Friday Report: Looking Ahead to Pittsburgh

Steeler coach Mike Tomlin looks dead ahead, while the Browns coordinators try to conquer the past...

Mike Tomlin has a rear-view mirror in his car, but there's a good bet that he has never used it.

At least he doesn't use one in his role as the third-year head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who host the Browns on Sunday at Heinz Field.

You've heard about the so-called "Super Bowl hangover," in which teams, for whatever reason, struggle in the year following winning the Super Bowl? That's not on Tomlin's radar screen.

"It's not something we've dealt with or have even discussed," he said during a conference call with the Cleveland media the other day. "Last year is last year. We're focusing on the challenges and adversity we're facing this year.

"I'm sure that the 1974 and '75 (Steelers) teams (which won back-to-back Super Bowl titles) didn't concern themselves with it."

This is not some naïve "whistling past the graveyard" approach. It is the way Tomlin does business – that is, keep looking straight ahead, not behind. You can't change what has happened – good or bad -- so there is no need to dwell on it. Dwell, instead, on what's about to happen, for it is that which you still have an opportunity to change.

It is that way even with injuries. The Steelers are getting Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu back, but at the same time, they're losing talented defensive end Aaron Smith, who is out for the year with a shoulder problem. Shed no tears for the Steelers, Tomlin says.

"We're happy to have Troy back, because he's one of the best in the world at what he does," the coach said. "As for Aaron, I feel sorry for him from a personal standpoint, but injuries are part of the game."

The 3-2 Steelers have won two in a row to cancel out a rare two-game losing streak earlier this year. So are they getting some momentum and beginning to hit their stride?

Uh, not necessarily.

"If we're going to be a playoff team, we know we're going to have to string some wins together," Tomlin said. "But the way we look at, each particular game stands on its own."

That includes the contest against Cleveland.

The Steelers have won 11 games in a row – and 17 of the last 18 -- in their nearly 60-year rivalry with the Browns, but again, that will count for absolutely nothing on Sunday, according to Tomlin.

"This is still a big game in our minds," he said. "I'm not toting that baggage of what happened the last 11 games or the last 18 games, and I'm sure that Coach (Eric) Mangini, being that this is his first year, isn't toting that baggage, either.

"We respect the rivalry that is Cleveland-Pittsburgh. We look forward to playing them."

And once the game is over, the Steelers, win or lose, will forget about it and start looking ahead to next Sunday's visit by the Minnesota Vikings.

Mike Tomlin wouldn't have it any other way.


INJURY UPDATES: Nose tackle Shaun Rogers returned to the team following Thursday's practice after being away on a personal matter. Browns head coach Eric Mangini intimated Rogers should be ready to go on Sunday. But Mangini said it will be a game-time decision on the availability of kicker Phil Dawson, who has missed the last three games with a calf problem on his kicking leg. Weighing into the decision will be the expected cold, rainy conditions and the slippery turf with poor footing that is always present at the pasture land they call Heinz Field.


STILL IN THE MIX: Mangini said on Friday that the Browns have not abandoned plans to use Joshua Cribbs as a defensive back, something that was speculated last offseason. The coach said the problem in doing that now is that Cribbs already has "a lot on his plate" with his responsibilities on offense and special teams.


OFFENSIVELY SPEAKING:  Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, in his weekly Friday press conference, said he kept trying "to focus on the positives" as the Browns dropped pass after pass last Sunday in the 6-3 win over the Buffalo Bills. "What you don't want is an avalanche," he said. But that's exactly what Daboll, the Browns and quarterback Derek Anderson got. "I know the numbers were terrible," Daboll said of the quarterback hitting just 2-of-17 attempts for 23 yards and an interception for a 15.1 rating, "but Derek never lost his confidence. He really didn't." He added, "The routes need to improve, and the concentration needs to improve." To help that effort, the receivers have spent a lot of time after practice this week catching balls as Daboll does things to try to distract their attention. He said all that has gone well, but the proof will be in the pudding on Sunday. … Daboll also said running back Jamal Lewis, who had his first 100-yard rushing day since 2007 with 117 yards in 31 carries, was calling for the ball down the stretch. "He came to me and said, ‘Hey, Dabe, put it on my shoulders,' " the coach said. "He was adamant about it." And the coach listened, giving the Bills a steady diet of No. 31. Lewis had 10 attempts overall in the fourth quarter and carried the ball on each of the Browns' last four plays from scrimmage leading up to Billy Cundiff's game-winning 18-yard field goal with 23 seconds left.


DEFENSIVELY SPEAKING: In his weekly Friday presser, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan heaped all kinds of praise onto the Steelers, but at the same time, he said he and the defense are looking forward to the challenge. "Games like this are why you got into coaching. They're what you do this for," he said. "That's the plan, to go in there and play well and contribute to a win. Is it going to take everything we've got? Damn right it is. But bring it on." … Ryan said a couple months ago that outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley was going to have a good season. So far, so good, as Wimbley has four of the club's nine sacks and is showing signs of being the same game-changing player he was as a rookie in 2006. "That's one guy I said flat out was going to do well, and he has. So I was right – again," Ryan said in his usual stand-up comedy mode. "He has too much talent not to be a great player." Wimbley now has many sacks as he had all of last year, and is just one away from equaling his 2007 total. He set a Browns rookie record with 11 sacks in 2006. Ryan said he didn't know why Wimbley was playing so much better, but moving him around from side to side, instead of keeping him on the right, which was done his first three years, has helped considerably, as has the fact Ryan is a player's coach and has good rapport with his troops. Ryan has said all along that he wants to build "a good, tough physical defense that the city can be proud of," and a productive Wimbley is essential to that.

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