Tue Nov 30 4:52pm ET
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, center, looks up at the videoboard as he stands with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) and wide receiver Chase Claypool (11) during a timeout during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin watches as his team plays against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)
PITTSBURGH (AP) Mike Tomlin believes it's time for the Pittsburgh Steelers to put up and shut up.
Emphasis on shut up.
''Talking doesn't get it done,'' Tomlin said Tuesday.
Neither does laying an egg in Cincinnati, something the Steelers (5-5-1) did during a stunningly one-sided blowout loss to the Bengals that left players embarrassed and Tomlin fuming.
While the longtime head coach has calmed down a bit, he's well aware his team needs to improve and improve quickly if it wants to have any chance at being a factor as Christmas nears.
Tomlin said he is ''open to all things'' when it comes to figuring out how to fix a defense that's given up 41 points in back-to-weeks. That means both switching up personnel and the game plan, though that is something that players can only fix internally, something Tomlin has no control over once the ball is snapped.
''(It's) that man vs. himself battle,'' Tomlin said. ''We've got to challenge ourselves and we've got to dig down deep and be at our best to meet those challenges.''
Something Pittsburgh failed to do repeatedly against the Bengals. If Cincinnati's offense wasn't mauling the Steelers' injury-riddled defense, then the Bengals' defense was bullying Pittsburgh's overmatched and rookie-laden offense.
Tomlin allowed it will take time for his team to wipe off the stench, adding they can't forget it, but must move past it with AFC North-leading Baltimore (8-3) visiting Heinz Field on Sunday. Of primary concern is a run defense ranked 28th in the league, one tasked with now trying to contain Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The Steelers have held Jackson relatively in check in two previous meetings, but will come in potentially short-handed with outside linebacker T.J. Watt in the COVID-19 protocol. The defensive line is an underachieving, underwhelming mess outside of veteran Cam Heyward, one of the reasons Pittsburgh claimed defensive tackle Montravius Adams off New Orleans' practice squad on Tuesday.
While it's unclear how much Adams could immediately contribute as he gets up to speed, Tomlin may order a padded practice - a rarity this time of year under the collective bargaining agreement rules - in hopes his team will rediscover the physicality that's been lacking lately.
''Given our circumstances, (putting on pads) is something that could change this week in an effort to position us to play a better brand of football,'' he said.
A brand that used to be the standard in Pittsburgh. Not this season. Quality depth along the defensive line has been an issue all year. Defensive tackle Tyson Alualu was lost for the season with an ankle injury in Week 2 and any chance of veteran Stephon Tuitt returning from knee surgery over the summer seems to be dwindling.
Tomlin did not offer an update on Tuitt's status on Tuesday, but with just six weeks remaining and Tuitt yet to be cleared to practice, time is ticking. Just as it's ticking on Pittsburgh's shot at being a factor in the AFC North.
The Steelers have already been swept by the Bengals, and a loss to the Ravens would all but slam the door on any chance at winning a division that's been wildly uneven. All four teams have impressive wins on the resume, as well as baffling losses or in Pittsburgh's case, an ugly 16-16 tie to still-winless Detroit.
''This is a ridiculously big game and so it requires our time and attention,'' he said.
Tomlin sent the same message before the Steelers headed to Cincinnati, and it seemed to make no impact as Pittsburgh suffered the kind of beatdown it has so regularly given to the Bengals for so long. Former players have made their frustration public, including former fullback Rocky Bleier, who said the Steelers ''lack pride.''
While Tomlin regularly urges his players to block out outside noise, he allowed it's different when that noise comes from those who are intimately familiar with the franchise's internal expectations.
''They would know. You know, they know the things that we value,'' Tomlin said. ''I don't know specifically what (their issues are), but guys that have been here, guys have been in that room, guys that understand the standards that we aspire to, they probably have a better understanding of that than anybody ... And so I would imagine whatever it is (they are saying), I agree with them.''
One thing Tomlin doesn't agree with? Wide receiver Chase Claypool's proposal that the team play music during practice.
''Claypool plays wideout and I'll let him do that,'' Tomlin said. ''I'll formulate the practice approach, and I think that division of labor is probably appropriate.''
NOTES: Tomlin declined to say whether Watt tested positive for COVID-19 or if he is symptomatic. ... Rookie TE Pat Freiermuth remains in the concussion protocol. ... Tomlin did not speculate on whether TE Eric Ebron or OL J.C. Hassenauer, both of whom went on injured reserve last week, will return this season.
Free-agent TE Daniel Brown (Chiefs) was signed to the practice squad of the New York Jets on Tuesday, Nov. 30. QB James Morgan was released from the practice squad to make room for him.
Dallas Cowboys WR Cedrick Wilson (ankle) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Nov. 30. DE Tarell Basham (chest), RB Ezekiel Elliott (knee) and WR CeeDee Lamb (concussion) practiced in full.
New Orleans Saints LB Kaden Elliss (hamstring), DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (ankle), DE Marcus Davenport (shoulder), OT Ryan Ramczyk (knee) and OT Terron Armstead (knee) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Nov. 30. RB Alvin Kamara (knee) was limited. RB Mark Ingram (knee), QB Taysom Hill (foot), CB Paulson Adebo (concussion) and LB Andrew Dowell (concussion) practiced in full.
Houston Texans WR Danny Amendola (knee) suffered a torn meniscus in his knee in Week 12 that required arthroscopic surgery and will likely sideline him for three to four weeks, according to a source.
Atlanta Falcons DE Steven Means (knee) was designated for return from the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Nov. 30.
New Orleans Saints RBs Alvin Kamara (knee) and Mark Ingram (knee) participated in practice again Tuesday, Nov. 30.
Fantasy Spin: We will know for sure soon, but it is likely Kamara was limited and Ingram practiced in full for a second straight day. Assuming that is the case, both appear on track to suit up Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys. What is less clear is how involved Kamara will be after logging about a handful of limited practices over the last three-plus weeks. It should not come as a shock if Ingram is the more active back in Week 13.
Buffalo Bills DT Star Lotulelei and OT Spencer Brown were activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, Nov. 30.
New York Giants cornerback Adoree Jackson (quad) should be available for the team's Week 13 matchup with the Miami Dolphins, according to reports. The Giants will evaluate how much work Jackson can handle and how he can move throughout the week. The former Tennessee Titan left Sunday's game against the Eagles early, but the New York secondary was able to hold on without one of their top corners. If Logan Ryan is able to be activated from the COVID-19 list in time for Sunday's game, the Giants could have their talented secondary of James Bradberry, Xavier McKinney, Ryan, and Jackson all active against Tua Tagovailoa and company.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (toe) would like to avoid surgery on his broken pinky toe that he suffered during his stint on the COVID-19 list, but the reigning MVP said that he wouldn't miss any game action if he were to ultimately end up getting surgery done. Rodgers mentioned he could get the procedure done on Monday or Tuesday and would be ready to go for the game that same week. The Packers take on the Bears on Monday night in Week 14, so Rodgers is expected to be available once again when the team suits up next. As of now, this doesn't seem like a cause for concern, so fantasy managers can continue to roll out the future Hall of Famer as a solid QB1 option.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth (concussion) has been placed in the NFL's concussion protocol. The rookie tight end suffered the injury late in Sunday's blowout loss to the Bengals and is now in jeopardy of missing Sunday's critical game with their divisional rival Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers are already without Eric Ebron (knee) who is on the injured reserve list, so that would leave Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader as the only two tight ends on the roster if Freiermuth can't play. If he is able to clear protocol in time for Sunday, he makes for a strong play at a very weak position in terms of fantasy production. The 23-year-old has caught six touchdown passes this season, which is good for third among tight ends behind only Hunter Henry and Dawson Knox.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley will be a focal point of the offense down the stretch, according to head coach Joe Judge. Barkley hasn't produced good fantasy numbers in the two games since his return, but coach Judge still sees "an explosive athlete." The good news for fantasy managers is that the former second overall pick started slow the first two games of the season, but was able to have strong outings in Week 3 and Week 4 where he dominated the backfield touches and snaps. The 24-year-old played 86% of the snaps in Week 12 and touched the ball 17 times, so we can expect a significant workload for the fourth-year running back moving forward. With Freddie Kitchens now calling the plays, Barkley should be able to get more opportunities in space for some chunk plays. For now, he can be valued as a high-end RB2, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him get back to producing RB1 numbers to close out the season.
Cleveland Browns RB Brian Hill was released from the practice squad Tuesday, Nov. 30.
Las Vegas Raiders QB Marcus Mariota will continue to be used in certain spots for the rest of the season, according to comments made by interim head coach Rich Bisaccia on Tuesday, Nov. 30.
Fantasy Spin: While it will come as a minor nuisance to Derek Carr's fantasy managers, they have little to worry about here. Mariota will likely take a few snaps to execute a zone-read play every game and could steal a red zone touchdown here or there from Carr, but that is about it.
Detroit Lions DL Da'Shawn Hand (groin) was released from the Reserve/Injured list with an injury settlement Tuesday, Nov. 30.
The Detroit Lions are releasing defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand (groin) off Injured Reserve on Tuesday with an injury settlement, according to a source. Hand should be healthy in a few weeks, though, so he could provide some defensive line depth for a playoff-bound team. The 26-year-old was placed on IR after suffering his groin injury in the Week 11 loss to the Cleveland Browns, and he'll be forced to miss two more games. Nick Williams will see an increased role for the Lions with Hand no longer with the team. Before his injury, Hand had only two combined tackles and a pass defensed in three games played for Detroit.
Las Vegas Raiders backup quarterback Marcus Mariota came off the bench in the Thanksgiving overtime win over the Dallas Cowboys last Thursday to score a touchdown, and the Raiders plan to continue using Mariota in their game plan moving forward. "Without giving too much away, I think he is hopefully going to be a part of the packages as we go forward," interim head coach Rich Bisaccia said. Mariota has been a bit of a wild-card gadget player for the Raiders in 2021, but he has only played five total offensive snaps in five games this season, carrying the ball five times for 45 yards and the one touchdown. He has not attempted a pass. The 28-year-old might be on the field for a play or two in Week 13 against the Washington Football Team, but he has zero fantasy value as long as Derek Carr is healthy.
Among full-time running backs, only the Cleveland Browns' Nick Chubb (4.26 yards) has averaged more yards after initial contact than San Francisco 49ers rookie running back Elijah Mitchell (3.84 yards) this year. Mitchell is also closing in on Steelers rookie Najee Harris for most rushing yards by a rookie this year. Harris currently has 708 rushing yards, while Mitchell is at 693. In his first game back from broken finger in Week 12, Mitchell had 27 carries for 133 yards and a touchdown and caught five of his six targets for 35 yards in the win over the Minnesota Vikings. The impressive 23-year-old is San Fran's clear lead back and will have RB1 upside in Week 13 against a Seattle Seahawks defense that was just gashed on the ground by Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings started the year as the team's No. 5 receiver, but he was the third wideout in the Week 12 win over the Minnesota Vikings, and he could be the No. 2 this weekend against the Seattle Seahawks with Deebo Samuel (groin) expected to be out. Jennings averaged six offensive snaps in the first seven games, but that number has jumped to 30 in the last three contests. And head coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo are gaining trust in him, as they targeted him twice in the red zone last Sunday. The 24-year-old caught two of his three targets for 24 yards and a score in Week 12 while playing 37% of the snaps. Expect him to be even more involved against a vulnerable Seahawks defense this week, making him worthy of a pickup and potential WR4/flex play in deeper leagues.
Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson Jr. (quadriceps) is nursing a quadriceps strain that will be monitored throughout the week, according to head coach Sean McVay. Don't be surprised if Henderson is missing from practice or limited to kick off practice sessions on Wednesday as the team prepares for a Week 13 meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite the injury, the 24-year-old handled 20 touches for 73 total yards and one touchdown in the Week 12 loss to the Green Bay Packers, so unless he suffers a setback this week, he could be just fine for a tasty matchup against the Jaguars this Sunday. If not, backup Sony Michel could be a nice plug-and-play RB2 option for fantasy managers. Keep an eye on Henderson's practice status this week.
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner (hamstring) suffered a hamstring strain in the Week 12 win over the Minnesota Vikings and will miss Week 13 against the division-rival Seattle Seahawks, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. The 25-year-old's absence will be a big loss in the middle of the Niners defense, and San Fran could also be without linebacker Dre Greenlaw (abdomen) after he just returned from Injured Reserve. Warner ranks as the No. 26 IDP linebacker through 12 weeks of the season with 55 tackles, two passes defensed and two fumble recoveries in 11 games played. Fantasy managers in IDP setups will need to look elsewhere if they've been rolling with Warner in starting lineups.