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Steelers planning on business as usual vs. Giants

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Steelers planning on business as usual vs. Giants

PITTSBURGH (AP) Mike Tomlin is too preoccupied with finding ways to stop Eli Manning to worry whether the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy will affect Sunday's game in New York against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants.

``I'm simply focused on the things that are in our control,'' the Pittsburgh Steelers coach said Tuesday.

The weather not being among the items under Tomlin's domain. The massive storm brought record flooding and knocked out power to millions throughout the Northeast on Monday night, though even with the cleanup just getting under way the Steelers anticipate there being no changes to Sunday's scheduled 4:25 p.m. kickoff.

``We're going to proceed with the plans and continue to do so until we hear otherwise,'' Tomlin said.

Pittsburgh's preparation will not include safety Troy Polamalu, who will miss his fourth straight game and sixth overall this season due to a strained right calf. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert will also sit out while recovering from a right ankle injury.

The status of safety Ryan Clark and linebacker LaMarr Woodley is a bit more optimistic. Clark left last week's 27-12 win over Washington after sustaining a concussion in the third quarter while Woodley's right hamstring tightened up late in the game.

Tomlin said Clark's status hasn't changed since Sunday but he will be monitored throughout the week before a decision is made. Woodley will be limited early in the week, as will Jonathan Dwyer.

The third-year running back is coming off consecutive 100-yard performances but left the Washington game in the final minutes with a right quad injury. Dwyer will not practice on Wednesday but Tomlin expects Dwyer to participate at some point this week.

Running backs Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) have both missed the last two games, though there's a chance each could return in New York. Mendenhall will begin individual workouts on Wednesday while Redman should be in pads.

Though the Steelers (4-3) have won two straight to climb back into the mix in the muddled AFC, Tomlin refuses to get ahead of himself, saying only his club is heading in the right direction.

Pittsburgh certainly looked impressive while stomping the Redskins, hardly resembling the unit that stumbled in early season road losses to Oakland and Tennessee.

``Obviously, we didn't get off to a great start,'' he said. ``The last couple of weeks, we've taken steps to rectify that.''

A couple of late defensive stops and Pittsburgh could be 6-1. They're not, and Tomlin is hardly in the mood to think about where the Steelers could be. He'd prefer to focus on where they are.

``We're 4-3,'' he said. ``Not only offensively, but defensively and from the special teams standpoint. I'd like to think that we're a group on the rise and one that's gelling and coming together and solidifying a personality.''

While the Steelers have kept opponents in check, they're not exactly producing the kind of splash defensive plays that have defined coordinator Dick LeBeau's second tenure. Pittsburgh is next-to-last in the NFL in takeaways (seven) and is 24th in the league in sacks with 12.

Still, they are second behind San Francisco in yards allowed (274.1), a byproduct of good tackling and an offense that tends to stay on the field for long stretches of time. The Steelers trail only Houston in time of possession, holding onto the ball more than 34 minutes a game.

``I've always said I'm at my best when I'm sitting on the bench,'' defensive end Brett Keisel said. ``I've got no problem sitting there and watching the offense work.''

Besides, Pittsburgh believes the big plays will eventually come. Polamalu remains sidelined indefinitely but is expected to return at some point. Linebacker James Harrison continues to round into shape after lingering knee issues kept him out of the lineup for all of training camp and the first month of the season.

``He's getting better and this is a guy that had no preseason work in training camp and so forth,'' Tomlin said. ``I think he's getting better with every snap.''

Notes: Tomlin said the team hasn't made a decision on how to proceed with rookie NT Alameda Ta'amu, who was reinstated to the team on Monday after serving a two-week suspension. Ta'amu still faces more than a dozen charges - including several felonies - following a run-in with police on Oct. 14. The team has until 4 p.m. Wednesday to make a roster move ... Tomlin called WR Antonio Brown's 15-yard taunting penalty during a punt return against the Redskins ``not respectable.'' Brown ran the final 20 yards to the end zone backward while jawing at a Washington defender, though the play was called back due to an illegal block.

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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