The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 30, 2012

Steelers planning on business as usual vs. Giants

PITTSBURGH — Mike Tomlin is too preoccupied with finding ways to stop Eli Manning to worry whether the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy will affect Sunday's game in New York against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants.

"I'm simply focused on the things that are in our control," the Pittsburgh Steelers coach said Tuesday.

The weather not being among the items under Tomlin's domain. The massive storm brought record flooding and knocked out power to millions throughout the Northeast on Monday night, though even with the cleanup just getting underway the Steelers anticipate there being no changes to Sunday's scheduled 4:25 p.m. kickoff.

"We're going to proceed with the plans and continue to do so until we hear otherwise," Tomlin said.

Pittsburgh's preparation will not include safety Troy Polamalu, who will miss his third straight game and fifth overall this season due to a strained right calf. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert will also sit out while recovering from a right ankle injury.

The status of safety Ryan Clark and linebacker LaMarr Woodley is a bit more optimistic. Clark left last week's 27-12 win over Washington after sustaining a concussion in the third quarter while Woodley's right hamstring tightened up late in the game.

Tomlin said Clark's status hasn't changed since Sunday but he will be monitored throughout the week before a decision is made. Woodley will be limited early in the week, as will Jonathan Dwyer.

The third-year running back is coming off consecutive 100-yard performances but left the Washington game in the final minutes with a right quad injury. Dwyer will not practice on Wednesday but Tomlin expects Dwyer to participate at some point this week.

Running backs Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) have both missed the last two games, though there's a chance each could return in New York. Mendenhall will begin individual workouts on Wednesday while Redman should be in pads.

Though the Steelers (4-3) have won two straight to climb back into the mix in the muddled AFC, Tomlin refuses to get ahead of himself, saying only his club is heading in the right direction.

Pittsburgh certainly looked impressive while stomping the Redskins, hardly resembling the unit that stumbled in early season road losses to Oakland and Tennessee.

"Obviously, we didn't get off to a great start," he said. "The last couple of weeks, we've taken steps to rectify that."

A couple of late defensive stops and Pittsburgh could be 6-1. They're not, and Tomlin is hardly in the mood to think about where the Steelers could be. He'd prefer to focus on where they are.

"We're 4-3," he said. "Not only offensively, but defensively and from the special teams standpoint. I'd like to think that we're a group on the rise and one that's gelling and coming together and solidifying a personality."

While the Steelers have kept opponents in check, they're not exactly producing the kind of splash defensive plays that have defined coordinator Dick LeBeau's second tenure. Pittsburgh is next-to-last in the NFL in takeaways (7) and is 24th in the league in sacks with 12.

Still, they are second behind San Francisco in yards allowed (274.1), a byproduct of good tackling and an offense that tends to stay on the field for long stretches of time. The Steelers trail only Houston in time of possession, holding onto the ball more than 34 minutes a game.

"I've always said I'm at my best when I'm sitting on the bench," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "I've got no problem sitting there and watching the offense work."

Besides, Pittsburgh believes the big plays will eventually come. Polamalu remains sidelined indefinitely but is expected to return at some point. Linebacker James Harrison continues to round into shape after lingering knee issues kept him out of the lineup for all of training camp and the first month of the season.

"He's getting better and this is a guy that had no preseason work in training camp and so forth," Tomlin said. "I think he's getting better with every snap."

Notes: Tomlin said the team hasn't made a decision on how to proceed with rookie NT Alameda Ta'amu, who was reinstated to the team on Monday after serving a two-week suspension. Ta'amu still faces more than a dozen charges — including several felonies — following a run-in with police on Oct. 14. The team has until 4 p.m. Wednesday to make a roster move ... Tomlin called WR Antonio Brown's 15-yard taunting penalty during a punt return against the Redskins "not respectable." Brown ran the final 20 yards to the end zone backward while jawing at a Washington defender, though the play was called back due to an illegal block.

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