Steelers coach looking at possible changes in secondary

Tomlin admits Roethlisberger has concussion and that his personnel in the secondary could be in line for a change.

Ben Roethlisberger has a concussion, but said on his weekly radio show that it won't keep him out of practice this week.

Of course, the guidelines in the NFL's concussion protocol will determine whether Roethlisberger can play Sunday night for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Indianapolis Colts.

At the same time, the many fans who thought that Mike Tomlin may have had a concussion for sticking so long with Antwon Blake at cornerback were relieved to have heard Tomlin acknowledge at his weekly press conference that it may be time for a change at the position.

"He had some difficulties in the game from a tackling perspective," Tomlin said of Blake. "I think you could say the same about (nickel cornerback) Ross Cockrell. We're going to give both guys an opportunity to rebound, but we're also going to look at other options this week because that's the prudent and appropriate thing to do."

Following the 39-30 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, the Steelers rank 30th in pass defense (284 yards allowed per game), 27th in defensive passer rating (98.9) and completion percentage (67.1) and 24th in yards allowed per attempt (7.8). Blake has been the weak link in that unit.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed 21 of 30 passes for 336 yards. He wasn't intercepted and threw five touchdown passes, including an 80-yarder to clinch the game with 59 seconds remaining. Mike Mitchell and Blake both missed tackles on the play, which Tomlin called the defense's defining moment.

"I don't care how you play during the course of a game, you give up an 80-yard play, that's going to kind of characterize your day from a pass-defense standpoint," Tomlin said. "It usually defines your day in some form or fashion. It did so ours."

And it could come to define Blake's eventual benching. While Tomlin admitted he'll give Blake a chance to rebound this week, he'll also look at Brandon Boykin, who's an inside corner. Such a move could be dependent upon Cockrell playing outside in the base and/or William Gay, the current slot corner in nickel, moving outside in the three-CB nickel.

All of the variations were to have been talked about Tuesday afternoon by Tomlin and his staff.

"We're going to turn over all those stones as we formulate a plan this week," Tomlin said. "We've yet to formulate any hardcore decisions in that regard because those meetings occur later on (Tuesday), but we acknowledged that those guys need to play better, particularly they need to tackle better. We also acknowledged those performances merit an opportunity to look at our options in that area."

Boykin was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2016 fifth-round pick during training camp, but has played very little.

"He's done a nice job of learning what to do, but really he's distinguished himself as an interior corner," Tomlin said. "William Gay has played primarily in the interior and has been rock-solid for us from start to finish. The performance of the guys outside that I mentioned needs to be better, based on the last performance, but not that it's been consistently below the line looking at the larger body of work. So, there really hadn't been a big discussion about repping (Boykin) to this point. I acknowledge that it's going to be a big discussion as we prepare this week."

The other big discussion will no doubt involve Roethlisberger, who said on his radio show that he experienced difficulty with his peripheral vision. He was shut down following the Steelers' final field goal that left them two points behind with three minutes remaining. He joined linebacker Ryan Shazier in the concussion protocol.

"We'll do what we always do with those guys," Tomlin said. "We'll be very diligent about their care. We'll lean on the expert advice of our medical team and we'll do what's appropriate at the end of the week or whenever that decision-making time is. Right now I can tell you both guys are in the protocol, will remain in the protocol. Even if they feel better they'll remain in the protocol. We're going to do our due diligence under the guidelines."

Tomlin also reported that tight end Earl "Heath" Miller suffered a rib injury that could keep him out of practices this week.

"We'll check his level of participation," Tomlin said. "(I was) pleased with the contributions of Jesse James under the circumstance. We'll prepare him at the outset of the week and utilize those rep opportunities."


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