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costanza2k1
12-15-2008, 01:57 AM
All defense, a little offense is title recipe
By John Harris, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, December 15, 2008

BALTIMORE We know that the Steelers have a championship defense. But can they win Super Bowl XLIII with this offense?

"Coming into this game, we felt like if they give us 10 points, we're good,'' Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said. " We felt like if we got 10 points out of the offense, we were going to be OK.''

OK? How about the Steelers defense playing out its mind for what has it been now, 14 weeks?

Sunday's 13-9 Steelers win over the Baltimore Ravens fhat clinched the AFC North title, capped by the offensive's brilliant 92-yard game-winning touchdown drive late in the game, was a microcosm of how the Steelers can win the Super Bowl.

If the Steelers continue to squeeze the life out of opposing offenses - and there's no reason to believe they won't treat their final two regular-season opponents, Tennessee and Cleveland, with similar disdain - they'll provide their still work-in-progress offense with the window of opportunity to make enough plays for the team to be a favorite in any game.

"We've got that type of confidence. We feel like we can shut any team out,'' inside linebacker James Farrior said of the Steelers' No. 1 ranked defense. "We haven't done it yet this year, and that's our goal. Any time a team gets 4 yards or more, that's a big play for us. We've got high standards around here.''

Believe it or not, so does the Steelers' offense, which for the first 56 minutes of yesterday's game produced six points along with high anxiety for coach Mike Tomlin.

And then second-year linebacker Lawrence Timmons sacked Baltimore's Joe Flacco on third down, forcing a punt and providing the offense with one last chance for redemption.

"That was definitely the play of the game,'' inside linebacker Larry Foote said. "I don't take nothing away from the offense, but I've got to go with my defensive commrades.''

Until quarterback Ben Roethlisberger pulled a rabbit out of his hat on that final drive and completed 7 of 11 passes for 89 yards and a controversial 4-yard touchdown to Santonio Holmes, it was difficult to believe the Steelers weren't heading to their first loss in over a month.

Even with the defense holding another offense, and another quarterback, to ridiculously low numbers.

Flacco managed a mere 22.2 passer rating, by far the lowest rating among the quarterbacks faced by the Steelers during the team's current five-game winning streak - the team's longest streak since a 14-game run in 2004.

The five quarterbacks - Flacco, Dallas' Tony Romo, New England's Matt Cassel, Cincinnati's Ryan Fitzpatrick and San Diego's Philip Rivers averaged a 42.8 passer rating and only 10.4 points per game against the Steelers.

Meanwhile, the Steelers' No. 25-ranked offense has picked up the pace and is averaging 20.6 points during the team's best winning streak in four years.

"They've been driving the ball, having a couple of turnovers. But we had confidence in what they could do,'' Hampton said. "We just knew they had to hold onto to the ball. And they did that.''

Nate Washington, who had three key receptions for 49 yards on the final drive, said the offensive players have never felt pressure to compete with the league's best defense.

"No pressure,'' Washington said. "I can't say enough about our defense. I think the best thing they do besides the plays that they make is they never get down on us. If you beat one, you have to beat us all.''