Quick Links

Steelers hope to have Polamalu back for Ravens

201211251327484375453-p2.jpeg

Steelers hope to have Polamalu back for Ravens

PITTSBURGH (AP) Ben Roethlisberger took a break from changing his newborn son's diapers to throw a few passes with his sprained right shoulder on Monday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers saw enough to ask their franchise quarterback to throw a few more over the next few days, hoping he can recover in time to salvage a season in danger of slipping through their fingers.

Calling the session ``a step in the right direction,'' coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday there's ``a chance'' Roethlisberger could play on Sunday in Baltimore.

``We'll leave the door open,'' Tomlin said.

Or maybe just closed, but not locked.

Roethlisberger hasn't played since getting slammed to the turf in the third quarter of a 16-13 overtime victory over Kansas City on Nov. 12, suffering a sprained right shoulder and dislocated rib. He's spent time welcoming his son Ben Jr. - born last Wednesday - and watching his team lose consecutive games for the first time in three years while managing two offensive touchdowns in 10 quarters of work.

The nadir - Pittsburgh hopes - came in an eight-turnover, almost comically bad 20-14 loss to Cleveland last Sunday that left the Steelers at 6-5 and heading in the wrong direction as December begins.

``It's quite amazing that you only lose by six,'' Tomlin said, ``when you provide that type of leg up to the opponent.''

One the Steelers hope to avoid even if backup Charlie Batch makes his second straight start. Though Roethlisberger appears to be a long shot at best, there's a chance a few familiar faces could be in uniform against the Ravens (9-2), who could wrap up the AFC North title with a win over the Steelers and a Cincinnati Bengals loss.

Safety Troy Polamalu and wide receiver Antonio Brown could both play Sunday. Polamalu has been limited to just five quarters all season due to a right calf injury, though Tomlin said he's ``encouraged'' by Polamalu's progress.

Brown hasn't played since injuring his ankle in a 24-20 win over the New York Giants on Nov. 4, and Pittsburgh's receivers have struggled in his absence. Mike Wallace, a Pro Bowler a year ago, had just one catch against the Browns and couldn't hold onto a pass that turned into one of Batch's three interceptions.

Tomlin allowed Wallace is struggling and there's a possible demotion in the works. Wallace has started 41 of Pittsburgh's last 43 games, but the team listed as either Wallace or Emmanuel Sanders as the starter alongside Brown in the depth chart released Tuesday.

``Mike is frustrated and rightfully so,'' Tomlin said. ``He's not producing like we'd like him to and he'd like to.''

Neither is the running game, though the Steelers have settled on Jonathan Dwyer as a starter after unsuccessfully rotating Dwyer, Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman the last two weeks.

The trio managed just 32 yards on 15 carries - and three fumbles - in Cleveland, but the job is Dwyer's to lose based on his steady (by comparison) performance this season. Dwyer has two of Pittsburgh's three 100-yard games this year.

``We've been working under less than ideal circumstances shuffling those guys due to injury and lack of production,'' Tomlin said. ``But he's healthy and most productive. He will get the bulk of the carries.''

Even if he'll have to do it behind an offensive line so decimated by injuries that rookie Kelvin Beachum will start at right tackle against the Ravens after Mike Adams went down with a sprained ankle and starter Marcus Gilbert was placed on injured reserve Monday after his bum ankle failed to ``perk up'' despite nearly two months of treatment.

The Steelers activated first-round pick David DeCastro on Monday, but it's unlikely the rookie right guard will be ready to play after just a handful of practices.

Not exactly the way the Steelers wanted to start December, though the players are hardly interested in excuses. They know they're not alone in shuffling lineups in search of healthy bodies.

``You can't count on guys who you don't know if they're going to be there or not,'' nose tackle Casey Hampton said. ``We have a good enough football team to win those types of games and we have to do it.''

Tomlin remains optimistic Batch can shake off his spotty play against the Browns to lead the Steelers to just their third win in Baltimore in their last 10 trips. There are no plans to go to recently signed Brian Hoyer.

``Charlie is our quarterback,'' Tomlin said.

Just, the Steelers hope, for not much longer.

---

NOTES: LB LaMarr Woodley (sprained ankle) is doubtful for the Ravens. He will be replaced by Jason Worilds if he can't play ... WR Jerricho Cotchery fractured ribs) ran on Monday and will participate in practice this week.

---

Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Combine Primer And Sleepers

NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Combine Primer And Sleepers

The annual NFL Combine kicks of Wednesday in Indianapolis. Whatever happens there -- receivers run fast, quarterbacks flash arm strength, defenders lack pop -- projections will change and in some cases significantly. Therefore here's my last look at the situation before all the sprints and lifts via mock draft 4.0 plus some other thoughts below.

* League sources offered up names of several prospects currently ranked all over the big boards with the chance to make a big splash during the combine. They include:

Alabama TE O.J. Howard -- Everybody already knows the 6-foot-6 Howard is a two-way monster. His Senior Bowl dominance certainly confirmed that. Rocking the Combine could alter his mid-to-late first round projection into 10-13 range where teams like New Orleans, Cleveland and Arizona have TE needs. Call me crazy, but if Howard is there when the Redskins pick at 17, I can imagine Washington thinkng long and hard about two-TE sets wth Jordan Reed. 

Oklahoma DT Charles Walker -- The Redskins have shown interest in Walker, according to a league source, though his draft range is all over the map. The interior force's redshirt junior season ended early due to a concussion followed by a decision to leave the Sooners early with draft preparation in mind. Was a second-team All-Big 12 selection as a junior thanks to six sacks. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Walker ninth among defensive tackles while WalterFootball.com projects the 304-pounder as a Day 2 pick.

<<CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL NFL MOCK DRAFT 4.0>>

Pittsburgh OT Adam Bisnowaty -- Considered underrated despite starting four seasons for the Panthers. The left tackle helped key a resurgent season for the Panthers. Lack of wow prospects at the position means the order outside of Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin), Cam Robinson (Alabama) and Garrett Bolles (Utah) is in flux.

Ashland TE Adam Shaheen -- The D2 prospect is early candidate for the "Who is that guy?" award. Expect raves about Shaheen's size and athleticism. CBS Sports already has Day 2 projection on the 6-foot-6, 277-pounder who can run routes like a wide receiever. Could he move all the way into round 1?

Tulsa WR Keevan Lucas -- What the 5-foot-10 receiver lacks in height he makes up for with speed and production. Caught 81 passes for 1,180 yards and 15 touchdowns during his senior season with the Golden Hurricanes. Certain analytics show Lucas' production stood out  and put him in the same statistical company as future NFL receivers Stefon Diggs and Marqise Lee. Day 3 sleeper.

Other to watch: QB Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech), TE David Nkoju (Miami, Fl.), DT Ryan Glasgow (Michigan), CB Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson)

* Look at Scot McCloughan's draft history and one theme emerges: The man likes seniors, especially in round one. Brandon Scherff and Josh Doctson were both four-year players. The bulk of first round selections during his time at Seattle and San Francisco. That doesn't mean McCloughan will go that way with the 17th overall pick; Of the top 19 ranked prospects according to ESPN analyst Todd McShay, 14 are underclassmen. But keep a close on seniors with early round projections like Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, Temple inside linebacker Haason Reddick, Indiana guard Dan Feeney, LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White, Washington wide receiver John Ross and Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson.

<<CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL NFL MOCK DRAFT 4.0>>

Quick Links

Report: Ravens mulling cutting Dennis Pitta to create more cap space

Report: Ravens mulling cutting Dennis Pitta to create more cap space

A decision on whether to cut or keep Dennis Pitta is one of many issues facing the Ravens this offseason.

According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the Ravens “may balk” at the $5.5 million salary Pitta is due next season. That makes sense, considering Pitta was just 28th in the NFL among tight ends in yards per catch (8.5) despite leading all tight ends with 86 catches. Pitta only had two touchdown catches, and there is concern he no longer has the speed to make explosive plays after two major hip surgeries.

Free agency begins March 9, but cutting Pitta with a June 1 designation would create the most cap space for the Ravens - $5.5 million.

However, if the Ravens release Pitta, they would turn the tight end position over to a question-filled group that includes:

Ben Watson – He is 36 years old, and missed all of the 2016 season with an Achilles injury. Cutting Watson and saving $3 million in cap space might make more sense than cutting Pitta. Especially if Pitta agrees to a pay reduction, as he did before last season.

Nick Boyle – He missed 10 games last season due to his second suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. Another suspension could lead to the end of Boyle’s career.

Crockett Gillmore – He must prove he can still healthy after missing seven games in 2016, and 15 games over the past two seasons.

Darren Waller – He was suspended four games in 2016 for his first PED violation, and he has caught just 12 passes in his first two seasons.

Maxx Williams – He is coming off major knee surgery.

Pitta remains a favorite target of quarterback Joe Flacco, and even if Pitta struggles to make splash plays, he is still a chain-mover as a possession receiver. You can make a case for cutting or keeping Pitta. The Ravens will soon make their verdict.

MORE RAVENS: Stanley and his adopted dog from BARCS to be on Animal Planet