Repairing a locker room fissure

Head coach Mike Tomlin may have to mend some fences in his own locker room.

That was one fired-up Mike Tomlin in the post-game press conference following the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-17 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

When the head coach starts talking about unleashing hell in December, you know that the players have already been in the locker room eating that stuff up.

That said, that was the most barren the Steelers' locker room has been following a game this season.

There were few guys talking about the team's latest loss and one of the few that was, wide receiver Hines Ward, was at first denying his statements that the locker room was split 50-50 in thinking that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should have played. Then, in the next sentence, Ward justified why he was feeling that way.

"He went through practice all week long," said Ward. "We didn't know until Saturday morning at the walk-through that Ben wasn't going to play."

Ward went on to say that a number of players - himself included - have played with concussions in the past, the inference being that he was one who felt Roethlisberger had let his teammates down.

In Ward's opinion – and it's one shared by some others – if Roethlisberger didn't think he was going to play, he should have said so earlier in the week, not wait until the day before the game to do so.

But this wasn't Roethlisberger's decision.

Tomlin said following the game that Dr. Joseph Maroon, the team's concussion expert, suggested that Roethlisberger not play, even though he had been cleared medically to do so all week long.

One of the things that Maroon looks for when testing a player is recurring headaches. Roethlisberger admitted to having workout-induced headaches late in the week. But he had passed all of the neurological tests.

Tomlin said that nobody should question his quarterback's toughness, and he's including guys in his own locker room when he says that. He added that he will address that issue.

It will be interesting to see how that plays out the remainder of this season.

The body language of many of the players was such that they felt - with some justification - that had Roethlisberger played, they would have won this game.

© Tomlin also said following this game that there are no moral victories.

But I've got to tell you, if I'm Baltimore, I don't know if I'm feeling all that great about this victory.

Sure, the win over your bitter rival - a team that beat you three times last season. But you had to go to overtime to beat the Steelers playing their third string quarterback and without Troy Polamalu.

That's not a good sign.

By the same token, I'm not exactly doing jumping jacks if I'm a member of that Pittsburgh defense.

The Steelers gave up 132 yards rushing and let Joe Flacco throw for 289 yards.

Yes, they sacked Flacco five times and had him obviously flustered late in the game and in overtime.

But the bottom line is that the secondary is allowing too many big plays and it's killing them.

Getting Troy Polamalu back will help that, but it may be a fatal flaw for this team.

© Dennis Dixon appeared, for the most part, to be a competent NFL quarterback. That was the biggest thing the Steelers can take out of this game.

The stage, which was on Sunday night in a rematch of last season's AFC Championship, was not too big for the second-year QB.

It certainly lessens the need for the Steelers to go out and sign a veteran backup.

© I know the game book shows that Ray Lewis finished with nine tackles, five of which were solos. But it says here that Rashard Mendenhall got the better of Lewis and company in his first trip back to Baltimore since Lewis broke his shoulder to end his season in 2008.

Lewis openly taunted Mendenhall after fracturing his shoulder last season, something Mendenhall played down this week.

But Mendenhall was running hard Sunday, gaining 95 tough yards on 24 carries with a 15-yard long gain. There were a lot of three and four-yard meat-grinding runs in that effort and not a lot of negative plays.

Considering Mendenhall was doing that in a game with Dixon at quarterback – with Baltimore knowing he was coming – it was a very impressive performance.

© Ziggy Hood has played well for a rookie. But the Steelers' top draft pick showed he still has some things to learn to be truly effective in this defense.

Hood got caught getting out of his run-control duties a couple of times and it hurt the Steelers.

He's a smart kid, though, and will use it as a learning tool.

© I really liked what I saw of rookie guard Ramon Foster, albeit while also trying to watch the entire game.

Foster didn't make any glaring errors and was part of an all-around solid effort by the offensive line.

The Steelers ground out 153 yards on the ground and Dixon was not sacked in 26 pass attempts despite the fact the Ravens were sending the house every time it was an obvious passing down.

Foster seemed pretty pleased with his play following the game as well.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.

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