Tomlin Wary Of Letdown Potential

Also, a Steelers injury update, and why dancing before kickoffs has been outlawed.

Steelers fans who've ridden the emotional roller coaster over the years know what can happen next.

So does Mike Tomlin.

The Steelers coach touched briefly on this past Sunday's scintillating and emotional win over the Baltimore Ravens at his weekly press conference and quickly got down to the business of focusing on the 1-8 New York Jets, because he understands his team must guard against a letdown.

"That's one of the things that we've got to, quite frankly, guard against," said Tomlin. "Winning a big, emotional game like that and having the ability to move forward, individually and collectively, to the next challenge will define us. It always does. It's universal in football. There are many examples that you can cite."

Tomlin's recent teams have fallen flat after wins over the Ravens: Last year they lost at the 2-4 Oakland Raiders and in 2012 they lost to the visiting San Diego Chargers.

It's a similar story throughout the league. The Cleveland Browns losing at Jacksonville a week after beating the Steelers is just one recent example.

"The Jets are a 1-8 football team," Tomlin said, "but if you look across them positionally, they've got Pro Bowl-caliber players and established, highly respected coaches at just about every turn."

The Jets replaced second-year quarterback Geno Smith with 34-year-old Michael Vick two weeks ago against the Buffalo Bills after Smith three interceptions in the first quarter.

Vick stayed there to start last week's loss at the Kansas City Chiefs but had a passer rating of 105.7.

If Vick and wide receiver/return specialist Percy Harvin -- who was acquired in a trade with Seattle and has played the last two games (11-129 last week) for the Jets -- can spark the league's worst-ranked passing game, the Jets would become dangerous. They already are the third-ranked rushing team and the sixth-ranked defense. Rex Ryan is the head coach on the hot seat.

"There are a myriad of reasons why things don't come together and teams struggle," Tomlin said. "But every time you step into a stadium you've got an opportunity to rectify it. We started off 2-6 a year ago. What we were able to do over the second half of the season is kind of a reflection of that.

"You better respect teams when you step in stadiums," he added. "There are no homecoming games, no 1-AA opponents in the NFL."

The 6-3 Steelers are favored by 4 1/2 points over the 1-8 Jets.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

Probably better to criticize after a win, and Tomlin on Tuesday detailed his team's struggles during its 20-point win over the Ravens:

* Rushed 22 times for only 55 yards, but "They didn't either," Tomlin said of the Ravens (18-63). "That's really a signature of the matchup."

* Gave up a 35-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. "We gave up an easy score," he said. "That's something we talked all week about, that we could not do."

* Fumbled a snap on third-and-1. The Ravens recovered and went on to score their final touchdown to cut the deficit to 36-23.

* Allowed a 108-yard kickoff return by Jacoby Jones, "which, quite frankly, was ridiculous," Tomlin said. "Guys dancing around and so forth before the ball is kicked and then getting one run back on them is unacceptable. You won't see our kickoff team dancing anymore."

INJURY UPDATE

Tomlin ruled SS Troy Polamalu and ILB Ryan Shazier out of Sunday's game. Polamalu sprained his left knee and Shazier sprained his right ankle against the Ravens.

The Steelers might have depth issues at safety, because Shamarko Thomas, who injured a hamstring upon returning from a three-game absence due to his other hamstring being injured, will also miss this game, and reserve safety Ross Ventrone is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the Ravens game.

The Steelers hope to have Ventrone in reserve of starter Mike Mitchell and replacement Will Allen in New York. The Steelers don't have a safety on their practice squad, but starting cornerback William Gay has practiced at safety for emergencies.

Shazier will be replaced by Sean Spence, with Vince Williams likely pushing buck ILB Lawrence Timmons over to Shazier and Spence's mack spot in a rotation.

Tomlin said that CB Ike Taylor, who has missed six games with a broken forearm, was scheduled to have undergone a CT scan Tuesday. Taylor's expected to only work in non-contact drills this week.


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