Niagara Gazette

Sports

November 9, 2013

Bills, Steelers seek second half traction

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — “Yeah, we’re excited to get EJ back,” center Eric Wood said. “Hopefully, it gives us a boost, offensively.”

EMBATTLED LEBEAU: Pittsburgh’s late meltdown against the Patriots, when New England finished the game with a 31-7 burst, did more than raise concerns about an aging secondary. It also brought heat on Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

Coach Mike Tomlin defended LeBeau earlier this week. When pressed on why, he simply answered “because he’s Dick LeBeau.”

The Steelers haven’t finished outside the top 10 in total defense since LeBeau took over in 2004. While they rank 12th overall, they’re also an uncharacteristic 31st against the run. The players insist the problem isn’t the game plan but the execution.

“We’re in the right positions,” safety Troy Polamalu said. “We’ve got to make the plays.”

JOHNSON’S HEALTH: The Bills nearly beat the Steelers in the last meeting, missing a chance to win when an easy touchdown pass in overtime fell through the hands of wide receiver Stevie Johnson. The mercurial Johnson blamed God after the game on his Twitter account, an act that has overshadowed what is turning into a solid NFL career.

Johnson is one of five active players to have three straight 1,000-yard seasons and has become one of the most dependable players in the game. He doesn’t think Pittsburgh’s defense has lost a step, but he welcomes a second chance to right a wrong.

“If you’re aggressive (like the Steelers), you got a 50/50 chance of making a big play or a big play being made on you,” he said. “You know, so hopefully it will be our big play.”

STAYING POSITIVE: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger never gave a second thought to calling it a day when the Patriots built an overwhelming lead in the fourth quarter. Though any shot at the postseason is all but shot, he plans to keep that mindset heading into the season’s second half and believes his teammates will follow suit.

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