Break time

Steel­ers take rest af­ter drilling Pan­thers

The Republican Herald - - SPORTS - By WILL GRAVES

PITTS­BURGH — Ben Roeth­lis­berger was still in the process of pick­ing him­self up off the Heinz Field turf when the scrum started, one that sent a mes­sage that at the mo­ment it might be un­wise to mess with the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers.

Steel­ers cen­ter Mau­r­kice Pouncey and right guard David DeCas­tro were not par­tic­u­larly pleased with how Carolina safety Eric Reid launched him­self at Pitts­burgh’s fran­chise quar­ter­back as Roeth­lis­berger fin­ished off an 18- yard scram­ble dur­ing the third quar­ter of a 52- 21 dis­man­tling of the Pan­thers on Thurs­day night.

To­gether the two peren­nial Pro Bowlers — a com­bined 630 pounds give or take a meal — let Reid and a hand­ful of his team­mates know they didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate Reid’s ap­proach to his job. What fol­lowed was 30 sec­onds of flex­ing, grab­bing and shov­ing be­fore Reid was ejected for tar­get­ing.

“You’ve got to be there for your guy,” DeCas­tro said. “Just try­ing to stand up for him and show him we’ve got his back.”

As the Steel­ers made their way back to the hud­dle, Roeth­lis­berger gave his line­men peace of mind should the NFL de­cide to hit their wal­lets af­ter stick­ing up for him.

“Ben came up af­ter and said, ‘ If any fine gets handed out, I’ll han­dle that,’ ’’ Pouncey said with a laugh.

Pouncey, in the fourth year of a five- year con­tract that will pay him $ 44 mil­lion, can cer­tainly af­ford to write the check. He be­lieves the fact he won’t have to if it comes to that says a lot about Roeth­lis­berger — and a lot about the cli­mate within the Pitts­burgh locker room.

“It’s cool man,” Pouncey said. “I ap­pre­ci­ate all the guys rep­ping like that.”

Those guys have found their iden­tity over the last five weeks. Pitts­burgh ( 6- 2- 1) set a record for the most points by an NFL team in the 17- year his­tory of Heinz Field while rolling to a fifth straight vic­tory. The re­ward? Five days off to rest up be­fore start­ing a daunt­ing fi­nal stretch that be­gins on Nov. 18 in Jack­sonville in a play­off re­match that saw the Jaguars stun Pitts­burgh at home in Jan­uary.

“Last year is last year,” Steel­ers corner­back Mike Hil­ton said. “We’re a dif­fer­ent team just like they’re a dif­fer­ent team.”

If any­thing, Pitts­burgh looks much bet­ter than while get­ting pushed around by Leonard Four nette and Blake Bor­tles in a con­fi­dence- shak­ing 45- 42 set­back that led to an ex­o­dus in both the sec­ondary and por­tions of the coach­ing staff.

Randy Ficht­ner took over for Todd Ha­ley as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and, even with star run­ning back Le’Veon Bell sit­ting out due to con­cerns with his one- year con­tract, has put to­gether an at­tack that looks as dy­namic and var­ied as any­thing in the league.

James Con­ner, Bell’s re­place­ment, al­ready has 11 touch­downs through nine games, as many as Bell has scored in any full sea­son. Roeth­lis­berger spread the ball all over the place on a night he fin­ished with more scor­ing passes ( five) than in­com­ple­tions ( three).

“We’ve got a lot of weapons on this team and Ben showed it tonight get­ting the ball to all of them,” DeCas­tro said.

Saints’ Bryant hurt

METAIRIE, La. — Dez Bryant’s ten­ure with the Saints may have been short­lived.

In just his sec­ond prac­tice with New Or­leans, the newly ac­quired wide re­ceiver in­di­cated in so­cial me­dia posts Fri­day that he has had a sig­nif­i­cant set­back.

The team’s in­jury re­port listed Bryant as ques­tion­able for Sun­day’s game in Cincin­nati with an an­kle in­jury, but a per­son fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion said the team is still await­ing the re­sults of a doc­tor’s ex­am­i­na­tion of Bryant.

AS­So­Ci­ATeD PReSS

Pitts­burgh Steel­ers wide re­ceiver An­to­nio Brown sits on the bench dur­ing the sec­ond half of Thurs­day’s win over Carolina.

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