Steelers hoping new 'D' nets same results vs. Bucs

Steelers hoping new 'D' nets same results vs. Bucs

By Will Graves, Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 25, 2014 at 7:10 p.m.


5 photos

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Cam Heyward has been around long enough to know the drill.

No matter whom the fourth-year defensive end stands next to in the huddle Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) face the staggering Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3), the way the Steelers go about their business will not change.

Sure injured linebackers Jarvis Jones (wrist surgery) and Ryan Shazier (knee sprain) will be missed.

It doesn't mean defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is going to hit delete on his playbook and start from scratch for replacements Arthur Moats and Sean Spence, who filled in capably during the final 25 minutes of last Sunday's surprisingly easy 37-19 win over Carolina.

"It's going to definitely be different," Heyward said. "But that's just part of the game. You've got to be ready for it. ... We're definitely not going to shorten the package for them. We fully expect them to step in and play."

The game will cap an emotional comeback for Spence, who spent two years slowly recovering from a grisly left knee injury at the end of the 2012 preseason that threatened to end his career. The painful rehab from two torn knee ligaments and extensive nerve damage took its toll on his body and his mind.

The moment he runs out of the tunnel at Heinz Field as a starter, he can finally close the page on 25 months that derailed him but did not define him. Spence believes he's as quick as he was before that awkward step against Carolina in August 2012.

He believes he's smarter too thanks extensive work in the film room, where he absorbed everything he could from veterans Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote.

Spence is eager to reward the Steelers for their patience. Some teams might have moved on when his recovery slowed to a crawl. Not Pittsburgh.

"I appreciate that," Spence said. "It's time to give it back."

Things to look for as the Steelers try to move to 3-1 for the first time since 2010 while the Buccaneers look to avoid a second straight 0-4 start.

HUMBLED BUCS: Whatever optimism surrounding Tampa Bay under new coach Lovie Smith vanished during a 56-14 loss to Atlanta last week. Only a pair of meaningless scores in the fourth quarter allowed the Buccaneers to avoid the worst loss in the franchise's 38-year history, which is saying something.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin believes Smith will be "energized" by his team's struggles. Smith prefers to think he's "even-keeled", but allows there's only one way to go.

"I'll just say that we're not happy being (0-3) and we want to get this right," Smith said. "I think that's what Mike is saying. Yes, our football team is anxious to play better and see what it feels like to win a football game."

FAMILIAR FACES: Tampa Bay should get some needed reinforcements from running back Doug Martin and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who watched the debacle against the Falcons in street clothes due to injury. Martin's knee appears to be healthy while McCoy practiced with a protective covering over his injured right hand. Though Smith declined to speculate on their availability, the Steelers remain wary.

"(Martin) is a quality runner, a one-cut, small and tough target," Tomlin said. "I think they call him the "muscle hamster." I don't know what that is but it sounds appropriate."

FAMILIAR FACES 2.0: The Steelers brought five-time Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison out of a brief 18-day retirement this week to address the loss of Jones, who is out at least eight weeks. The 36-year-old Harrison estimated he could see the field for "2-3 plays" against Tampa Bay, but stressed he'll need time to get back in football shape.

"I'm going to rewrite the ending (of my career)," Harrison said. "Let's just see what happens. We'll see if the ending is a good one or not. Just being here is good. Let's see if we can make it better."

ONE-TWO PUNCH: Pittsburgh has the NFL's top rushing offense behind Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. Both backs topped 100 yards against the Panthers, the first time two Steelers have done that in the same game in 28 years. Bell, who leads the league in yards from scrimmage, has become an expert at setting up his blockers.

"He's been a smart runner since I've been associated with him," Tomlin said of Bell. "I think some of the things he does, he does innately."

SHUFFLED DECK: Buccaneers quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo will take over the game planning and play calling full time while offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford takes a leave of absence to deal with a health issue. Tampa Bay is 29th in scoring, averaging just 15.8 points a game. Mike Glennon will likely start at quarterback while Josh McCown deals with a hand injury.

"Once you get that first win, things kind of get rolling," Glennon said. "And I think that's the mindset we're taking again this year and we'll work ourselves through it. It's a long season; 13 games left in the season. Ten weeks from now, we won't even remember this."

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos

Will Graves

    SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

    Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast