PITTSBURGH — As a general rule, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t get too caught up in the emotional toll of a loss or the carnage it can leave behind.
Yes, going over Sunday’s lifeless, sloppy showing in Miami wasn’t pleasant. It’s not supposed to be when you get whipped by a last-place team.
“We can’t spend any time lamenting that performance and who is available or who is not available,” Tomlin said Tuesday.
Going through the injury list would probably take too much time anyway, especially now that it includes quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The tweaked left knee Roethlisberger suffered in the second quarter against Miami while trying to avoid a sack resulted in surgery on Monday. While Roethlisberger prides himself on his toughness, he won’t be in the lineup when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots visit on Sunday. Tomlin officially ruled Roethlisberger out and Landry Jones the starter for a showdown with the AFC East leaders.
Tomlin declined to give a timeline for Roethlisberger’s potential return. The Steelers (4-2) are off next week and travel to Baltimore on Nov. 6. It’s possible Roethlisberger could be back by then, but Tomlin won’t speculate on that now. Trying to figure out a way to slow down the Patriots (5-1) without his franchise quarterback takes precedence anyway.
Besides, Roethlisberger is just one of a number of bold-faced names that may be out of the lineup. Defensive end Cam Heyward will miss his second straight game with a balky left hamstring and linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee) and right tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) will likely need to make significant strides this week if they want to be in uniform. Shazier, Pittsburgh’s most dynamic defender, hasn’t played since Week 3, while Gilbert’s left ankle is still aching from a Week 4 win over Kansas City.
Running back DeAngelo Williams (knee), safety Rob Golden (foot), safety Mike Mitchell (knee) and wide receiver Markus Wheaton (shoulder) are also hurting. If the mystifying 30-15 setback in Miami proved anything, it’s that the Steelers hardly look like a legitimate threat in the AFC with so many contributors in sweatpants and sneakers instead of cleats.
Minus Heyward and Shazier, Pittsburgh allowed Miami’s Jay Ajayi to become the first opposing back to go over 200 yards against the Steelers since Fred Taylor in 2000. The offensive line, which survived just fine without Gilbert in a victory over the Jets, struggled to protect Roethlisberger against the Dolphins.
A little bit of help, however, may be on the way. Tight end Ladarius Green will attempt to practice this week as he works his way back from offseason ankle surgery and other issues that have kept Pittsburgh’s rare splurge in free agency on the physically unable to perform list. The team has 21 days once Green begins practicing to determine whether to put him on the 53-man roster.
While tight ends Jesse James, Xavier Grimble and David Johnson have been a pleasant surprise, Green’s ability to make plays downfield would bring another dimension and take some of the pressure off All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown.
“It’s been so long, I feel like I retired and came back,” Green said Monday.
Tomlin will wait until later the week to gauge Green’s progress. It’s more likely Green will need some time to get acclimated before seeing actual playing time. He remains optimistic he will be back at some point and there’s no reason to think Roethlisberger, Heyward and the rest of Pittsburgh’s key contributors will be out an extended period.
Of course, that won’t help on Sunday against Tom Brady. The Steelers proved last year they could survive without Roethlisberger, winning on the road at San Diego and at home against eventual NFC West champion Arizona with someone else under center. Jones did a pretty decent Roethlisberger impression against the Cardinals while throwing a pair of touchdowns in a 25-13 win .
The test will be even more daunting against the AFC’s best team. Tomlin isn’t worried about Jones getting ready for the challenge.
“He’s a professional athlete,” Tomlin said. “I don’t suspect he’s going to be lacking of confidence. Landry’s a confident guy by nature.”
Notes: The Steelers signed offensive tackle Brian Mihalik and placed cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz on the practice squad. To make room for Mihalik on the active roster, Pittsburgh released offensive lineman Matt Feiler, who was put on the 53-man for the first time in his career last Sunday.