Stepping up: Given the position they played and the relatively unique physical skill sets they brought to the table, the loss of inside linebacker Devin Bush this season is not unlike the loss of inside linebacker Ryan Shazier in December of 2017 in terms of its potential effect on the Steelers' defense.
The difference this time might be an older, wiser and more experienced defense.
"When we lost Ryan, I think we were pretty young," defensive tackle Cameron Heyward observed this morning. "We were still dealing with trying to replace a guy like that."
Heyward, defensive end Stephon Tuitt, outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, cornerback Mike Hilton and inside linebacker Vince Williams all started against the Bengals on Dec. 4, 2017 at Cincinnati.
They might be better prepared to absorb such a loss and keep functioning this time around as second-year pro Rob Spillane prepares to make his first NFL start this Sunday at Tennessee.
"I don't know what this situation holds going forward," Heyward acknowledged. "I know Rob had a great half (after replacing Bush late in the second quarter last Sunday against Cleveland) but it's up to us to continue to get better. Everybody's got to step up their game from here on out. We've got to continue to make a conscious effort to communicate because Devin's down.
"It does help having a guy like Vince Williams in the background and able to tutor guys and get guys to the right spots."
Heyward is more certain about the Steelers being ready for Tennessee potentially targeting
Spillane than he is the Titans actually attacking in such a fashion on Sunday in Nashville.
"I'm not going to act like I know what's going on in their locker room but we're going to try to prepare Rob for that situation," Heyward said. "Rob's got to be ready.
"He's had a good camp and he's had a good half but going forward we have to make sure he's not under a lot of pressure. Give him the calls, let him succeed, but as a defense we have to surround him with good plays and make sure he's in good situations."
- Blog entry by Mike Prisuta
Monday, October 19
A lot of mouths to feed: With the weapons the Steelers have on offense, any given Sunday it can be a different player who septs up and makes the difference.
Against the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago it was Chase Claypool.
Against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, it was again Claypool along with James Washington who were the prime targets for Ben Roethlisberger. Claypool had four receptions for 74 yards, while Washington had four receptions for 68 yards and was on the receiving end of Ben Roethlisberger's only touchdown pass.
"I feel like we have so many weapons, you never know who is going to have a day," said Washington. "With as many mouths to feed on offense that we have, you can't just keep one guy, or two guys, because I feel like everyone is capable of having a good game."
JuJu Smith-Schuster finished the game with only two receptions for six yards, but garnered a lot of attention from the Browns, giving Claypool and Washington more opportunities.
"Just because of the resume he has built over the years he will never go into a game unnoticed," said Washington. "I feel like people definitely key him. When that happens, other guys have to key our opportunities and make something happen for the offense.
"To be honest I don't really see any individuals on this team. I feel like we are all working towards one goal. I feel like no matter who gets in the end zone, we are all going to be happy for each other at the end of the day as long as we leave with the 'W.'"
With the plethora of weapons Roethlisberger has to go to, Washington was asked if that puts added pressure on making a play when the ball does come his way. He said because of the way Roethlisberger handles things that's never the case.
"Ben spreads the ball around," said Washington. "He always says, if you make a mistake, come back next play and be there for me."
Roethlisberger has been overly critical of his own play to date, in particular with throwing the deep ball. Washington said there aren't any noticeable issues right now, though.
"I feel like a lot of that is us getting on the same page, chemistry, knowing where we are going to be at certain times, and the type of trajectory for each receiver or whoever he is throwing the ball to," said Washington. "It's all different for different guys.
"All of the time before the game, Ben always says if each guy does his job, we will be all right. We all just go out there and do our 1/11th and let '7' do what he does best in the pocket and it's definitely been showing up the past few weeks."
He said it:
Cameron Sutton on playing special teams:
"It sets the tone. You start the game with special teams, just going out and whipping the guy in front of you. Field position is the most critical part of the game, from hidden yardage, to starting drives inside the 20, downing the ball inside the 10, things that happen in the course of the game and people just kind of bypass those stats. You win the battle of field position and put yourself in good situations to come out with a win. We take pride in going out on any special teams and making a difference. It's a team stat, an all-together stat. We are all together for one common goal and it's a big part of what we do."