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Steelers News: Don’t look now, but the Pittsburgh defense is improving

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back-to-back winners for the first time in this 2018 season after a solid performance vs. the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Week 6. With the team now able to relax on their bye-week in Week 7, they will hope to improve on their 3-2-1 record by beating the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens in Weeks 8 and 9.

Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we talk about how despite a disastrous start, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense is a group on the rise. Yes, they are actually improving under the tutelage of Keith Butler and company. I know, it sounds blasphemous, but numbers don’t lie.

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers improving defensively as season progresses

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

In NFL rankings for total defense, the Pittsburgh Steelers have climbed all the way up to… 21st.

Not exactly the Steel Curtain. But that’s the highest the Steelers have reached since after Week 1, and it’s an improvement of eight spots since last week.

“I am not going to say, ‘We found our mojo. We got our groove back,’ ” defensive captain Cameron Heyward said Monday. “It’s about putting in the work and understanding that every team is dangerous, and we will see where we are at the end of this.”

The Steelers are coming off their best statistical game of the season defensively, allowing a season-low 275 yards. They have allowed a season-low 62 rushing yards in consecutive weeks, and the 213 passing yards allowed Sunday in Cincinnati were a season-low.

After allowing an average of 29 points over the first four games (one of which they won), the Steelers have allowed a total of 38 points the past two weeks — both victories.

“We are just digging right now, digging out of a hole,” Heyward said. “We’ve got to put in the work every week now.”

No sign of Le’Veon Bell as Steelers conduct meetings, film review

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Pittsburgh Steelers opened their bye week doing what they normally do on a Monday — attending team meetings and conducting film review.

And, as has been the case the entire season, running back Le’Veon Bell didn’t take part in it.

Bell, who told ESPN he would end his holdout during the bye, was not in the locker room during the 45 minutes open the media prior to the start of meetings.

A chair in front of Bell’s locker was decorated to make it look like the running back was present, but it was merely a decoy for reporters.

“I don’t think anybody has gotten word, and we will keep moving,” defensive tackle Cameron Heyward said.

“I haven’t heard from him,” tackle Marcus Gilbert said. “If he does show up, I’ll be excited to see him.”

If it is true Bell will report this week, he will have two more opportunities before the players receive a four-day break. The Steelers have practices Tuesday and Wednesday.

Teammates have said they are prepared to welcome back Bell, who has lost $5.13 million in salary by staying away.

“Yeah, it’s a business, man,” guard David DeCastro said. “We all have a job to do, so you know, it will be good. We will be fine, looking forward to getting back to work.”

Before Bell can practice with the team, he must pass a physical. If the Steelers ask for a two-week roster exemption, Bell must agree to compensation during that period. Then, he must sign his franchise-tag tender.

The tender was worth $14.544 million at the start of the season, but Bell has forfeited $855,000 in pay for each week he has remained away from the team.

If Bell reports this week, he would have extra practice time — the Steelers have a bonus workout upon returning Monday from the bye — to get into condition to play in a game. Bell skipped all voluntary offseason workouts and training camp, just like he did in 2017 when he reported in time to play in the season opener.

Steelers OLB Ola Adeniyi healthy, doesn’t expect to practice

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Ola Adeniyi’s hamstring injury is long healed.

“Physically I am ready to go today, hands down,” the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie edge rusher said Monday. “That’s not even a question. I’m ready to go physically.”

But Adeniyi has not practiced yet during the regular season after he was placed on the injured reserve list as a result of suffering a hamstring injury during the final preseason game.

And even though IR rules allow Adeniyi to return to practice this week, it doesn’t seem as if he will be practicing any time soon.

“I haven’t really heard anything,” Adeniyi said, “Nobody has told me anything yet. So…”

The Steelers practice Tuesday and Wednesday leading into an idle weekend before ramping up work next Monday in advance of their Oct. 28 game against Cleveland.

Their play at outside linebacker has been good — T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo have combined for 10 sacks — but they only have three on the 53-man roster. Adeniyi, an undrafted rookie from Toledo, had three sacks in four preseason games — a strong enough performance he made the 53-man roster when camp broke.

But the next day, Adeniyi was surprised to be told he was going on IR . He said even then his hamstring wasn’t seriously injured. Two weeks ago, he said it had “been good for weeks.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know how it works. I don’t really know the politics of it all,” Adeniyi said. “So, I’m just kind of waiting for somebody to come and tell me.

“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, just keep working out and just keep getting better and keep getting my body right. Whenever I get called up, I’ll be ready to go.”

Steelers want James Conner show to keep rolling

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

Ben Roethlisberger spoke in jest, but with a hint of truth over James Conner’s 111-yard, two-touchdown rushing performance Sunday.

“What a great game, but I know it’s his last game for us, because Le’Veon’s coming back,” Roethlisberger said after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ thrilling 28-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Roethlisberger used sarcasm to emphasize a point he made earlier in the week -- that Conner should be involved in the offense with or without Le’Veon Bell, who has made plans to report during the Week 7-8 time frame.

After a slow three-game stretch, Conner has responded with a fury. His 314 total yards in back-to-back wins over Atlanta and Cincinnati have provided balance for the offense. He’s now fifth in the NFL in rushing with 453 yards and seventh in rushing touchdowns with seven.

And the team clearly respects him, setting the stage for a fascinating backfield dynamic when Bell returns.

Conner smirked and said he was just “running hard” when asked about giving Bengals defenders two vicious forearms on a first-down run in the open field, eliciting a “damn James” tweet with a biceps emoji from Bell. He shouted out the offensive line, a group he calls the “Goons.”

Conner made clear he hasn’t arrived, and his development is an “ongoing process.”

“It’s not my call [who starts], I just control everything I can control,” Conner told ESPN’s Josina Anderson on camera after the game. “We know what Le’Veon brings to the table. He’s an awesome player so that’s out of my control.”