Buzz from the Steelers locker room

"Christmas, Ravens, December football, man, it's awesome."

Inside the Locker Room has taken a bit of a hit in the month of December because of a policy change: Mike Tomlin now gives his team Mondays off after wins. So, during this five-game win streak we've come up a little dry at times.

And I'm sure Pittsburgh Steelers fans don't mind, but it's killing what once was a very festive day in the locker room.

However, we did have some luminaries show up the day after the win in Cincinnati, starting with the guy who scored the game-winning touchdown:

* When Eli Rogers was a sophomore at Louisville, his best friend from the neighborhood, Teddy Bridgewater, threw him an 11-yard pass in the back of the end zone with 1:35 left for a 27-25 win over South Florida.

That was the last game-winning touchdown pass Rogers had caught -- until Sunday, when he hauled in 24-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger with 7:29 left to lift the Steelers past the Bengals, 24-20.

It almost was as exciting as his last one.

"Almost?" Rogers asked with astonishment. "Nah, that one didn't even compare to this one."

This one not only gave the Steelers an important AFC North win to set up a showdown Sunday with the Baltimore Ravens, it elicited joy from Antonio Brown, who said after the game he was happy to see Rogers succeed because, frankly, A.B. needs someone to alleviate the pressure he's facing on the other side.

Rogers even topped Brown 75-72 in receiving yardage Sunday. Those 75 yards are a whopping 55 percent of the total yardage for which Rogers and Cobi Hamilton had combined in the previous four games of what is now a five-game winning streak.

For Rogers, it was his biggest game since catching 6 passes for 103 yards against the Ravens -- all, by the way, were caught in the fourth quarter, most after the Steelers had fallen behind 21-0.

So, this was Rogers' finest moment, college or pro, and perhaps his most important in the grand scheme of things.

"I definitely feel I'm always capable of making plays," Rogers said. "It's just a matter of opportunities. I'm going to continue to try to be a guy who takes some pressure off (Brown)."

And it all occurred after he took a vicious blow from the big bully on the other side, Vontaze Burfict.

"Yeah he did," Rogers said. "He hit me and the next drive I came to him and said, 'Hey, man, you didn't have to hit me like that.' He kind of laughed about it. I told him good hit. That's part of the game."

* Stephon Tuitt limped into the locker room and didn't stop for interviews, but did say he was on his way to see the doc to discuss the findings on the MRI. The conjecture from internet doctors is a possible meniscus tear in his right knee, but Tuitt said he was optimistic there isn't anything serious. Mike Tomlin will release the information Tuesday at his noon press conference.

Until then, players such as Big Dan McCullers should plan on seeing more action against the Ravens.

"Hopefully he comes back this week," said McCullers, who was part of a defensive front that allowed the Bengals only eight yards rushing on seven carries in the second half.

Without Tuitt and Cam Heyward?

What's up with that, Big Dan?

"Guys were just being disciplined, playing gap-sound defense and not letting Jeremy Hill and the Bengals to get those big holes to run through," McCullers said. "If we're gap-disciplined and physical, we can do that to everybody."

Should a game ball have been given to D-line coach John Mitchell?

"Yeah," McCullers said. "He's a great coach. He's always on us, coaches us hard, but we're prepared and ready to go. We want to keep playing hard for him."

That would be a requirement against the Ravens, and Big Dan, who's a gentle giant at heart, really does hate them as much as everyone else in the Steelers locker room.

"That's just how it is here," he said. "They don't like us; we don't like them. Just like the Bengals."

(Editor's note: On Monday night, Tuitt tweeted the following hopeful message --)

https://twitter.com/DOCnation_7/status/810990642360971264

* Strong safety Sean Davis not only had his first career sack in Buffalo, he was in on two of them. It was a multi-sack day for the rookie.

Until Wednesday. That's when the official stats-keepers for the league took one away.

"Not too sure what happened," Davis said. "I just have to work harder to get them back."

Davis didn't get any back in Cincinnati, but he did make a big tackle for no gain at the goal line.

The Steelers are second in the NFL in red-zone defense. They allow touchdowns only 45.7 percent of the time. They were slightly off that number in Cincinnati, giving up two touchdowns in four red-zone opportunities, but both "wins" came after the Bengals had first downs at the 7-yard line. One "loss" occurred on fourth down after the Bengals had first-and-goal at the 1.

Suffice to say, they were exceptional at the goal line once again.

"We just really pride ourselves on that in practice," said Davis. "We have a goal-line period and we compete with the offense. And we com-PETE, man. We don't flinch when we get down there. We don't freak out. We don't panic. We just say, 'Hey, let's take it back to practice. We won in practice, let's win right now.'

"We did a good job holding them three times. The fourth time they got the quarterback sneak, but it was good for us. We don't flinch. We tackle high. We tackle hard. That's Steeler football to me."

Davis made six tackles to give him 20 in the last three games. He was also a big reason why Bengals' outstanding tight end Tyler Eifert caught only 1 pass for 9 yards.

"We knew he was one of their top receivers, one of their big threats," Davis said. "I thought I did a good job covering him. We did a good job rallying and tackling. We just played sound football."

What's the key to covering tight ends who are five, six inches taller?

"I try to use my abilities to my advantage, try to out-quick them," Davis said. "I'm really strong so I try to meet them at the line of scrimmage. You can't give big guys like that too much space because they'll just box you out like basketball, man, and all you can do is tackle them. So I try to mix it up, press them or give them a little space and beat them with quickness."

* The iconic image from Sunday's game is that of Steelers guard David DeCastro pulling left and meeting Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the hole, helmet-to-helmet, and low, like -- as I wrote Sunday -- two rhinos.

"Yeah, somebody else said it was two rams colliding," said DeCastro. "We ran the play a couple of times, and we have history with each other, the team and plays like that. He went low the play before and I saw him over there and I knew it was going to happen. We met in the hole and it is what it is."

Both players left the field. DeCastro, obviously the better man, was first to return.

"Yeah I guess so," he said. "I think we both got each other pretty good, but that's football."

DeCastro said he feels fine but doesn't like talking much about Burfict.

"I just like to play football. I don't like to getting all in the media. I just don't think it gains anything," he said. "That's sort of my personality."

But to Steelers fans, DeCastro has proven to be the guardian of good over evil.

He just shook his head.

"Gotta love the fans and the media," he said, "making it out to be something mystical."

What about the Ravens? How is playing them different than playing the Bengals?

"I don't know. I know it's going to be another physical game. We've got to get back healthy. I know everyone's probably a little banged up, myself included, but this is the playoffs now. It's great. It's awesome to be able to do that and know this is it. If you can't get up for this, I don't know what's wrong with you, so I'm sure everyone's ready to go and rarin'.

"I mean, Christmas, Ravens, December football, man, it's awesome."


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