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5 things Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had to say about the Bengals

After a week off, the Cincinnati Bengals play the Steelers on Sunday in Pittsburgh. 

Here are five things Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had to say on a conference call with reporters in the Queen City: 

1. Tomlin won’t have any special instruction for his team about managing their emotions heading into a rivalry game. 

“It’s really not necessary. We’re hunting the same things. They know that,” Tomlin said. 

The Bengals have lost their last three against the Steelers and the last nine times the teams have played in October. 

“I just think the natural evolution of us and them as teams and what we’re hunting and NFL scheduling just kind of brings things together. It’s not something that has to be artificially stimulated. It is what it is.” 

2. He is happy to have Joe Haden on his side now. 

Pittsburgh signed the veteran cornerback after he was released by the Browns right before the season started, and so far the arrangement is working out quite well for the Steelers. 

“He’s been a breath of fresh air,” Tomlin said. “The play is something we’re all familiar with being in the AFC North. What you don’t see on a day-to-day basis is he’s been a really good teammate and hard worker.” 

Haden has three passes defended but is still looking for his first interception as a Steeler. 

“We’re glad we have him.” 

3. Tomlin doesn’t think the Steelers defense is any faster than last year. 

The coach dispelled a commonly held notion about his team, which has gradually gotten younger over the past few seasons.  

"I just think there’s an appearance they’re playing faster because probably they have more experience, they have a better understanding of how it fits into the big picture,” Tomlin said. “That allows you to hustle and play free. That’s probably what you’re recognizing.”  

4. Cameron Heyward has grown as a leader for that unit. 

The Steelers certainly had high hopes for the defensive lineman when they drafted him out of Ohio State, and he is living up to them on and off the field. 

“I think the elevation and the maturation of his play has been a natural thing over the course of his time,” Tomlin said. "I think in recent years he’s done an awesome job of embracing the leadership role.” 

Heyward is third on the team with 20 tackles, including three sacks. He also have seven quarterback pressures. 

“He’s an elected captain and the unquestioned leader of the group. He wears it in a very natural way and uses those influences for good. He challenges guys, he encourages guys. It’s a very natural thing for him. I imagine he’s been a captain on every team he’s ever been on.”

5. Ben Roethlisberger is “the ultimate competitor.” 

The quarterback from Miami University has endured some ups and downs this season, but his head coach remains in his corner. 

“He’s the ultimate competitor,” Tomlin said. “That makes him really fun to be around. This guy loves to compete whether it’s in stadiums or on the practice field, in football or anything else.” 

After throwing five interceptions in a loss to Jacksonville on Oct. 8, Roethlisberger threw for 252 yards and a touchdown with an interception last week as the Steelers knocked off the previously unbeaten Chiefs. 

“He’s an emotional guy, sometimes he makes statements you guys run with, but I’ve worked with Ben for 11 years now,” Tomlin said. “I know and understand him and obviously happy to be a partner of his.” 

Colin Kaepernick not invited to annual owners and NFLPA meeting

NFL owners and the NFL Players Association met in New York Tuesday for a regularly scheduled meeting with the topic of the national anthem protests in mind. Knowing this, many players were expecting one important free agent to be invited in Colin Kaepernick considering he was the person who got it all started. However, it was made clear that he was not invited, according to his attorney.

>> Read more trending news

That apparently didn’t sit well with players that were invited to the meetings.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman made his displeasure pretty clear, telling ESPN’s Brady Henderson, “You’ve heard every excuse in the book for why he doesn’t have a job, but you see what it is. They’ve agreed not to give him a job.”

Related: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants players to stand during national anthem, memo says

Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the NFL alleging that there has been collusion in not signing him. A case can certainly be made that there’s a concerted effort to not sign Kaepernick to some team as there are several backups and even starting QBs in the league who are not better than him, but to prove actual collusion is going to be pretty tough.

Hillary Clinton defends NFL players kneeling for the national anthem

While on tour promoting her book “What Happened,” Hillary Clinton defended NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, arguing that they’re neither protesting the anthem nor the flag and calling their display “reverent.”

>> Read more trending news 

That’s what black athletes kneeling was all about,” she said in response to a question about how to resist the Trump White House. “That’s not against our anthem or our flag. Actually, kneeling is a reverent position. It was to demonstrate in a peaceful way against racism and injustice in our criminal system.”

Former NFL star Colin Kaepernick sought to protest racial injustice in the United States last season, beginning by sitting on the bench for the national anthem. After speaking with former NFL player and Green Beret Nate Boyer, he decided to simultaneously protest and show respect by kneeling for the song instead.

“We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates,” Boyer said after their meeting. “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect. When we’re on a patrol, you know, and we go into a security halt, we take a knee, and we pull security.”

President Donald Trump recently began attacking players who kneel during the anthem, calling them “sons of (expletive)” and imploring team owners to fire players who participate in the protest.

National anthem protests: Jaguars apologize for 'not comprehending effect' of demonstration

The president of the Jacksonville Jaguars sent a letter this month to city officials, apologizing for the team’s kneeling during the national anthem during their Sept. 24 game in London. 

>> Read more trending news

The letter, dated Oct. 6, said the team was "remiss in not fully comprehending the effect of the national anthem demonstration on foreign soil has on the men and women who continue to serve our country." 

Written by Mark Lamping and addressed to Bill Spann, the director of military affairs for Jacksonville, the letter goes on to say, "Today, we can understand how the events in London could have been viewed or misinterpreted. We owe you an apology and hope you will accept it."

>> Read the letter the Jaguars sent to the city of Jacksonville

Before their game against the Baltimore Ravens last month, about a dozen Jaguars players kneeled during the national anthem. The move came days after President Donald Trump suggested that players who knelt during the national anthem should be cut from the team.

Some Jaguars fans were angered over the move, with one fan man destroying his Jaguars gear and another flying a plane above EverBank Field asking fans to boycott the Jaguars and the NFL. 

The Jaguars, 3-3 on the season, have a game at division rival Indianapolis on Sunday. Their next home game is Nov. 5 vs. Cincinnati.

Florida man hires pilot to fly 'Boycott Jags, NFL' banner over stadium amid anthem protests

A man from Green Cove Springs, Florida, took his issues with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the NFL to the sky Sunday.

>> Watch the news report here

At 1,000 feet, you could read the statement on the plane-towed banner saying, “Be American. Boycott the Jags and the NFL.”

Terry Smiley had the message printed on a banner that was flown above EverBank Field before the Jacksonville Jaguars' game against the Los Angeles Rams. 

This all-American sport is dividing fans after some NFL players took a knee during the national anthem.

“I am asking people to boycott the football games. I don’t watch it on TV,” Smiley said. 

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Jaguars fan says he was asked to leave stadium for silent protest

People's feelings about politics and football seem to bleed together on the turf. 

“People need to realize the true message that they’re trying to send,” Jaguars fan Jay Crossman said. 

Smiley said he was disgusted by the Jags players who knelt in London. Now, he’s taking a stand, making his voice be heard. 

“Do you believe in your country? Do you believe in 'The Star-Spangled Banner'? If you don’t stand up for it now, you won’t have it in the future,” Smiley said. 

As a former Jags fan, he hired a pilot to fly his banner over the stadium for two hours to send his message about players kneeling. 

“I have the right to protest, and I’m going to protest it with bumper stickers, airplanes – whatever I go to do. I will continue to protest,” Smiley said.

>> Pence abruptly leaves Colts game after players take a knee during anthem

Some fans are on the offensive, saying players are kneeling for a greater cause – equality. 

“They are taking it in a peaceful manner. They are trying to use their words and use their actions instead of taking it to violence,” Jaguars fan Jaumari Day said. 

“They have publicly stated that they care about veterans and the flag and that’s not what they’re kneeling against,” Crossman said. 

Smiley is giving away bumper stickers in hopes his supporters will join him and boycott NFL football. 

>> Read more trending news

“We boycott them and we hit them in the pocketbook where it (hurts) them. (Before) long, we’ll have them on both of their knees,” Smiley said. 

“We have people who are legitimate concerns who happen to be NFL players. They still live in the community. They have a right to protest. That’s (Smiley's) right. Just like the NFL players who take their knee that’s their right. He has the right to do what he is doing,” Jaguars fan Calvin Sinclair said. 

Roger Goodell’s wife had fake Twitter account to support husband against social media opponents

No one really knows who owns social media accounts. Case in point: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the wife of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had set up a Twitter account to defend her husband against negative comments on the social media platform.

>> Read more trending news 

Jane Skinner Goodell had set up the account @forargument under the assumed name  of Jones smith and used it to defend the top man in the NFL online. The account has been deleted since it came to light after The Wall Street Journal’s investigation, ESPN reported.

Skinner Goodell, who is a former Fox News host, admitted to owning the account, telling The Wall Street Journal that, “It was a really silly thing to do and done out of frustration -- and love,” CBS Sports reported.

College football player cut from team after kneeling for national anthem

A Pennsylvania quarterback is off his college team after he knelt for the national anthem for the second game in a row.

>> Do students have to stand for the Pledge, anthem?

Gyree Durante, a sophomore, is a second-string quarterback at Albright College in Reading. He said his decision to kneel was a protest against racism and social injustices in the nation. Durante, who is a native of Norristown, told WCAU: “At some point in life, there’s going to be a time when you’ve got to take a stand. For me, it just happened to be on Saturday afternoon.”

>> On Rare.us: A San Francisco 49ers player went after VP Mike Pence for leaving the football game

A spokeswoman for the college said the decision to stand during the anthem was agreed upon by the entire team. She says the team agreed to kneel during the coin toss and stand during the anthem. The spokeswoman explained that the decision to kneel was done “out of the mutual respect team members have for one another and the value they place on their differences.” Her statement went on to say that Durante’s decision to kneel showed that he “chose not to support team unity,” leading to his dismissal from the team.

>> Pence abruptly leaves Colts game after players take a knee during anthem

Durante’s teammates said they believe their colleague broke the trust of the team. One freshman said: "Time and time again he told us he would stand. … When you can’t have a player on a team that you can trust, he’s got to go.”

>> Read more trending news

Read more here.

Bengals place Eifert on injured reserve

UPDATE

The Bengals on Thursday placed tight end Tyler Eifert on injured reserve with a back injury.

It’s the third season in Eifert’s five in the NFL that he’s finished the season on IR.

INITIAL REPORT

Oft-injured Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert is scheduled to have season-ending back surgery Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The surgery would sideline the former Pro Bowler for four to six months, Schefter reported.

Eifert, 27, has four catches for 46 yards in two games this season. He injured his back in Week 2 vs. the Texans and has missed the last three games.

Eifert was a Pro Bowl selection in 2015 after catching 52 passes for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns. He tore ligaments in his ankle during that Pro Bowl game and has played in just 10 of 21 games since.

After playing in 15 games as a rookie, Eifert has played in only 24 games the last three-plus seasons.

Eifert, a first-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2013, is in the final season of his contract with the Bengals. If the Bengals don’t re-sign him, he will become an unrestricted free agent.

Bengals-Steelers start time changed

The Cincinnati Bengals just found out their bye week will last an additional three hours with the NFL’s announcement that the Oct. 22 game at Pittsburgh has been flexed to a 4:25 p.m. kickoff.

The game, which originally was scheduled for 1 p.m., will be part of the CBS doubleheader.

The Bengals and Steelers have played in primetime plenty of times, but this will be just the eighth time in 84 regular-season games they will start in the late afternoon time slot. The most recent was Sept. 27, 2009, when the Bengals won 23-20 at home in a 4:15 start.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants players to stand during national anthem, memo says

UPDATE Oct. 11:

The National Football League Players Association, the organization representing NFL players, said in a joint statement Wednesday that NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith will join NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in league meetings Oct. 17 and 19. Player leadership will also be in attendance.

“There has been no change in the current policy regarding the anthem. The agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized,” the statement said. “Everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military, and we are coming together to deal with these issues in a civil and constructive way.”

Earlier Wednesday, a league spokesman told NFL.com the NFL does not have plans to mandate players stand for the national anthem, contrary to reports.

“Commentary this morning about the Commissioner's position on the Anthem is not accurate,” gthe spokesman said. “The NFL is doing the hard work of trying to move from protest to progress, working to bring people together.”

ORIGINAL STORY Oct. 10:

In a letter to the league, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he wants players to stand during the national anthem before games.

ESPN reported that Goodell expressly said he wanted players to do so. 

>> Read more trending news

“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem,” Goodell wrote, according to The Washington Post. “It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”

“Building on many discussions with clubs and players, we have worked to develop a plan that we will review with you at next week’s League meeting,” Goodell said, according to CNBC, which also obtained a copy of the Tuesday letter.

Related: Roger Goodell calls Trump’s attack on NFL players’ protests ‘divisive’

The letter did not have specifics on how Goodell will enforce players standing during the anthem, but the measure would “include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues.”

Goodell said chief executives and club presidents will “continue the unprecedented dialogue with our players.”

According to ESPN, discussions on the rule change would likely happen at the NFL’s regularly-scheduled fall meetings Oct. 17 and 18.

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told Yahoo Sports team owners will discuss anthem rules at the fall meeting.

“I expect and look forward to a full and open discussion of these issues when we meet next week in New York,” Goodell wrote. “Everyone involved in the game needs to come together on a path forward to continue to be a force of good within our communities, protect the game, and preserve our relationship with fans throughout the country.”

Read Goodell’s full memo, from NBC News, below. 

Related: The NFL Responds to Trump’s ‘Divisive’ Remarks

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