PITTSBURGH - Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had several personnel decisions to make based on injury issues.
He made a big one that hinged on attitude.
Rookie right tackle Marcus Gilbert was benched and replaced by Jonathan Scott in Saturday's 27-0 victory over the St. Louis Rams at Heinz Field.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Hines Ward had four catches Sunday and now needs five more to reach 1,000 for his career. Only seven receivers in NFL history have reached that milestone.
Tomlin minced no words when asked why Gilbert wasn't in the lineup.
"He was less than professional in his preparation this week," Tomlin said.
It's not the first time Tomlin has benched a rookie for neglectful work habits. He did the same thing to Rashard Mendenhall in 2009 when he felt that Mendenhall did not know his assignments.
"We acknowledge [Gilbert] is a talented young guy," Tomlin said. "He's going to be a really good player in this league, and he's done a lot for us to this point.
"But I didn't like the way he prepared this week. I wanted to make a point that it wasn't what we like. So I sat him down for a veteran player who was prepared in the manner of which we wanted in Jonathan Scott."
That was no small matter for the Steelers, who have tried to keep Scott out of the lineup. He did not play at all in two of the last four games.
Gilbert is a better player, but Tomlin doesn't want any player to take a starting job for granted.
Gilbert could be back in his regular spot this Sunday in Cleveland.
"We'll see where this week takes us," Tomlin said. "Gilbert's preparation and professionalism will be a big part of that discussion."
The Steelers have a distinguished history of getting quality players with low profile draft picks.
Receiver Antonio Brown may be another of those finds.
Brown, the team's second pick in the sixth round in the 2010 draft, set a record for single season all-purpose yards against the Rams.
Brown has 2,048 all-purpose yards this season, and that knocks Barry Foster out of the record book.
Foster collected 2,034 all-purpose yards in 1992.
"It's prestigious," Brown said. "I play for one of the greatest organizations and to have something like that is special. I'm just thankful."
Brown caught three passes for 34 yards. He had one rushing attempt for eight yards, and he returned one punt for five yards.
"It's phenomenal, considering where the kid came from," receiver Hines Ward said. "When he touches the ball, special things always happen. I haven't seen somebody with that big-play capability since (Antwaan) Randle El.
"Every time on punt returns, I stand up because it could be the one. Hopefully he will continue to gain confidence in the playoffs and make a name for himself in the postseason."
The Steelers started Brown slowly, having him share a position with fellow rookie Emmanuel Sanders.
But Brown has had a breakthrough season.
The difference now in his play?
"Night and day," Ward said. "Just seeing his confidence and his understanding. We're constantly working with him to help him better understand coverages. The kid is just a hard worker. That's what I love about him.
"He's passionate and he always wants to outwork everybody. He's always asking questions. He's a great student of the game. A guy like that, with that potential, the will to get better, good things will happen to him."
Brown's rushing attempt came after an option pass failed to develop.
Brown took the ball and rolled out to the left, prepared to throw. When he couldn't find his target, Brown took off and ran with the ball.
It doesn't go into his offensive numbers, but Brown also contributed a key tackle on special teams.
Tomlin will get his first look at that when he and staff review game tapes.
"I didn't see it," Tomlin said. "I was talking to Ike Taylor and William Gay on a defensive adjustment."
Feats of Clay
Running back John Clay was activated from the practice squad and scored the Steelers' first touchdown on a 10-yard run in the first quarter.
He scored his first career touchdown while filling in for Rashard Mendenhall.
"There was so much excitement and joy," Clay said. "Too bad my family wasn't here to share it, but I know they were watching on TV."
Clay got the word on Friday that he would be activated for the game. Undrafted last spring, he was signed as a free agent by the Steelers right after the draft.
"They had a lot of hopes for me coming in here," Clay said. "They said I was a special guy who could do special things for them on offense and on special teams. So with them giving me the opportunity, I took advantage of each one."
Clay carried just one time, but was in for other plays.
Clay got his roster spot because Mewelde Moore is out with a knee injury.
The Steelers are tied with the Baltimore Ravens at 11-4, but the Ravens hold the tie-breaker.
If the Steelers win at Cleveland, they can still secure the top seed if Cincinnati beats Baltimore and New England loses to Buffalo.
Running back Isaac Redman is a Bengals fan for at least one week.
"This is the NFL," he said. "On a given day, anybody can lose. The Bengals have a great team. They took us to the wire. Hopefully they can get that win and help us out."
It appeared as though quarterback Charlie Batch and receiver Mike Wallace had hooked up on a 47-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
But the mandatory review of all scoring plays showed Wallace was down at the 1, and the on-field call of a touchdown was reversed.
"I thought I fell close to it," Wallace said. "Those calls have been close the last few weeks, and they've been taking my touchdowns away. I don't know what I've been doing. I might be living wrong. But it's all good. It is what it is. We got the win."
Mendenhall punched the ball into the end zone for the touchdown.
Ward had four catches for 32 yards. He is now five receptions short of becoming the eighth player in NFL history with 1,000 catches.
The crowd of 60,081 was the smallest of the season at Heinz Field, and the smallest to see the Steelers in any stadium this season.
Their previous low was 60,754 for a Thursday night home game against Cleveland on Dec. 8.
Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens on the Steelers defense: "In the spirit of Christmas, they weren't very giving."
The Steelers sometimes mix things up to confuse inexperienced quarterbacks. However, Clemens said what he saw on the field was pretty much what he saw on tape during the week.
"They didn't do anything completely irregular," he said. "They were on an even shorter week than we were on, so they had to keep it a little bit closer to the vest. Nothing really threw us for a loop."
Not many words
Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo's opening comment after the game: "That was a tough one."
At 2-13, the Rams are in play for getting the top overall pick in the 2012 draft. Asked if he had any thoughts about that, Spagnuolo said, "No."
Stats and streaks
* Mendenhall's 52-yard run was his second longest of the season. He had a 68-yard gain against Jacksonville on Oct. 16.
* Mendenhall also had a 35-yard reception, his career best.
* Tight end Heath Miller caught one pass for 18 yards. He now has 3,841 career yards and passed Santonio Holmes for ninth place on the team career list.
* The Steelers were 7-1 at home for the first time since 2007.