Steelers not sweating bumpy start

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Coach Mike Tomlin stressed there’s not enough of a sample size to say the Steelers can’t run the ball.

“I’ll acknowledge that we didn’t do well the other night and that we better improve in that area and improve in a hurry because we desire to be balanced offensively,” Tomlin said.

Having enough healthy bodies along the offensive line would help. Marcus Gilbert (shoulder), Doug Legursky (shoulder) and Jonathan Scott (ankle) all spent time on the sidelines against the Colts after getting injured. Legursky and Scott didn’t practice on Wednesday though Gilbert returned and is expected to play against the Texans. Trai Essex would start at left tackle if Scott can’t go while Ramon Foster will fill in if Legursky is forced to sit.

Though the linemen continue to live by their “the standard is the standard” mantra, having different guys line up in different spots every week doesn’t do much for cohesion.

“I feel like we lose linemen around here more than any other team and I don’t know why,” Roethlisberger said. “Those guys need to get into a rhythm but the nice thing is they’re not off the street. They know each other and they can play together.”

The familiarity hasn’t exactly led to success in pass protection either. Roethlisberger spent most of the Colts’ game looking over his shoulder for defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney and now faces a Houston defense led by former No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams.

“They can fly around,” Roethlisberger said.

It’s something the Steelers defense has done for years. While the numbers are good _ Pittsburgh is second in the league in yards allowed _ the veteran, Pro Bowl-laden unit has just one takeaway in three games.

There are signs of life, however. Linebacker James Harrison is rounding into form while recovering from a pair of offseason back procedures and produced the game’s biggest play against the Colts, a sack of quarterback Curtis Painter that turned into a fumble return for a touchdown by Troy Polamalu.

The unit dubbed “old, slow” and “over” by former player turned analyst Warren Sapp has turned the phrase into a battle cry.

They’re fine and they insist they’re going to be fine.

Do they look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders? Maybe not yet. It’s still September, remember.

The Steelers understand the nitpicking. They’d like to play better. Yet they’re 2-1 despite their flaws. There’s a lot of teams that wish they could say the same.

“It tells you how mentally and physically tough they are as a team,” said Houston coach Gary Kubiak. “When you have the confidence you can win all kinds of ways … that’s what every team is searching for is a way to win all kind of ways and they’ve been able to do that for a number of years.”

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