Test for Tomlin's words, Steelers' depth

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Test for Tomlin's words, Steelers' depth

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is a man of few words, but one of his recognized phrases is "the standard is the standard" when it comes to expectations for his team.

Given how banged up Pittsburgh is heading into the Monday night showdown with the 49ers, perhaps there has been no bigger test of that philosophy.

"I don't think I can ever recall a game like this," said veteran receiver Hines Ward, who been around since 1998.

In addition to suspended linebacker James Harrison, the Steelers will be without Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger is hobbled by a high ankle sprain.
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It prompted veteran Pittsburgh NFL reporter Gerry Dulac to write that it "is unlikely they have never entered a big game minus so many of their top players ... (but) they will never consider the possibility they are playing short-handed against one of the best teams in the NFC."

"We're a pretty resilient bunch," said defensive captain James Farrior.

"I think we do a better job than most of not crying about it and just accepting it and going out there and playing," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "It's the coach; he doesn't let us feel sorry for ourselves. He preaches the standard is the standard, and you believe that when you go in."

"We can't be sulking about that and thinking about who we don't have," Farrior said. "Nobody cares about our problems. They're glad we got 'em."

Steelers a bit testy about O-line challenge
We know that the 49ers have not allowed a rushing touchdown all year. It's not just an impressive statistic, it's something that has defined the 2011 team.

The Steelers' offensive line is aware of it, and by the account provided by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Ralph N. Paulk, they're sick of hearing about it. Nobody wanted to go on record about the subject, leaving the conversation to wide receiver Mike Wallace.

Monday, Paulk wrote the following:
The Steelers' oft-maligned, perpetually thin-skinned offensive linemen were somewhat testy after the final practice session for Monday night's nonconference showdown of playoff-bound teams at Candlestick Park. ...

While the Steelers' offensive linemen chose not to engage in a verbal spat with the confident 49ers about the challenge they face, wide receiver Mike Wallace climbed into the ring for them.

"We'll do what we have to do," Wallace said. "We're not going to make a lot of changes. We've going to run at them, and it doesn't matter that they're the No. 1 run defense.

"They're going to have to own up to that. They've been No. 1 against everybody else, but they haven't played us."

This is the state of the Steelers' offensive front, according to Paulk.

"One-time castaway, tackle Trai Essex, steps in at left guard with Doug Legursky moving to center. Essex gets the start largely because the coaching staff has lost confidence in Chris Kemoeatu, who committed three penalties against Cleveland. It doesn't help that right tackle Marcus Gilbert was hospitalized Thursday with an infection and left tackle Jonathan Scott lashed out at rookie Cam Heyward in frustration during Saturday's practice.

49ers' top pick Thomas 'can't wait' to play best friend McCaffrey in Week 1

49ers' top pick Thomas 'can't wait' to play best friend McCaffrey in Week 1

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers open the regular season on Sept. 10 against the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium.

Stanford products Solomon Thomas and Christian McCaffrey will make their NFL debuts in that game across from each other.

Thomas, a defensive lineman, was the No. 3 overall pick of the 49ers. The Carolina Panthers selected McCaffrey with the eighth overall pick.

“I can’t wait to play him,” Thomas said Thursday night on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “You know, that’s my boy. That’s my best friend. I love him to death. I can’t wait to play him.”

Lynch makes former classmate first draft selection as 49ers' GM

Lynch makes former classmate first draft selection as 49ers' GM

SANTA CLARA – Leading up to Stanford’s bowl game, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas was mostly an under-the-radar draft prospect.

John Lynch had known all about him for a few years. He even called some NFL teams to give them a heads-up to watch No. 90 -- long before he was hired to run the 49ers' personnel department.

After trading back one spot with the Chicago Bears, Lynch made Thomas his first selection as 49ers general manager. The 49ers drafted Thomas with the No. 3 overall pick.

“I want to make it the best draft pick he has,” Thomas said on Thursday.

Thomas first met Lynch during his freshman year at Stanford. Lynch returned to Stanford to finish his degree. They took a class together: Management Science and Engineering.

According to MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas, they even collaborated on a project of whether the NFL’s Washington team should change its mascot name.

“I remember I was star-stuck the first day of class,” Thomas said.

Thomas said they did not talk much in the following years, but Thomas reached out to Lynch for advice before Stanford’s game against North Carolina in the Sun Bowl.

Said Thomas, “In the pre-draft process before the North Carolina game, he told me: ‘Don’t worry about the external stuff going on. Worry about yourself and your team. The best thing you can do is have the best bowl game possible and show you’re unstoppable and unblockable.”

That is exactly what Thomas did in Stanford’s 25-23 victory over Mitchell Trubisky’s team. Thomas recorded seven tackles, two behind the line of scrimmage, and a sack.

A month later, Lynch was hired as 49ers general manager and Thomas first began to think about the possibility of being drafted by his former classmate.

“I thought it was definitely a possibility,” Thomas said. “People really hadn’t watched my film yet, so I didn’t know if I’d go that high.”

Thomas was routinely matched with the 49ers in mock drafts in the weeks leading up to Thursday’s first round. The 49ers swapped their second pick with the Chicago Bears, who moved up to select Trubisky.

All along, Thomas said he wanted the 49ers to draft him.

“In my head I thought, ‘I love that, but I can’t ride the rollercoaster and believe that stuff or I’m going to get my heart broken.’ I kept my mind open and came in blind and tried to be happy for any team to draft me,” Thomas said. “But the best team for me drafted me and the best team I wanted to draft me drafted me.

“I love John Lynch. I love the way he played the mentality that he’s going to bring to the team. Coach (Kyle) Shanahan seems like an amazing man and an amazing coach.”