Change in store for Steelers

PITTSBURGH --- No more motivational slogans from coach Mike Tomlin. No more talk of his Pittsburgh Steelers redeeming themselves for past mistakes. No more grandiose promises to unleash havoc on the NFL for the rest of the season.


Tomlin's response to the Super Bowl champions' latest improbable loss and the franchise's longest losing streak since a five-game slide in 2003? He's taking out an eraser and wiping away names.

A starter gone here, a backup moving up there. A rookie starts, a veteran goes to the bench.

The Steelers traditionally don't make panicky personnel moves or bench a player because of a bad game or two. But what Tomlin calls "a pattern of behavior that's unacceptable" during a four-game slump will result in lineup changes Thursday against the Cleveland Browns.

"I assure you there are going to be some," Tomlin said Monday, calling the Steelers "a very average team ... and our recent record might indicate that's a kind assessment."

Rookie cornerback Joe Burnett is expected to start for the oft-beaten William Gay, who sustained a concussion late in the Steelers' 27-24 loss to the Raiders on Sunday. Gay might not play in Cleveland.

Rookie cornerback Keenan Lewis, defensive end Ziggy Hood and wide receiver Mike Wallace also might earn elevated status for the Browns. Wallace is expected to start if Hines Ward (hamstring) can't go, which seems likely given the short week.

"We can't stay status quo in terms of how we're approaching this and expect the pattern of behavior or outcome to change," Tomlin said. "That's unrealistic. That's hoping. This is not a hope business."

After a couple of mishaps against the Chiefs and the Raiders, two teams that figured to give them little trouble, the Steelers are 6-6 instead of at least 8-4. No wonder Tomlin is concerned about his team, which has been without star safety Tory Polamalu and was shaken when the special teams recently gave up four kickoff return TDs in five games.

"You've got to acknowledge the potential this can be kind of a shaken group," Tomlin said. "We've swallowed a lot. I'm going to be looking very closely at these men ... in terms of who legitimately is mentally tough and who can stand the test of adversity."



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