There’s obviously a reason that he called it

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von zhangzk • Gaser Lehrling III | 167 Beiträge

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Le’Veon Bell might be ready to head back to work. The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t exactly look like they need him.The star running back tweeted “Farewell Miami” on Monday Terrell Edmunds Jersey White , possibly indicating the end of his months-long standoff with the club. Bell hasn’t been inside the Pittsburgh locker room since last January, opting to stay away rather than sign his one-year franchise tender. The two-time All-Pro has sacrificed half of the $14.4 million he’s due this season but needs to report by Nov. 13 to make sure he accrues enough service time to reach free agency in March.Bell’s extended absence initially created a furor inside the locker room. Now, it seems almost like an afterthought. The Steelers (5-2-1) have ripped off four straight victories heading into Thursday night’s visit from Carolina (6-2), relying heavily on James Conner — Bell’s replacement — to surge into the lead in the AFC North.Conner topped 100 yards rushing for a fourth straight week during a 23-16 victory over Baltimore on Sunday, and caught his first career touchdown pass when he took a short flip from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and bulled past Baltimore safety Eric Weddle at the pylon.“He’s showing that no challenge is too big for him, against the No. 1 defense or whoever it might be,” Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva said of Conner. “You know when you’re so close to him, and he lowers his shoulder, and you see him get a couple yards, it’s extremely motivating.”Conner is second in the league in all-purpose yards and touches behind Los Angeles Rams standout Todd Gurley and tied for fourth in total touchdowns. The second-year back hardly seems bothered by the heavy workload, saying he’s built for it. So does his coach.“I agree with James,” Mike Tomlin said Monday when asked about Conner’s personal assessment.Tomlin smiled as he answered, mirroring the considerably lighter mood around his team these days. The problems that plagued the Steelers during September have vanished, though Tomlin is reticent to point to any one area where his team has improved.“I’m not trying to look for specific areas, I just try to challenge these guys to get better every day,” Tomlin said. “That’s what we’re focused on. I think that if we do that daily that will give us a chance to produce consistent performances that are on the rise. Not only in the second quarter (of the season) but as we continue through this journey.”It’s a pattern that’s become well established during Tomlin’s 12 years on the job. The Steelers have been traditionally slow starters under his watch Womens JuJu Smith-Schuster Jersey , then get it together as the days grow shorter.Pittsburgh hasn’t allowed more than 21 points during its four-game run and the secondary that was torched regularly in the opening month has settled in. Coty Sensabaugh has taken over for Artie Burns at the cornerback spot opposite Joe Haden and rookie safety Terrell Edmunds has filled in capably while veteran Morgan Burnett heals from a series of injuries that have slowed him since training camp.The Steelers aren’t exactly overwhelming opponents but considering the firepower on offense, overwhelming teams isn’t required. Pittsburgh gave up at least 327 yards in each of its first four games. The Steelers haven’t surrendered more than 324 yards over their last four.“Our defense is working in the right direction,” safety Sean Davis said. “We held the Ravens to 16 points … and I feel like we’re putting together winning performances. As long as the defense continues to do that, and with our offense playing the way they’re playing, we’re just going to continue riding the roller coaster. Our trajectory is high.”Considerably higher than it appeared while getting repeatedly torched during the opening month. Yet the job is still only halfway done. The schedule remains daunting. If Bell — whenever he shows up — can return to at least some semblance of the form that made him an All-Pro last season, Pittsburgh could be a tough out. If he can’t, they like their chances anyway.“It’s still going to be a long ride,” linebacker Bud Dupree said. “It was great that we got the win to get on top of the division again. We’ve got another game against the Bengals. We just need to be sure to dominate everywhere.” NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Desperately needing a win, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin went for the jugular with a fake punt call late in the fourth quarter against the Saints.Upback Roosevelt Nix came up just short, and so did the Steelers in an excruciating, infuriating 31-28 loss Sunday that may strangle their playoff hopes.“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Tomlin said, adding that he had confidence in the play call and figured there was enough time left for his offense to get the ball back with time to score if it failed.He was partly right.The failed fake allowed New Orleans to take over at the Pittsburgh 46 with 4:01 left. Soon after, the second of two critical fourth-down pass interference calls on cornerback Joe Haden set up the Saints for the winning touchdown, a 2-yard pass from Drew Brees to Michael Thomas with 1:25 left.“We had clear opportunities to win the game and we didn’t seize those moments. That is what good teams do,” defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said. “I think we are good team Womens T. J. Watt Jersey , but we have to make those critical adjustments.”To claim the AFC East, Pittsburgh (8-6-1) needs to beat Cincinnati next Sunday and have Baltimore (9-6) lose at home to Cleveland. Failing that, the Steelers would need the unlikely scenario of an Indianapolis-Tennessee tie to earn a wild card.“You can be as skillful as you want on both sides of the ball and special teams, but there is still a small element of luck involved in football,” Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “It’s a play here, a play there.”The Steelers have come up a play short too often down the stretch, losing four of their last five by a total of 16 points.Even after the go-ahead touchdown, they were driving into field goal range when receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster fumbled at the New Orleans 34. That play ended their hope to stay atop the AFC East even though Roethlisberger threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns, Antonio Brown had 14 catches for 185 yards and two scores, and Smith-Schuster added 11 receptions for 115 yards.“It’s tough to go out like that,” Smith-Schuster said. “I got tackled, I fumbled, game over. I was just trying to get down. They made a good play.”The Steelers were much less sure about the penalties on Haden. He was flagged for interference in the end zone in the first quarter after a fourth-down heave from Brees to running back Alvin Kamara sailed over both of their heads, leading to Mark Ingram’s 1-yard touchdown run.“I don’t know what they saw,” Haden said. “I just tried to jump up and go get the ball.”The second flag came when he defended Saints receiver Michael Thomas aggressively on a fourth-and-2 pass that hit the ground, prolonging the winning drive.“It’s an offensive game JuJu Smith-Schuster Jersey White ,” Haden said. “You can’t touch these guys. It’s tough being a defensive back. It’s unfortunate. I’m very frustrated. This means a lot to me. I come out here, bust my tail and try to play good defense.”The Steelers fought back from deficits in both halves. Trailing 14-6, they converted four third downs on a 15-play, 97-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard scoring toss to uncovered running back Jaylen Samuels and a 2-point conversion to tie the score 40 seconds before halftime.After they fell behind 24-14 in the third quarter, Roethlisberger led back-to-back touchdown drives of 75 and 66 yards to put the Steelers ahead 28-24.But their last three possessions ended in a fumble by Stevan Ridley, the failed fake punt and Schuster’s fumble.“I didn’t even know it was coming,” Roethlisberger said of the fake punt, on which Nix took the snap, stepped to his right and tried to run through the middle. “I turned around just in time to see it. but I don’t really know what was going on.”The Steelers, who beat New England at home last week, almost captured a second big win in a row against the Saints (13-2), who clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.Now Pittsburgh is looking up at the Ravens in the AFC East for the first time since October.“All we have is a chance,” Heyward said. “We just have to go play Cincinnati this week and get a win. You never know what can happen.”

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