”

4. Takeaways: Tomlin acknowledged that the Browns led the NFL in turnovers forced heading into Sunday’s game, yet the Steelers still had three fumbles (one lost) and an interception.

The Steelers have thrown seven interceptions and lost five fumbles but recorded only five picks and four fumble recoveries, for a minus-three turnover differential.

Tomlin doesn’t see either statistic as satisfactory.

“We have to do a better job with ball security,” Tomlin said. “That’s going to be catastrophic to our efforts if we do not improve in those areas.”

It doesn’t help that your quarterback has a broken finger.

5. Fingers and toes: The other significant question is whether cornerback Coty Sensabaugh’s toe injury is serious.

The bigger news is that Tomlin confirmed that Sensabaugh started in place of Artie Burns because Burns arrived late to Saturday’s walk-through practice. Burns took only special teams snaps.

“It was my choice not to play him,” Tomlin said, noting that Burns had a good week of practice. “I don’t want to make more out of it than what it is, but he was late and we wanted to be focused with the guys who were wired-in appropriately where they needed to be in the hours leading up to kickoff. And so he suffered the consequences of that.”

Being benched was a first for Burns. Hopefully, it’s the wake-up call he needed. If not, Tomlin’s answer to a question about whether Cameron Sutton would be another option should.

“Anybody on the 53 is a possibility,” Tomlin said, “including Brian Allen.”

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