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Buzz from the Steelers locker room

Up close and personal the day after a Steelers game.

The Steelers locker room has been fading with this two-loss flat stack, and Lawrence Timmons is just one example.

I wanted to talk to the linebacker, who didn't look nearly as bad on tape as fans are saying. His primary responsibility in coverage was Julian Edelman, who ended up with nine catches but for only 60 yards, due mainly to Timmons' tackling ability.

Timmons had a plate of food during Monday's lunch hour and apparently was only making a pit stop at his locker. He asked me to walk with him and I asked him if covering Edelman was an exhausting job.

"We've just got to play more consistent," he said. "We've got to get off the field."

But, about Edelman, is he one of the more difficult assignments you've had?

"There've been a lot of tough guys," Timmons said. "I don't know. I'm going to say he was tough, but the toughest? I'm going to eat my lunch now."

And he was gone.

That's our Law Dawg these days.

* You've no doubt read hundreds of stories this morning about the team's health situation as the bye week unfolds here. I hate to chase guys about their bumps and bruises, but couldn't help myself on this day:

-- Marcus Gilbert thought he was going to practice last week but didn't feel right when the time came. "This week for sure," he said. And will he play in the next game? "That's for sure."

-- Cameron Heyward said he needs to work this week on building endurance for his hamstring. "I've got to be smart," he said. "Even if it feels good, it's got to feel good for 60 plays." He's still feeling good one day "and the next it feels like it could become a setback."

-- Sammie Coates played with his broken index finger and banged it while covering a punt early in the game. He left and returned and later caught a pass. Did it hurt? "It didn't feel great," he said. Coates said he'll keep working and that "Time heals all wounds." Is there any concern about hurting it worse? "Nah. Setback is your thing," he said. "It's a mind thing."

-- Eli Rogers said he was healthy, and that's why he dressed Sunday, but he didn't play because "It was coach's decision." Did he explain? "You'll have to ask him about it," Rogers said.

-- Markus Wheaton said he suffered a setback of the shoulder injury he sustained in the third preseason game, but that he'll return to play the Baltimore Ravens. "That's the plan," he said.

-- Bud Dupree's plan is to come off IR to practice in Week 10. "I can do a lot. I'm running, cutting, just got to get my stamina and strength up," he said. Dupree said he didn't get his sports hernia fixed after sitting out the spring because "I thought it was going to heal."

-- Ladarius Green was scheduled to meet yesterday with Mike Tomlin to learn whether he was going to begin practicing this week. Some don't believe he will, because the two practices this week are glorified walk-throughs and the team might not want to begin the 21-day clock, per rules for coming off the PUP list. I say get him good or get him gone. Didn't they just see what a big, playmaking, seam-threatening tight end can do for an offense? Let's get on with this.

I, of course, can afford to be impatient.

-- Ben Roethlisberger was in the locker room but didn't want to talk. He's busy with rehab in the hope he can return for the Ravens game. He did autograph a football for Cobi Hamilton, the ball Hamilton had caught two games ago that was not only his first catch but a touchdown.

* Hamilton caught three passes for 36 yards in extended action against the Patriots, and a couple of them were of the "combat catch" variety that Tomlin said was missing in that game. Perhaps the coach was perturbed at Antonio Brown's lack of effort on the Landry Jones interception in the end zone, but Tomlin had to be pleased by "Combat Catch" Cobi, who made a pair of clutch grabs on third-and-longs late in the third quarter with Brown out.

I asked Hamilton about one he couldn't catch, the bomb on which he could use only one arm because the New England cornerback was holding the other.

"At least they didn't call me for pass interference," Hamilton joked in reference to a similar call made against Darrius Heyward-Bey. "But I'll learn from the mistake."

What mistake?

"You have to keep fighting," he said. "Don't let them grab your arm."

* Heyward-Bey, of course, wasn't happy with the call against him, but he was adamant that the same field judge who called the OPI, Steve Zimmer, had missed a call on special teams.

New England punted into the end zone late in the first half but Zimmer ruled the ball out at the Pittsburgh 6. And Heyward-Bey went off.

"I know the rules. That was a touchback all the way," said Heyward-Bey.

The officials reviewed it and agreed with Heyward-Bey and marked the ball at the Pittsburgh 20 with 1:47 left. The Steelers kicked a 32-yard field goal with two seconds left.

"If I don't go and let him know, they probably don't think about it at all. They probably would've let it go," Heyward-Bey said.

How was he so sure?

"I was watching him," Heyward-Bey said. "First of all I saw 18. Eighteen's not allowed to touch the ball because he was the first person to go out of bounds. That's why the hat was off. So I was watching him, and if you watch the film 18's telling everybody else 'Go get the ball.' He couldn't touch it. So I'm watching that, then my focus was to who might touch it. I saw 38 come and I watched his feet. I watched the ball. He doesn't go out of bounds and then, number two, you've got to hand the ball to the referee. But the guy who made the call was listening to me because he knew I was right."

* It's not as if the officials were cheating the Steelers.

At least intentionally.

They don't think.

But that holding call on Chris Hubbard -- when a player he used to play against every college season, Jamie Collins, slipped and went down to draw a hold that called back a touchdown -- was a bad one. Another official admitted as much to the Steelers right tackle.

"Yeah, he did say that, that it shouldn't have been called," Hubbard said. "That's the measure of this business, man."

It took the joy of a stadium celebrating a tie game with 4:53 left in the first half. It was made all the worse when Chris Boswell missed a 42-yard field goal two snaps later.

"It happens but I don't think that it was the outcome of the game," said Gilbert. "There were many other opportunities to make things happen. What about the other 70 plays? Hub played really well. Can't judge it on one play."

What's it like to have the joy sucked out of an entire stadium as the PA announcer is calling your number?

"You have to fight through it," Gilbert said. "It's adversity. But the guys rally behind you, they say 'Move on, man.' They're not mad at you, so it doesn't matter what everyone else thinks of you. It's life. Hey, you can't do anything about it. It happens. But that there was a phantom call. There were a couple of them."

Ramon Foster was stretched out with empty lockers on both sides. He pointed at the one to his right and called it cursed. "Everybody who's been in here gets cut," he said. "The kid from Alabama (Austin Shepherd) was the last one. Then there was (Jacob) Hagen. He's been back and forth. So they just leave it open and I've got some open space."

Foster is normally a very happy man, but two consecutive losses have a way of wiping smiles off faces.

"I feel better this week than I did last week, considering everything that happened with Miami," Foster said. "We were fully in control of that one. This one was (winnable) too and with so much stacked up against us we were in it. We just didn't close like we needed to this week."

The Miami loss still rankles?

"That'll be one of those game I hope doesn't bite us in the a**," he said. "That's why the Miami game is a little bit more tough to take."

Foster said, "If we would've played as halfway decent as we did yesterday in Miami, it probably would've been a different score. Yesterday we just didn't seize the opportunity when we were given the short field and making plays when we needed to. We just really self-inflicted yesterday. Our losses have all been self-inflicted."

Does Tomlin motivate the team well enough for losing teams?

I asked Foster that question while he was still answering another.

"The stuff -- yeah, right," he said with a shake of the head, before trying to resume.

"The stuff that we did -- " and he stopped again. "He don't get us ready enough?"

Yes. That's the question.

"Yeah, right. Look, it's high stakes when we're in our meetings. He emphasizes what we need to do. It's on us, the execution. He can't stop us from getting penalties or a PI on a play. That's on us. And those are just in-game plays that you have to correct. You hope you have enough time. When you're playing against the good teams, they don't allow you that time, so that's where we failed yesterday. First-and-20 is not easy to come back from. When getting a PI on a downfield play puts you on first-and-whatever, those are hard to come back from. So that doesn't fall on the staff. I think those are player-inflicted."

To close on a good note, I complimented Foster on the job he and the rest of the line did in keeping Jones clean.

"That was key," Foster said. "Our whole job was to make his job easier. Not getting him hit was big, and I think yesterday Landry kind of dropped his manhood, as far as him being able to make plays. He did that. I'm happy on how he played. Us blocking for him, having no sacks, was key on that."

* After New England's first touchdown, a 19-yard screen pass with an easy run by James White, No. 28, who was in for LeGarrette Blount, Steelers DL Coach John Mitchell gathered his unit on the sideline and read them the riot act.

Or so it appeared from the press box.

"I don't think he was quite upset. He was just stressing a point," said L.T. Walton, who was in the game along with Daniel McCullers and Ricardo Mathews as the first line was on the sideline catching its breath.

"We're going to get yelled at," said Stephon Tuitt, "because we should've known that 2-8 is the screen guy. He's the scatback, the passing-downs guy."

Tuitt said the lesson being re-taught by Mitchell was to communicate.

"Everybody comes into the game and we try to play physically right off the bat. We just have to be smart and see the play," Tuitt said. "We need to communicate and be smart because we could've called that out and somebody could've sucked that up. It's just being a smart football player and knowing the situation."

Tuitt has been the leader of the group but he's hoping for a quick return by Heyward.

"Cam coming back will take a lot of pressure off a lot of guys," Tuitt said. "Other teams have been loving it."

* What's it like being at the bottom of an NFL pile fighting for a loose football?

"It was crazy," said Steelers long-snapper Greg Warren. "Everybody's scratching and clawing and pinching and pulling and everything else. It's what anybody would think it is. It's a fight. It's a dogfight down there."

Warren recovered Edelman's fumbled punt return at the New England 43 that gave the Steelers a last gasp with 10:37 left, trailing by 11.

"Well, I knew I was going to get out of the pile with the ball. I was coming out with it," he said. "But, yeah, I was spent for a minute. I was surely hoping I was going to get more than a minute to recover before I had to go back out there because it took everything I had to keep it."

The veteran long snapper said he's been in scrums before this one.

"But not at the bottom," he said. "I mean, I was at the very bottom of that one. That hasn't happened much. I was in the middle looking in at a couple, but that was my first fumble recovery in 12 years."


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