PITTSBURGH – Between injuries, suspensions and holdouts, the Steelers have had more than their share of potential distractions this season.
The way the Steelers see it, they’ve turned the corner, even if that turn came on just two wheels, and are ready to begin their drive toward the postseason.
“That’s a good way to put it, turning the corner on two wheels,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “But I think the turn is over. I think we’re going to settle down on four, kick it into four-wheel drive and get going.”
The Steelers (7-6) swear that the latest drama surrounding the team, the suspension of running back Rashard Mendenhall Tuesday for conduct detrimental to the team, won’t be a factor in their preparations for Sunday’s game at Dallas (7-6).
“I think those are reasons (when) you lose,” said Steelers safety Ryan Clark. “If we were three games better, it’s not talked about as much. It’s more about the way we overcame adversity, or drama. I think the words change and the language used about what we’ve been through changes.”
Mendenhall was suspended by head coach Mike Tomlin for one game after not showing up for last Sunday’s loss to San Diego when he learned that he would be inactive.
But it’s not been the lone issue surrounding the Steelers, who have been inconsistent, this season.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace did not report to training camp while in a contract dispute, while rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu was arrested Oct. 14 after he allegedly evaded police while driving intoxicated and struck several parked cars, injuring one person, on Pittsburgh’s South Side, drawing a two-game suspension. He was later waived and signed to the team’s practice squad.
And then there are the injuries.
Pittsburgh’s starters have missed a total of 44 games to injuries this season, not including players such as offensive tackle Mike Adams, who were hurt after replacing other injured players.
“I think more than anything, the most drama we’ve had is injuries, not so much people going on IR, but missing games,” said Clark. “That’s probably been a lot more difficult to overcome than a guy not coming to a football game, or a guy not coming to training camp, or a guy who has never played a snap in a regular game missing time because of something that happened off the field.”
One of the biggest issues surrounding the Steelers coming into this season was how it would respond to a loss of veteran leaders such as Hines Ward, James Farrior and Aaron Smith, who all retired after 2011.
And because of the injury issues the team has had, a number of younger players are being counted upon to play increased roles.
Roethlisberger feels it is incumbent upon the team’s veterans to show the younger guys how to play with an increased sense of urgency and tune out possible distractions, not through words, but through actions.
“I think you’ll see from guys who have been around here a while that it’s that time, you’ll start seeing some leaders step up in how to practice, how to get ready for games,” Roethlisberger said. “Hopefully, young guys will take some cues from that.
“It’s that time of year. I know that me in particular and some guys who have been around here, you’re going to start seeing a different mindset and mentality that it’s that time of year. In years past, nobody has had to say it, because we have had so many guys that have done it before. It’s time to pick it up and go. I think we have some veteran guys who will do that. We’ve got to get the young guys to do the same.”
Odds and end zones
The Steelers on Wednesday released wide receiver David Reed from their practice squad and signed wideouts David Gilreath and Derek Moye and cornerback Isaiah Green. … Linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, was a full participant in practice Wednesday. … Corner Cortez Allen has a groin injury, not a hip flexor injury as reported by Tomlin Tuesday. … In addition to Allen, corners Ike Taylor (anke) and Keenan Lewis (hip), offensive linemen Mike Adams (ankle) and Willie Colon (knee), linebacker James Harrison (illness), safety Troy Polamalu (coach’s decision) and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday.