Bridge / USA TODAY Sports Images

Buzz from the Steelers locker room

Is dissension running rampant? What's the newest defensive package? Who was to blame for the last TD run? Where's Sammie Coates? All of that and more from Monday's insider.

The big man with the natural smile on his face wasn't in the mood to deal with reporters Monday, but deal Stephon Tuitt did, at least with this one.

I asked him about the overall mood. I should've just guessed.

"Crappy," he said. "It's crappy."

The Steelers, of course, lost to the Dallas Cowboys, 35-30, on a touchdown with nine seconds left. It stretched the Steelers' losing streak to four games.

"Right now there's nothing you can really say," Tuitt said. "You've just got to get out from the funk.  We thought it was going to be this past Sunday. It wasn't. We fell short. Now we've got to prepare for next week. Once we start rolling, we're going to start rolling. We've just got to start rolling."

Maurkice Pouncey said he made only one bad snap with his sore right thumb, which was repaired surgically early last week after the top joint was dislocated and the bone poked through the skin.

"It went great, man, really good," Pouncey said. "No worries."

No pain?

"I said it went great. I didn't say no pain, now."

Pouncey said "Ben yelled at me" for one of his shotgun snaps being a little low, but Roethlisberger scooped it up.

Pouncey then asked if "you guys" enjoyed the game. I told him that even the most objective reporters dislike dealing with a group of depressed players. It's much easier dealing with happy interview subjects.

"I'm sick about it," Pouncey said. "But keep fighting, right?"

I asked Pouncey whether the team was still one.

"Here?" he responded with surprise.

I told him the public senses the team is disintegrating with inner turmoil.

"I know, man," he said with a light chuckle. "Public's crazy, but trust me, the team's cool. Everyone respects and loves the coaches here. We all go to battle. We all win together and when we lose we all lose together. That's how it goes. Everyone wants to make different type of problems and start other type of stuff and that's not it at all. We've just got to win football games. Simple as that."

The winless Cleveland Browns are next.

"Their defense plays really good," Pouncey said. "I know their record doesn't show it but we watched them on the Thursday night game and they looked good to us. Looks like they get after it. They play physical. They've got some nice players over there, and now Collins. He made a lot of plays in that Thursday night game."

Pouncey said he was surprised the Patriots traded linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns a couple weeks ago.

"I thought he was one of their best players," Pouncey said. "I was shocked, but obviously Belichick knows something we don't know. He traded away him and Chandler."

The Patriots had traded defensive end Chandler Jones to the Cardinals last March.

"He's really good. Really good," Pouncey said. "You see him now with Arizona, he's ballin' actually. They're talking about giving him a big extension. I like him. I like both of those guys, but Belichick runs things a certain way. You've got to respect it, right? He's won a lot of games."

* I predicted that Ladarius Green would be targeted one time Sunday. I was wrong. He was targeted four times and caught three passes for 30 yards, two in the fourth quarter for 21 yards.

But one of the targets for which Green wasn't credited was the first 2-point conversion attempt, his first appearance in a Steelers uniform.

"I would've felt better if I caught it," Green said. "But it was good to actually go out there and have passes come my way and get hit and be a part of the team finally."

* One of the other tight ends, Jesse James, made one of the key plays in the game on a reception late in the fourth quarter. He almost hurdled a defender with a clear path to the end zone ahead, but couldn't quite get over him and was tackled after a 24-yard gain. Roethlisberger threw the fake-spike TD pass on the next snap.

"It happened a few times in college but they weren't big plays," James said of his open-field ploy. "I just hurdled someone and got tackled by the next guy right after, so that wasn't the first time I've had to do it."

* Ramon Foster is down but he's not, well, stupid.

"We'd be very idiotic to think that Cleveland is not going to play as hard as they can," he said. "They're winless and we're frickin' 0 and 4 in the last four games. They're going to be chomping at the bit and we've got to approach every single game like that moving forward. We have to be on our job."

OK, Ramon, you're looking all professorial with your eyeglasses on, but it's CHAMPING at the bit.

Sorry, just one of my "very idiotic" pet peeves.

But, please, Ramon, continue.

"When you have that type of hype (the Steelers had) and you don't live up to it at the middle of the season, you kind of lose a lot of people," Foster said. "And I'm OK with that. We'll be fine. We've got some strong-minded guys. We've got some great leaders on this team and we'll handle it accordingly."

Foster was asked about the internal rhythms of the locker room and his answer was similar to Pouncey's.

"We've never been the type of organization to do that," Foster said. "Is there frustration? Yeah. Is there some letdown here and there? Absolutely. But there won't be a point where we're pointing at this guy or saying this or just bashing each other. I think we pull together more than anything. It's never been that type of way here."

Foster did clear up one of the inaccuracies that have been reported this week following the team's 0-for-4 performance on 2-point conversion attempts. The Steelers no longer practice those "seven shots" every day.

"We do that on Fridays," he said of the seven conversion tries. "We do a high-stress situation of seven shots every day. It's situational, whether it's no-huddle or situations. So there is a bit of that. But every Friday is two-point plays."

Foster also referred to Roethlisberger's criticism following the game that the team needs to become more accountable.

"These are personal battles we have to deal with in that sense," Foster said. "That's what he's talking about, each man to a man. Take on your own battles. ... Me, Ramon, has to have more accountability. Maurkice does. Just everybody does. Everybody in this locker room has to have accountability to themselves. Once we get to that point then we move forward. To bash anybody is outside of anything right now."

Sammie Coates broke his index finger in Game 5 but has been active ever since. However, his snap count on offense dropped from 45 in Baltimore to two on Sunday.

Why?

"I'm playing through a broken finger," he said with an incredulous look. "Like if you can't talk or don't have your recorder, how you going to report?"

But wasn't he playing through the problem prior to this last game?

"It's called helping the team win," he said. "I can always do something else."

* The Steelers' package of five linebackers, three defensive linemen and three safeties -- used when the Cowboys put eight linemen and tight ends at the line of scrimmage on their intended run downs -- is called the Big package. And it worked well for the most part.

However, it was the defensive package on the field when the Cowboys scored their winning touchdown, a 32-yard run by an untouched Zeke Elliott.

Linebacker Arthur Moats -- when asked what it means to play with better detail -- probably pointed to the culprit on that particular play but he didn't use Jarvis Jones' name in providing an example of playing with better detail.

"Details consist of (this:) If you have the C gap, making sure you have your hands inside, making sure your hat placement is in that C gap," Moats said. "If you have your hands inside but your head is in the D gap, those are the little details we're talking about. It's minute, when you think of it right here, but in a game where that running back slips through that hole, now it becomes a bigger issue.

"Just things like that across the board," Moats continued. "If you have to re-route a receiver, to you it may be small, but whoever's on that receiver has a bigger effect on the safety as well. Those are the details we're talking about when we say we have to be more detail-oriented."

* And the final word from Moats on keeping the collective chin up:

"We're going to Cleveland," he said. "If you mope around, if you're going to be pessimistic about it, all it's going to do is give you another loss. If that's what guys are coming in here to do, you're on the wrong team. I don't feel that situation around here at all. We took it on the chin the other night and it was extremely frustrating, but we've got Cleveland, a divisional opponent, coming up and we've got to get this one.

"We've got to win. We've got to operate with those details that Coach Tomlin speaks about, with the accountability that Ben speaks about. It's not just doing it some of the time, it's about doing it all the time. It starts with practice. If you have errors throughout the week in practice, a lot of times it carries over. So it's important that we put more emphasis on it today, today and going forward."


Steel City Insider Top Stories