AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers

A by-the-numbers look at the Indianapolis Colts-Pittsburgh Steelers game on Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET.

-8: Steelers’ point differential, the worst of any team with at least four wins

.810: Colts’ winning percentage in games decided by eight or fewer points since 2012, the best in the NFL

1: Colts’ NFL rank in time of possession (36:56)

2: Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell’s NFL rank in yards from scrimmage (938)

3: Passes thrown by Colts quarterback Andrew Luck that should have been intercepted, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the most by any quarterback this season.

4: Total third-down conversions allowed by the Colts in their past four games

9: Steelers wins against the Colts the 11 times they have played in Pittsburgh

10: Colts players who have at least one sack this season

11: Sacks allowed by the Colts

17: Wins by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 18 career October games at Heinz Field

18: Receptions Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton needs to break Marvin Harrison’s team record for most receptions in first three seasons (179)

18: Colts drives that have been at least 10 plays

19.3: Points allowed per game by the Steelers at home since 2012, fourth fewest in the AFC

26.7: First downs per game for the Colts, second-most in the NFL

34: Catches by Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown that have resulted in first downs

36: Catches by Hilton that have resulted in first downs, tops in the NFL

45: Catches tight end Heath Miller needs to move past John Stallworth and into second place on the Steelers’ all-time receptions list

87.9: Shaun Suisham’s field-goal percentage since joining the Steelers in 2010, tops in franchise history

96.0: Roethlisberger’s passer rating, 11th best in the NFL

100.5: Luck’s passer rating, seventh best in the NFL
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier is likely to return to action on Sunday after missing the last four games because of a sprained knee.

Shazier is listed as probable for the Steelers’ 4:25 p.m. ET game against the visiting Indianapolis Colts on the team’s final injury report of the week.

Shazier
The Steelers will probably be without a starter on the offensive side of the ball as right tackle Marcus Gilbert is listed as doubtful after suffering a concussion last Monday night. Mike Adams will start his first game this season if Gilbert is unable to play against the Colts.

The Steelers have ruled out safety Shamarko Thomas (hamstring), nose tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder) and cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) for Sunday.

The Colts have ruled out starting wide receiver Reggie Wayne (elbow) for their first game in Pittsburgh since 2008 while running back Trent Richardson (hamstring) is questionable.

Here are my projected healthy scratches for the Steelers with the assumption that Gilbert won’t play against the Colts: wide receiver Justin Brown, quarterback Landry Jones and cornerback B.W. Webb.

Colts vs. Steelers preview

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
8:00
AM ET
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The streaking Indianapolis Colts will try to win their sixth game in a row on Sunday when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers. Slowing down quarterback Andrew Luck will be the Steelers' priority, and they have to find a way to minimize his impact or score enough to keep pace with the 5-2 Colts. Beating Indianapolis would give Pittsburgh a 5-3 record at the halfway point of the season as well as a signature win.

ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells and Steelers reporter Scott Brown take a closer look at the 4:25 p.m. ET game at Heinz Field.

Brown: Mike, the Steelers’ passing game has been torched by the likes of Mike Glennon and Brian Hoyer this season. The Steelers' pass rush has been average, and they are suspect in the secondary. That is not a good formula for stopping Luck. What is the best way to contain him, if that is possible?

Wells: Blitzing Luck is the best way, but that appears to be a problem for the Steelers. Luck has done an exceptional job of spreading the ball around this season. He is not just focusing on receivers Reggie Wayne or T.Y. Hilton. Luck had back-to-back games where he completed passes to nine different receivers this season. His biggest problem, though, is interceptions: He is tied for third in the league in that category with seven. The Colts have survived Luck’s miscues so far, but they won’t be as fortunate once they get to the playoffs and face teams that can make them pay for their mistakes.

The Steelers are a tough team to figure out. One week they get blown out by Cleveland, and then they come back and use an incredible performance in the second quarter to beat Houston. What is Pittsburgh’s identity?

Brown: Mike, I can’t figure out this team quarter to quarter, much less game to game. The defense certainly isn’t the one that people are accustomed to seeing. There is no intimidation factor, no swagger, and the Steelers are really just trying to get by defensively as they retool a unit that is in transition. The Steelers have the potential to forge a personality as a dynamic offensive team, as they have the NFL’s leading receiver in Antonio Brown, the second-leading rusher in Le'Veon Bell and, of course, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers have moved the ball this season, but they have too often bogged down in the red zone. Maybe scoring three touchdowns in the last three minutes of the second quarter Monday night against the Texans will serve as a springboard for the offense. It had better put up a lot of points against the Colts if the Steelers are to beat one of the NFL’s hottest teams.

I normally don’t associate the Colts with the kind of defense they played in absolutely stifling the Bengals on Sunday. Is Indianapolis' defense underrated?

Wells: It is very underrated. I didn’t think this defense had a chance once linebacker Robert Mathis, last season’s sack leader, was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. The unit appeared to be headed for a rough season after it had only one sack over the first two games. But defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has taken a hold-nothing-back approach with his defense. With two cornerbacks who can blanket receivers, Greg Toler and Vontae Davis, Manusky is loading the box and constantly blitzing. That is why the Colts have 20 sacks and nine turnovers during their five-game winning streak. They have also held their past four opponents to 4-of-41 on third down. People might not have respected the Colts' defense before, but now teams have to take notice.

The Steelers have a history of being a good defensive team. They are 15th in the league in yards allowed a game. Are they on the decline defensively?

Brown: That is a great question. The Steelers have to hope it doesn’t get any worse defensively, or they could be in trouble. They have some promising young players to build around in rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier and rookie defensive end Stephon Tuitt. But the Steelers have serious questions at outside linebacker, especially if 2013 first-round pick Jarvis Jones doesn’t develop into a pass-rushing force. Cornerback is also an issue, a position at which the organization has not drafted well or neglected, depending on your vantage point. Cortez Allen is the Steelers’ best young cornerback, and he recently lost his starting job to Brice McCain. Allen has the physical ability to develop into a No. 1 cornerback, but the 2011 fourth-round pick has to become more consistent. It could get worse before it gets better on defense, given some of the holes that the Steelers have tried to spackle over by moves such as coaxing veteran outside linebacker James Harrison out of retirement.

The Colts seem like they have something going with Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw at running back. Richardson seems to be playing much better than he did last season. Is part of the reason that Bradshaw has eased the pressure on Richardson to carry the Colts' ground game?

Wells: Richardson might never live up to the expectations as being the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, but he is running better than he did last season, when he eventually was demoted. He is running with more confidence and making better decisions. Having Bradshaw has been a blessing for Richardson because he doesn’t have the burden of carrying the load in the backfield. Neither player has a problem sharing the work, and it helps that Bradshaw is familiar with sharing the load in the backfield. He went through it while with the New York Giants.

Brown looks like he could surpass the 1,499 receiving yards he had last season. What makes him so successful, and what type of challenges will he present to the Colts’ secondary?

Brown: I thought Brown would have a really tough time matching his production in 2013, when the fifth-year veteran set a Steelers record for receiving yards in a season. He has been even better this season and has scored five touchdowns after reaching the end zone eight times in 2013. Brown is an excellent route-runner, makes tough catches in traffic and is dazzling after the catch. The Colts will have to limit the damage Brown does after the catch, and I would imagine they will do everything they can to take him out of the game. But no team has succeeded in doing that, even though a reliable complement opposite Brown has yet to emerge.

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PITTSBURGH – Dri Archer’s world-class speed has yet to translate into any significant kickoff returns, and Pittsburgh Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith said the rookie has to learn to rely on more than just his greatest attribute.

“There are a lot of fast guys working at McDonald’s that can’t play this game,” Smith said. “Right now he thinks it’s about speed and as you know, it isn’t.”

Archer
That has become pretty apparent with Archer averaging just 17.9 yards on nine kickoff returns, the worst of any NFL player with at least nine kickoff returns.

But Smith said he is not frustrated with Archer as much as he is realistic with the rookie. And, Smith added, it is way too early to get down on the third-round pick, considering he has played all of five NFL games.

“You press as a mature, experienced coach,” said Smith, who is in his 20th season coaching in the NFL. “Now you’re talking about a young kid that’s played [five] games -- hell yeah, he presses. You talk to him about not [pressing], but I think it’s pretty natural. We’ve got to fight through it together.”

The Steelers need more out of their kickoff returns and they were confident that the explosive Archer would turn in game-breaking plays on special teams when they drafted the former Kent State star.

Archer is the fastest player on the team – he ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.26 seconds at the NFL scouting combine last February – and Smith said the 5-foot-8, 173-pound Archer just needs to be more patient and let the game come to him.

“As soon as that kid makes a big play, we’ll all be hopping on the bandwagon and we’ll all be celebrating, ‘Hey, this is what we thought he was,’ ” Smith said. “It will come. It really will. I’ve seen it too many times because of his work habits and because of his athleticism and because of his want-to. I think he’s going to be fine, and the sooner, the better.”
PITTSBURGH -- Is Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown the best player at his position in the NFL?

Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson builds a strong case for Brown, who leads the NFL with 719 receiving yards this season after finishing second in the league with 1,499 receiving yards last season.

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Monson calls Brown a "modern day version of Jerry Rice" since he doesn’t have the greatest measurables but makes the game look easy at times because of his innate understanding of it.

The PFF piece is the latest example of Brown starting to get his due as a premier wide receiver. In the past there were questions about whether the fifth-year veteran was a legitimate No. 1 receiver, because he is 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds in a league that covets tall wide receivers.

"From the day I got here he wasn’t a household name other than special teams, and you’ve just seen the guy ascend and put himself up there with the great receivers in the game right now," said Todd Haley, who took over as the Steelers' offensive coordinator in 2012. "He continues to get better, and that’s the exciting thing."

Brown is having an All Pro-caliber season even though no one has emerged as the Steelers' clear cut No. 2 wide receiver, something that would help divert some attention from Brown. Markus Wheaton, who starts opposite Brown, has slumped after a promising start, and former No. 3 wide receiver Justin Brown was a healthy scratch last Monday night.

Wheaton, Brown, Lance Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey and rookie Martavis Bryant are all trying to solidify roles, and for now the Steelers are content to play their receivers -- well, at least the ones not named Antonio Brown -- based on situations.

"You’d love to see somebody jump up and say, 'Hey, we can’t have this guy off the field,' and that’s usually the way it works, so right now we’re kind of in that process and we just need guys to make plays," Haley said. "When your number’s called you need to step up and make the play, and if you don’t there’s some guys champing at the bit to show that they can do it."

The Steelers don’t seem to be in a hurry to set a hierarchy after Brown, the two-time Pro Bowler. It could change on a weekly basis, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he doesn’t have a problem with a largely rotating cast at wide receiver.

"We work every day with all of them, so it’s really just knowing who’s out there on a particular play, because each guy may run a route a little bit different," Roethlisberger said. "As long as I know who’s in there as we’re going, I’m fine and I feel confident with whoever’s in there is going to make a play."
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lavished praise on the player who will be his counterpart Sunday at Heinz Field.

And Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck couldn’t say enough good things about Roethlisberger.

“His ability to extend plays is incredible [and] maybe the best in the league what he does in finding an open guy if something breaks down,” Luck said. “I know as a quarterback if you can [do] that every now and then, it can be demoralizing for a defense, and he certainly does a great job at it.”

Luck
Roethlisberger
Luck, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft, has been demoralizing teams with his right arm. The third-year quarterback has passed for more than 300 yards in five consecutive games, tying a Colts record held by Peyton Manning.

Luck leads the NFL with 333 passing yards per game.

“He’s emerging as one of the best in the league, and I think a lot of us saw that coming,” Roethlisberger said. “I always enjoy watching other quarterbacks because anything you can take, whether they’re older or younger, and use it in your game, I think you’ve got to do it. Hopefully he has a bad day because our defense is playing well.”

Roethlisberger is hoping to play enough well enough to deliver a victory, one that would leave the Steelers with a 5-3 record at the halfway point of the season, and reach a career milestone.

Roethlisberger will try to win his 100th career game on Sunday, and the 11th-year quarterback would join some pretty exclusive company.

If Roethlisberger beats the Colts, he will become just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to win 100 games in 150 or fewer starts, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Sunday will be Roethlisberger's 150th start.

The only other players to accomplish that feat are Tom Brady, Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw.

“Amazing, great football player,” Luck said of Roethlisberger. “I know when I was a rookie, I watched a lot Steelers tape to try and learn [former Steelers and Colts offensive coordinator] Bruce Arians’ offense and ended up watching a lot of Ben and the things he does, did [and] still does. So a ton of respect for how he plays football."
PITTSBURGH -- Le'Veon Bell is quietly building a strong case for MVP consideration.

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back ranks among the NFL's top three in rushing yards (599), yards from scrimmage (938) and first down (44).

Bell
And quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Bell, who has played in just 20 NFL games, is only going to get better.

"I don't even think we've used him to the full potential," Roethlisberger said. "When we go no-huddle and I'm calling the plays I like to get him out in empty sets because you can utilize him in mismatches. I still think the best is yet to come from him."

One of Bell's best attributes is his versatility and he is as comfortable catching the ball after lining up as a wideout as he out of the backfield. Bell caught eight passes for 88 yards in the Steelers' 30-23 win over the Houston Texans last Monday night, and his 43-yard catch-and-run served as the catalyst in a 24-point explosion late in the second quarter.

Bell is not even halfway through his second NFL season but he has already set a Steelers record for most yards from scrimmage (2,197 yards) after two seasons. The 2013 second-round pick needs just 295 yards to pass Franco Harris for the most rushing yards by a Steelers player in his first two seasons.

Bell is also close to another milestone.

If the 6-1, 225-pounder gain 50 yards from scrimmage Sunday against the visiting Indianapolis Colts he will pass Barry Foster and Jerome Bettis for the most yards from scrimmage by a Steelers player in the first eight games of a season since 1970, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Bell's emergence has led to fewer carries for LeGarrette Blount, who was signed in March to complement Bell, but it doesn't appear that the Steelers are overworking him.

Bell is averaging just under 22 touches per game and the Michigan State product said he has learned this season to avoid hard hits, something that should also allow him to thrive while weathering the grind of an NFL season.

"We don't want to run him until the wheels fall off but you've got to have him out there because he can do a little bit of everything," Roethlisberger said, "and that's why I think he's one of the best all-around backs in the game."
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier did not practice on Wednesday, a curious development a day after coach Mike Tomlin said the rookie is "extremely close to returning" to action.

Shazier
Shazier practiced on a limited basis all of last week, and the Steelers allowed him to test his right knee Monday night before deactivating the first-round pick for their game against the Houston Texans.

Shazier, who has missed the past four games because of a sprained knee, was held out of the Steelers' first practice of the week along with right tackle Marcus Gilbert (concussion) and nose tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder).

Safety Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) and cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) were limited participants in practice.

Thomas has missed the past two games, but Tomlin said the second-year man is also close to returning. Taylor took part in some drills for the first time since breaking his forearm in the Steelers' 37-19 win against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 21.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers reached into their bag of trick to score the touchdown that put them ahead for good in a 30-23 win over the Houston Texans.

But coach Mike Tomlin was in no mood to talk about wide receiver Antonio Brown’s 3-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore the day after it happened -- or at least discuss how the play came about with the Steelers trailing the Texans late in the first half.

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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning that Tomlin called the play in which Brown took a pitch in the backfield, pivoted back to his left and hit Moore in the end zone.

Tomlin refused to confirm that he had indeed made that play call, though he did not deny it either.

“I take responsibility for all calls,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “I’m not going to get into the intimate details about how we administer our business on the sidelines during the course of football games. I don’t think that’s prudent. I don’t think that helps us.”

When asked what the Steelers were thinking as a team when they opted for Brown to throw a pass near the goal-line, Tomlin said, “The idea is to score and Antonio has proven to be a guy who is capable delivering plays for us, whether it’s running the ball or throwing the ball. You just want to put the ball in playmakers’ hands, and he is that.”

Brown caught nine passes for 90 yards in addition to his scoring toss, and the two-time Pro Bowler probably should have finished with over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Brown made a spectacular 16-yard catch in the corner of the end zone in the fourth quarter and appeared to get both feet in bounds, if only by an inch, for a touchdown that would have likely put the Texans away.

But the ruling of a touchdown on the field was reversed after a video review and the Steelers had to settle for a Shaun Suisham field goal that gave them a 27-16 lead. Brown took to social media after the game to voice his displeasure with having a touchdown taken away from the Steelers.

The fifth-year veteran posted a picture on his Twitter account that showed both of his feet in bounds and wrote “[bleeping] refs.”

Tomlin said he did not know anything about what Brown wrote on his Twitter account.

“I don’t get into the social media stuff,” Tomlin said. “I thought it was an extremely close play and usually when plays are that close they stay with the ball on the field. I was of the impression that it was going to remain [a touchdown].”

When asked if he has a problem with Brown protesting the call the way he did, Tomlin said, “We’re professionals. I expect them to behave that way both on and off the grass.”
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers made a statement Monday night, pulling their season from the brink shortly after boos had rained down on them in their own stadium.

Defensive end Cameron Heyward made an even bigger statement after the Steelers overcame an early 13-0 deficit and held off the Houston Texans 30-23 at Heinz Field.

Heyward, talking about the play of fellow defensive end Brett Keisel, said, "He turned back time. He was the best [No.] 99 out there."

Such a statement would seem ridiculous on the surface.

Keisel, who turned 36 last month, did not even re-sign with the Steelers until late August because of lukewarm interest from the organization. The other No. 99 in the nationally televised game was Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

Watt is only the best defensive player on the planet and owns a list of NFL accomplishments that is longer than Keisel's beard.

Watt, as the Steelers could attest after improving to 4-3, can be contained only to a certain degree. The Steelers largely did a good job against the 6-foot-5, 289-pounder, and he still finished with three tackles, a sack, two quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.

[+] EnlargePittsburgh's Brett Keisel
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesBrett Keisel's interception led to the third Steelers touchdown during the final two minutes of the first half.
His stat line easily trumped the one turned in by Keisel.

His impact on the game, however, did not.

Keisel's fingerprints were all over one of the more bizarre stretches in the history of Heinz Field, one in which the Steelers needed just five plays and less than two minutes of possession to put together three touchdown drives.

That sequence changed everything -- maybe even the Steelers' season.

It seemed so out of place coming from a team that managed just two offensive touchdowns over its previous two games, against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns, that you half expected to see cows flying over Heinz Field at halftime.

Less improbable, though maybe only slightly so given how much the NFL is a young man's game, was Keisel making more of an impact on Monday night than Watt.

Keisel hurried Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick into a third-down incompletion that forced a punt with the Steelers trailing 13-3 and just less than two minutes left in the second quarter. Two plays later, Ben Roethlisberger threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant.

After a takeaway by the Steelers defense led to another quick touchdown, Keisel turned in one of the plays of the game. With just more than a minute left in the first half, Keisel redirected a Fitzpatrick pass when the Texans weren't content to run out the clock and go into the locker room trailing by four points. After Fitzpatrick's pass clanked off the face mask of linebacker Lawrence Timmons, it landed in one of Keisel's ample mitts.

He started rumbling toward the end zone and made it to the 8-yard line. Two plays later, Roethlisberger found Le'Veon Bell for a 2-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds to spare in the second quarter.

The Texans never recovered from that barrage of points.

After the Steelers survived a late rally and an onside kick attempt that almost went in the Texans' favor, Keisel was asked if the three-minute stretch at the end of the first half, which started with a field goal at the 3:08 mark and resulted in 24 unanswered points, saved the season. "I don’t know," he said, "It's still early [in the season] -- well, about halfway."

It is late enough for Keisel to know the Steelers have to start stringing together victories.

That is why he didn't plan on allowing himself or his teammates much time to celebrate a win the Steelers had to have on Monday night.

"We can't just win and lose one, win and lose one," Keisel said. "We've got to be able to have the same urgency after a win as we have after a loss."
PITTSBURGH -- Wide receiver Martavis Bryant and nose tackle Daniel McCullers will each dress for their first NFL game when the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Houston Texans tonight at 8:30 ET.

Bryant takes the game-day roster spot of Justin Brown, who is inactive for the first time this season. McCullers, who is also a rookie, is dressing with starting nose tackle Steve McLendon out because of a shoulder injury.

The Steelers will wait another week to bring back Ryan Shazier, who has been out since spraining his right knee in a Sept. 21 game.

Shazier, who ran on the field before the game and tested his knee under the watchful eye of trainers John Norwig, joins McLendon, cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) and Shamarko Thomas on the Steelers’ inactives list because of injuries.

The Steelers' three healthy scratches are Brown, quarterback Landry Jones and guard Chris Hubbard.

Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney will miss his sixth consecutive game because of a right knee injury. Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft, tested his knee before the game but the Texans will err on the side of caution.
PITTSBURGH -- Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has generally refrained from commenting on criticism of the Pittsburgh Steelers by former coach Bill Cowher and Hines Ward, the organization's all-time leading receiver.

Roethlisberger
He did fire back a bit at Steelers' critics in a one-on-one interview with ESPN's Lisa Salters, who will be a sideline reporter for tonight's Houston Texans-Steelers game.

"They don't know what they're talking about because they're not here so we kind of just laugh it off," Roethlisberger said. "A lot of people outside of this locker room are going to talk, are going to point fingers. We don't have time for that."

Ward leveled the strongest criticism against Roethlisberger last week, placing blame for the Steelers' offensive struggles on the veteran quarterback.

Ward said Roethlisberger's play-calling is the biggest reason why the Steelers are No. 31 in the NFL in red zone efficiency. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said last week that Roethlisberger has called less than 30 percent of the plays this season.

Roethlisberger declined to comment directly on Ward's criticism to ESPN.com last week.

He told Salters that he looks at criticism from Ward and Cowher as coming from the media -- even with their deep ties to the Steelers' organization.

"A lot of the media likes to point fingers," Roethlisberger said, "and a lot of times they don't know what they're talking about."
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen will likely play a reduced role Monday night against the Houston Texans.

Allen
Allen appears to have lost his starting job to Brice McCain and will probably be relegated to nickelback in the 8:30 ET game at Heinz Field.

Allen’s talent is undeniable but consistency has eluded the 6-foot-1, 196-pounder. The frustration that has caused among the Steelers’ coaches has led to Allen’s benching, even if it is only temporary.

I had a chance to ask Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake about Allen recently and a little context about this interview: It took place after Allen had intercepted a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars -- and played arguably his best game of the season -- and before the former fourth-round draft pick gave up a long touchdown catch in Cleveland and struggled in a loss to the Browns.

Here is what Lake said about Allen.

Is Cortez Allen where you want him to be?

CL: Not yet but we’re working on it every week. He’s making the necessary corrections quickly in order to get himself to the next level. I think if he can kind of stay focused he has the potential to be pretty good in this league.

Is he anywhere close to his ceiling?

CL: I think he’s still learning the game. I think he’s got a lot more in him just from an understanding standpoint. Athletically I’m not really concerned so much. I think he has ability to tie that with the understanding of football in general and what offenses are trying to do. With his hands and his instincts for the ball, I’m hoping when it comes together it’s going to be something where people go, ‘Wow, this is a pretty good corner.’

Is he still learning because he played at a smaller school in college?

CL: I think his athleticism at that level, playing for The Citadel, he could kind of get away and not really lock in because he just had so much more talent than a lot of people. He could put it on auto pilot and still make a lot of plays. Up here, playing against receivers like [Antonio] Brown, you’ve really got to focus because as soon as you think they’re one way they’re another way and that’s how they play the game. Schematically as well, from a big-picture standpoint, there’s a lot of that going on with offensive coordinators and they’re going to pick on a relatively new corner. They’re going to test their mettle to see if they’re paying attention.

So as a coach you are constantly telling him to stay focused as a way of becoming more consistent?

CL: I think that’s the only way to be as a corner because as soon as you lapse for a minute somebody’s making a play on you. 'Tez has a long stride, he’s playing against a variety of receivers from tall and big to short and quick. 'Tez has to learn to hone his game in to be able to have the depth to say, ‘OK, this is how I can play successfully against this type of receiver and this is how I have to change my game to be successful against this type of receiver.’ You’ve got a Steve Smith or you’ve got a Megatron [Calvin Johnson]. That’s a totally different set of skills you need to start developing. But there are some fundamentals that you can carry between those two types of receivers. He needs to strengthen those fundamental skills and also have more tools in his toolbox.
PITTSBURGH -- Knee injuries likely won’t prevent Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell and defensive end Brett Keisel from playing Monday night against the Houston Texans.

Mitchell and Keisel are listed as probable for the 8:30 p.m. ET game at Heinz Field in the Steelers’ final injury report of the week.

Starting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier is listed questionable after missing the past three games because of a sprained right knee.

Safety Shamarko Thomas will miss his second consecutive game because of a hamstring injury. Starting nose tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder) and cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) were declared out at the beginning of the week.

Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney is listed as questionable. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft has missed the past five games after having early season knee surgery.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien has said Clowney will be a game-time decision.

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