Adams' Arrow Pointing Up

The fill-in right tackle was just one of the players Mike Tomlin was happy to discuss at his Tuesday press conference.

Mike Tomlin didn't want to get stuck on the obvious at his Tuesday press conference after Ben Roethlisberger turned in one of the greatest quarterback performances in NFL history Sunday.

So Tomlin moved quickly from quarterback to offensive line in assessing the positives from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 51-34 upset of the Indianapolis Colts.

"In particular I'd like to acknowledge Mike Adams," Tomlin said of the replacement right tackle. "I thought he played a really good football game, not only in the passing game but in the running game. I thought he was a finisher."

That was Adams' trademark as a rookie in 2012 when he stepped in at right tackle for six games and the Steelers averaged 124 rushing yards per game.

But Tomlin said that Marcus Gilbert will be back at right tackle after missing the last game with a concussion, and Tomlin wanted to make sure Adams knew his work was appreciated.

"I just liked his performance," Tomlin said. "I thought it was a big arrow pointing up, relative to some other performances that he's had, and obviously it was necessary."

Tomlin also complimented the receiving corps that complemented Antonio Brown.

"I thought all the eligible receivers did their jobs in terms of getting open and getting open quickly," Tomlin said. He brought up rookie Martavis Bryant in particular.

"(Bryant) continues to grow and develop and work hard during the course of the week," Tomlin said. "We'll continue to maybe expand some of the things he does as he shows he's capable."

Bryant came out of training camp with a shoulder injury. That, and the team's lack of confidence in his understanding of the offense kept Bryant inactive. But the Steelers gave him his chance two Monday nights ago and Bryant responded with a 35-yard touchdown for his first career catch.

The Steelers "asked him to do more in his last game," said Tomlin, and Bryant responded with five catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts.

For the season, Bryant has seven catches for 123 yards (17.6 ypc.) and three touchdowns. The 6-3 3/4 rookie with the 4.46 speed and 39-inch vertical jump can run deep and high-point fade passes.

CORTEZ NOT DONE

Tomlin indicated that Cortez Allen, the struggling ex-starter at left cornerback, will remain in the sub-package rotation Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

Allen was yanked out of his nickelback role in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, and his replacement, Antwon Blake, intercepted Andrew Luck in the end zone.

Tomlin emphasized to Allen and the media that he still has faith in the fourth-year player.

"He's got to lick his wounds, roll his sleeves up and come back to work this week. Answer the ball that comes with putting bad stuff on tape," Tomlin said. "I would imagine Baltimore is going to work to attack him and he better be able to defend himself."

Tomlin hopes Allen seeks counsel from injured teammate Ike Taylor, who was infamously benched by Bill Cowher for six games in 2006.

"He's lived it," Tomlin said of Taylor. "Ike's presence and experience in that regard will be helpful to Cortez."

RETURN TO SENDER

Last on Tomlin's list of negatives was the return game. The Steelers are 31st in the league with a kickoff return average of 16.1. The franchise record for lowest kickoff return average is 16.9 set in 1993 when Rod Woodson was the No. 1 return man.

The Steelers benched someone Sunday who's even faster -- rookie Dri Archer. The third-round pick whom the Steelers had timed at sub-4.2 seconds at the combine averages only 17.9 yards per each of his nine kickoff returns so far. He was replaced Sunday by his blocking back, LeGarrette Blount, who returned one Colts kickoff for 15 yards.

"We didn't get the type of results we were looking for," Tomlin said. "So we'll look back at it with a larger scope this week."

Brown might even get a try. He was the AFC return specialist in the Pro Bowl following the 2011 season when he averaged 27.3 per kickoff return. He's currently the Steelers' punt returner, but his 7.9 average is below his 9.5 career average.

"The punt return was adequate," Tomlin said of Sunday's game. "But I think we're capable of being more than adequate in that area based on who our punt returner is."

SHAMARKO, MCLENDON BACK

Reserve safety/punt gunner Shamarko Thomas will return after missing three games with a hamstring injury. The man who replaced him, Ross Ventrone, has been ruled out this week with, yep, a hamstring injury.

Tomlin also believes that nose tackle Steve McLendon will return from a shoulder injury this week. Cam Thomas and rookie Daniel McCullers played nose tackle the last two games in McLendon's place.

LINEBACKERS IN ROTATION

Even though mack inside linebacker Ryan Shazier returned to action last Sunday, Tomlin has grown attached to the players -- Sean Spence and Vince Williams -- who replaced Shazier and steadily improved throughout his four-game absence.

"We have four inside linebackers that are very capable men," Tomlin said. "We're going to continue to use combinations of those three guys, along with Lawrence (Timmons), to meet our situational needs. That may change during the course of games; it may change week to week."

Spence, who started all four games for Shazier at the mack, has 23 tackles, three quarterback pressures and one pass defensed this season.

Williams -- a run-stuffer who played the buck and moved Timmons back to his former mack spot Sunday -- made six tackles against the Colts to bring his season total up to eight.


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