Playoff Thursday with the Pittsburgh Steelers at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex

In the Steelers' Thursday notebook, the T-n-T Backfield deals with success, so does Ryan Shazier, and an update on Ben and A.B.

PITTSBURGH -- The new running back has blown up.

After playing a key role in the Pittsburgh Steelers' playoff win at Cincinnati last Saturday, Fitzgerald Toussaint hasn't been available in the locker room during media hours anymore. He's been off doing the big national stuff: TV and radio in the Rooney Library. No local podcasts for this guy anymore.

"They tell me his bodyguards have come around a few times," said Toussaint's locker-room neighbor, Stephon Tuitt. "They come around from time to time and tell us what he up to. They'll deliver messages to him, if you want."

Well, tell Toussaint that the local reporters who've ignored him all season -- while Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams carried the mail -- would like a word.

"He's a celebrity now," Tuitt said with a laugh. "And I'm talking Kim Kardashian-style. Isn't he a running back? They get all the love."

Toussaint deserves it. Both he and his sidekick, Jordan Todman, combined for 183 yards from scrimmage last week, the most to come out of a Steelers backfield since Williams and Todman combined for 228 against the Oakland Raiders way back in Week 9. And Williams gained 225 of that.

But in the new T-n-T backfield -- so dubbed by The Associated Press -- the Steelers may have found the kind of depth that wins championships. Not that anyone's surprised.

"No, not at all," said right tackle Marcus Gilbert. "The way they prepare, we've see what they're capable of doing. They've been doing it at a high level at practice and if you practice that way the results are going to be good when game time comes."

Toussaint will likely start a second consecutive game with Williams still missing practice with a foot injury, and he's experiencing his greatest success since he last started for the University of Michigan in 2013. In regular seasons since leaving school, Toussaint has rushed for 54 yards and added another 27 receiving.

Last Saturday he rushed for 58 and added 60 receiving.

Todman, on the other hand, has the more extensive resume. He was the Big East Offensive Player of the Year for UConn in 2010 and in four NFL seasons has rushed for 472 yards with another 314 receiving.

But nothing, he said, stands above the 65 yards on 11 carries he gained Saturday as Toussaint's complement off the Steelers' bench.

"That other stuff's all back in the day," said Todman. "This was my first playoff game. It meant a lot, a game I'll never forget. And to go out there and play well and leave with a win even feels better. It's something I'll always remember."

Unless he and Toussaint do it again.

"Hopefully," Todman said. "And why not do better? That's my goal. I was happy with last week's performance, but as a competitor I expect to do better week in and week out. Just keep going and see what happens."


For the second consecutive day, the Steelers' main offensive threats, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, missed practice, although Roethlisberger was listed on the team's official injury report as having practiced in a limited capacity.

Teammates confirmed Roethlisberger has yet to throw, but the big day's expected to be Friday.

Even if he doesn't throw then, teammates expect Roethlisberger to play Sunday.

"He'll be ready no matter what," said Gilbert. "Even if it takes him till Saturday, he can get his mental reps in that little walk-through we do. I think we'll be fine. He knows his playbook better than anybody. His continuity with the guys outside is very high."

Brown, the most prolific receiver in any two-year span in NFL history, made hopeful remarks on Snapchat about feeling better and preparing to practice. But he didn't show up and wasn't available for comment in the locker room.

The NFL's concussion protocol consists of the following steps:

1. Rest and recovery.

2. Light aerobic exercise.

3. Continued aerobic exercise and introduction to strength training.

4. Football specific activities.

5. Full football activity/clearance.

Each step must be completed without recurrence of signs or symptoms.

Ryan Shazier, who went through the protocol earlier in the season, said he couldn't make a guess on Brown's status because it's not a consistent protocol for everyone.

"There are like six different types of concussions, and every concussion is different and every measurement and test you do for them is different," Shazier said. "His concussion might be different than the one I had. I did play. And when I took the test the first time I was pretty much back to normal and I did practice. His might be different, so it's hard to tell."

If Brown can't play, rookie Sammie Coates will dress as the team's No. 4 receiver and starter Markus Wheaton will return punts.


Shazier returned to practice (along with James Harrison and Cameron Heyward) Thursday after missing Wednesday's practice with a sore knee. He's coming off a starring role in Cincinnati, where he led all players with 13 tackles, including two for loss, two forced fumbles, two passes defensed, a quarterback hit and a fumble recovery.

He put up similar numbers in the second game of the season against San Francisco but missed the next four games.

"That's the next step," he said. "When you have a good game you have to back it up and make sure your teammates can depend on you. You do something one week, they want to see it week in and week out. That's how you become a great linebacker."

Shazier then started ticking off some of the names in the Steelers' storied linebacking tradition.

"They did it every week," he said. "When (Jack) Lambert was here, everybody feared him. When Peezy (Joey Porter) was here, everybody feared him. (Larry) Foote, (James) Farrior, all those guys, even James (Harrison). Everybody understands when they're out there the impact they're going to make on the game and how consistent they are and that they're going to do their jobs.

"I've known about those guys for a long time," he added. "My dad was a Steelers fan so I kind of liked the Steelers growing up anyway. I paid attention to those guys. I felt like if you were any type of linebacker and wanted to be good at your craft, you're going to know about Jack Lambert and Jack Ham before you."

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