ST. LOUIS - For a guy who just lost his starting quarterback, perhaps for the season, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was decidedly upbeat following his team’s 12-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
Tomlin stood outside the team’s locker room high-fiving players and offering encouragement as they came off, even going as far as to call star receiver Antonio Brown, the last guy off the field, “George Jefferson.”
Part of Tomlin’s happiness was no doubt over the fact that his young defense appears to be growing up.
“I can’t say enough about the effort of all the men in that locker room,” said Tomlin. “It takes a collective effort to win a grimy game like that. It feels good to play good defense.”
* With Roethlisberger out for what is being reported as at least four weeks with a sprained MCL – the Steelers don’t feel it’s a season-ending injury at this point, though the MRI will have the final say. But Tomlin had to be pleased to see his defense on the field at the end of a game earning a victory.
The final stats show that St. Louis had 12 first downs, 258 yards and scored six points on nine possessions.
Now, the Rams aren’t world beaters, to be sure, but they were a team that had scored 34 points at home in a win over Seattle just a couple of weeks ago.
“We’re a pretty good defense,” said safety Mike Mitchell. “We’re not where we want to be but we held that team to six points. That’s a team that put up a lot of points on a Seattle defense that is very talented. To hold them to six at their place, it shows some grit.”
* More important is how the Steelers did it. They got big plays throughout the game from their defensive line. At times, it seemed as if defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt had been cloned. They were everywhere for the second consecutive week.
“That’s what we’ve been doing on the defensive line all year,” said nose tackle Steve McLendon.
They’ll need to continue with those kinds of efforts if Roethlisberger is out an extended period of time, as expected.
* Backup Michael Vick looked shaky in relief of Roethlisberger. Yes, he completed five of his six passes, but the one he missed should have been intercepted and at least two of the others were well behind the receiver.
“He got us out the stadium,” Tomlin said. “That is what the backup’s job is. If he has to play next week ... my standards and expectations will be different under those circumstances.”
It’s time that Tomlin’s expectations of his defense should rise as well.
* The Steelers are 9-7 over the years without Roethlisberger, most notably going 3-1 to start the 2010 season while he was suspended.
That was with Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch at quarterback in 2010. And the Steelers did some things, especially with Dixon, that took advantage of his scrambling ability.
Don’t expect that to happen necessarily with Vick, though. They can’t afford to have the 35-year-old Vick run around and get hurt with only Landry Jones as a backup.
* Vick feels like he has a decent handle on the offense.
“I’m still green in this offense, but I feel like I have enough down that I can go out there and execute,” Vick said.
* It’s funny how quickly people were to rip Tomlin for going for a two-point conversion when it failed.
Yes, it could have been the difference in this game. But considering the Steelers had converted all five of their conversions – including the preseason – with Roethlisberger on the field before missing Sunday, it’s not a bad gamble.
* Ryan Shazier had his arm in a sling on the sideline Sunday. That was new and suggests there’s a little more to his shoulder issue than the team originally thought.
* Sean Spence played pretty well in his absence, including a big tackle for a 2-yard loss when the Rams had first-and-goal at the 7 late in the game.
I was a little surprised the Steelers went with Spence over Vince Williams, but it worked.
* The Steelers offensive line dominated the play pretty much – at least for the most part – in the first half, while the Rams defensive front started teeing off in the second half.
“They made their plays,” said Steelers guard Ramon Foster. “They showed their pedigree but we showed ours too. We’ve just got to finish better. But our defense did a good job of being Superman today. Hats off to them. They played a heck of a game.”
Even in his best days that would have been a mismatch for Harrison, and it was in this case. Kendricks, however, dropped the ball.
“That’s hard,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher. “We had three drops today ... Those are tough to overcome. We didn’t drop them on purpose, but we need to make that play.”
And the Steelers need to figure out ways to keep Harrison out of coverage.