It wasn't much, but Mike Tomlin confirmed Tuesday there's optimism surrounding Ben Roethlisberger's early recovery from a sprained MCL and bone bruise.
"There is no real update on Ben," Tomlin said at his weekly press conference, "although he's progressing well and everybody's pleased by what they see from him."
That was also the conjecture of former San Diego Chargers head team physician Dr. David Chao, who wrote Monday in the National Football Post that "a significant bone bruise in or near a joint requires non-weight bearing status. The fact that Roethlisberger was allowed to walk around without crutches (Thursday night) indicates the bone bruise is minor or not in a significant area. I know the quality Pittsburgh Steelers medical staff. There is no way they would have allowed full-weight bearing if it was not safe or might delay healing."
In bringing up another report that pegged Roethlisberger's return at "late October," Chao wrote, "I wouldn’t be surprised if it were sooner with a knee brace."
Tomlin also had encouraging news on his other injured players. Linebacker Ryan Shazier's shoulder is "dramatically improving," according to Tomlin, and the ankle injury suffered by wide receiver Markus Wheaton also "looks dramatically improved." Tomlin said that cornerback Cortez Allen's knee "looks better" and defensive lineman Daniel McCullers' knee "appears to be improved."
Tight end Matt Spaeth has his broken hand in a cast and will be monitored this week at practice to determine in-game feasibility.
DISAPPOINTED, NOT DISCOURAGED
Tomlin said he's "disappointed but I'm not in any way discouraged" by the Thursday night loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Tomlin cited four encouraging aspects:
1.) "Le'Veon (Bell) took a step in his second game back."
2.) "I was generally pleased with the performance of Mike (Vick). ... He's only going to get better in terms of managing our offense."
3.) "I think the defense is improving week in and week out. ... I see dramatic improvement in some areas."
4.) "I thought our special teams game took a step up in our return game. ... We hadn't had enough production there."
"Largely, just excited about the week's preparation that we have," Tomlin said. "We have an opportunity to improve in all areas, whether it's the defense continuing to grow in the manner in which they have over the last several weeks, or Michael Vick getting comfortable at our quarterback position, or Le'Veon continuing to solidify himself into football playing condition within the framework of what we're doing, and all the eligibles developing the necessary rapport with Mike to have the type of timing that's going to allow us to win tough, combative situations like occurred at the end of the game. I'm excited to watch them work and ultimately doing that in San Diego."
LEAKY RUN DEFENSE
In an otherwise encouraging defensive performance Thursday, the Steelers allowed Justin Forsett to rush 27 times for 150 yards, the most yards they had allowed a runner in four years. On Oct. 2, 2011, Arian Foster rushed 30 times for 155 yards.
Overall, the Steelers allowed the Ravens 191 yards rushing at 4.9 per carry, the first time an opponent has averaged over 3.9 this season.
"We wanted to minimize their play-action pass," Tomlin explained. "They got significant chunks via the play-pass going into the game. We wanted to attack that to minimize those chunks. We realized in doing so we might expose ourselves to some run. We probably exposed ourselves to a little bit more run than we anticipated."
Going after Joe Flacco did result in five sacks and gives the Steelers 14 at the quarter-pole, a pace that would give them 56 this season and break the team record of 55 (2001, 1994).
But that doesn't impress Tomlin.
"Ultimately I believe your ability to pressure the quarterback is measured by your ability to rush with four, and we didn't do that too much in the game," he said. "We usually brought more than four but that was that game plan. We go forward wanting to establish a good consistent rush that's steeped in the four-man principle."
SCOBEE INJURY NEWS TO TOMLIN
Reports from national media suggested Josh Scobee was struggling with a quadriceps injury that Scobee believes will heal in a couple of weeks. If so, Tomlin didn't know anything about it.
"Scobee was not hurt to my knowledge," Tomlin said Tuesday.
He explained the process through which the Steelers signed Chris Boswell.
"Boswell just did a nice job at the workout," Tomlin said. "We worked him out Saturday at Heinz Field. It was a very good environment for a workout because the weather wasn't great. ... Besides that, we've done our research on him. (We have) not only followed him since he's been in the league but also when he came out of Rice University."
Tomlin added that Boswell "was a well-rounded and highly respected guy at Rice. ... In his first (pro) experience, he showed some versatility, he kicked off, kicked field goals and punted as well. He's an athlete who happens to place-kick and that's attractive to us."
MARTAVIS TO RUN DEEP, IF ...
Antonio Brown dropped a 36-yard pass in the end zone, so Vick's longest completion Thursday night went for 18 yards to Wheaton.
Tomlin said the lack of deep passing wasn't by design, but that the return of Martavis Bryant on Monday night would practically insure it.
"We had several deep routes drawn up like we do every week," Tomlin said. "In regards to Martavis, he has the distinguishing characteristic as a guy that's capable of getting deep. If he's in uniform, rest assured that he's a guy that's going to be stretching the field vertically."
Tomlin said the corresponding move to activate Bryant doesn't have to be made until Monday at 4 p.m.
"I think we'll make it about 3:58 on Monday, Tomlin said.