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10-01-2008, 12:21 AM
Steelers' offensive bailout

By John Harris
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 90979.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_590979.html)

Why does it seem like the Steelers' new-look offense is always a work in progress?

A big run here. A key interception there.

A first down here. A false start there.

Where's the consistency? Where's the rhythm?

And until Monday night's 23-20, comeback win over the Baltimore Ravens, where was the no-huddle to jump-start the offense?

Give me the Steelers' old offense any day.

Instead of three-receiver sets, how about three extra blockers to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's blind side, front side and backside?

The Steelers went eight consecutive quarters -- the equivalent of two games -- without a touchdown prior to Roethlisberger's 38-yard scoring toss to receiver Santonio Holmes in the third quarter.

In spite of their continued struggles moving the ball, the Steelers hung around long enough for their offense to win a game they couldn't afford to lose.

Fourteen quick, third-quarter points wiped out a 10-point deficit and gave the Steelers a 17-13 lead.

However, a surprisingly wobbly defense at key points in the game needed heroics from Roethlisberger to send the contest into overtime.

With an embarrassing loss at Philadelphia in the rear-view mirror and Sunday night's game at Jacksonville looming, the Steelers still came out flat against Baltimore. It was almost inconceivable that they could look so bad early.

The Ravens actually had control of the game -- and a 10-point lead -- until the Steelers' offense finally awoke from its season-long hibernation.

If ever there was a moment that the Steelers needed Roethlisberger to lead the offense out of the darkness, this was it.

Booed in the first half, Roethlisberger heard cheers following the touchdown pass to Holmes, who cut across the middle and sidestepped potential tacklers in a spectacular, highlight-film sequence.

Given a second chance, along with an opportunity to catch its collective breath, the Steelers' defense created some offense.

Right outside linebacker James Harrison, as annoying as a pebble in a shoe to the Ravens, sacked poised rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, forcing a fumble.

(By the way, what was Pitt's coaching staff thinking for not giving Flacco a much longer look?)

Left outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley recovered Flacco's fumble and stumbled his way into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

Last year, the Steelers' offense put constant pressure on the defense with inconsistent play. Time after time, the defense, ranked No. 1 in the NFL, bailed out the offense.

In a classic case of role reversal, the Steelers' defense yielded a fourth-quarter touchdown, making the score 20-20 after Roethlisberger guided the offense to a Jeff Reed field goal following a 49-yard bomb to Hines Ward.

The question was, did Roethlisberger have any magic left in his right arm to pull a victory out of thin air?

They pay Big Ben the big bucks for a reason, and he delivered as needed.

John Harris is a sports writer for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.