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NKySteeler
12-30-2008, 09:04 PM
Bob Labriola, a Pittsburgh native, has been editor of Steelers Digest since its inception in 1988. This page offers him an opportunity to provide additional insights into the Steelers, the NFL and the events that are making news.

Itís going to be the Colts.

Itís going to be the Indianapolis Colts coming to Heinz Field for an AFC Divisional Round game on the weekend of Jan. 10-11, and this is based on nothing but an impression:

When it comes to the 2008 playoffs, the best teams competing in the AFC Wild Card Round are the two that didnít win their division.

Indianapolis and Baltimore are the class of the AFCís opening weekend, and the belief here always was that Steelers vs. Titans on Dec. 21 was for the right to see which of these teams would be coming to Pittsburgh for the AFC Divisional Round.

Because the Steelers lost to the Titans ó or maybe by virtue of losing,
is a better way to put it ó it wonít be the Ravens.

Making a case that itís a good thing to face The Great Peyton Manning
in the playoffs could be considered a bit of a stretch, but not so for
those who watched the regular season game between these teams.

On the eve of that game ó played on Nov. 9 at Heinz Field between
the 6-2 Steelers and the 4-4 Colts ó Coach Mike Tomlin had been asked to list his keys to the game for part of the pregame radio show.

ďReally, itís crystal clear: The turnover game, offensively and defensively,Ē said Tomlin when asked how his team could win. ďWe have to take care of the ball, and we have to get the ball. We donít have to do anything out of the ordinary in terms of getting the ball; we just have to take advantage of opportunities. Peyton Manning is a guy who historically, if you drop an interception, heís coming back and putting seven on the board. We canít drop them. We have to take care of that element of the game.Ē

The Steelers didnít take care of that element of the game, and it was
what cost them a victory. Ike Taylor had an interception go right through his hands and into Reggie Wayneís, and after the Coltsí current go-to guy completed the 65-yard play the game was tied, 7-7, in the first quarter.

Even with that fortuitous bounce, the Colts were having little luck trying to solve the Steelers defense. Indianapolis was forced to punt on each of its next four possessions, and sacks by James Harrison and Aaron Smith had helped ruin the Coltsí progress on a couple of those, and the Steelers offense had built a 17-7 lead in the meantime.

That was when the Steelers defense had a chance to put the game
away but dropped it. Literally.

One play after feeling Harrisonís breath on the back of his neck once
again, Manning threw a ball into the short right flat toward tight end Dallas Clark in an attempt to convert a third-and-8. Whether Clark was able to get a hand in the way, whether the flight of the ball was altered in some small way, has been an issue that has been discussed often in the months since, but itís safe to say Troy Polamalu has made a lot more difficult catches than the one presented to him in that particular situation.

On a dead sprint, Polamalu could not hold onto an interception he
surely would have returned for a touchdown and a 24-7 Steelers lead.

Even though there still would have been a couple of minutes left in the
first half, an interception return for a touchdown there was Game Over.

Again given new life, Manning made an opponent pay for squandering
opportunities. Staring down the barrel of a first half that should have
ended with him already having thrown two interceptions, Manning
camp back to pass for 240 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions in what ended as a 24-20 Colts win. By contrast, Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions.

In fact, the 95.8 passer rating Manning posted vs. the Steelers defense
was the second-highest any opponent managed all season, behind the 102.1 Kerry Collins had in that Titans win a few weekends ago.

A matchup vs. the Colts also would match two of the leagueís worst rushing offenses in a postseason where running the football has been judged to be important if not critical.

Indianapolis is worse than the Steelers ó they entered the regular
season finale ranked 31st, while Pittsburgh entered at No. 24 ó but if
the Steelers arenít used to struggling so in this facet of football, there is some historic evidence that championships can be won by teams incapable of running the ball.

Of the previous 12 Super Bowl champions, Indianapolis in 2006, New England in 2003 and Tampa Bay in 2002 all were not very good at running the football.

The Colts, of course, were able to compensate for the leagueís No. 18
rush offense with Manning, who at that time also had a healthier and
younger Marvin Harrison at his disposal. The 2003 Patriots ranked 27th in rushing, but they had Tom Brady.

The 2002 Buccaneers had neither Manning nor Brady when they were
27th in rushing, but like the 2008 Steelers they had a dominating defense, a defense that was the engine moving the team to what turned out to be the first and only championship in franchise history.

Tampa Bayís secondary coach that season was Mike Tomlin, and he learned a way to get through the playoffs with a sub-par running game. Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson didnít throw many interceptions, and Tampa Bayís defense dropped even fewer.

That, too, is how the 2008 Steelers can win in these playoffs.

Hardliner
12-30-2008, 09:24 PM
Being a AFC West keen observer, I wouldn't be quick to print tickets for a Steel/Indy second round of the playoffs game. SD has a history of playing the Colts tough going back to the 80s when they showed up on Indy's schedule on a regular basis.

The last first round opponent Indy wanted to play was SD and I got that from a Sirius interview today with Dallas Clark. My not so humble prediction: SD takes out the ponies. Remember where you saw it board folk!

NKySteeler
12-30-2008, 09:50 PM
Being a AFC West keen observer, I wouldn't be quick to print tickets for a Steel/Indy second round of the playoffs game. SD has a history of playing the Colts tough going back to the 80s when they showed up on Indy's schedule on a regular basis.

The last first round opponent Indy wanted to play was SD and I got that from a Sirius interview today with Dallas Clark. My not so humble prediction: SD takes out the ponies. Remember where you saw it board folk!

While I really do agree.... Because neither team seems to be very apt on D to stop the opponent to a certain degree... I think Indy will make less mistakes... But as you said, we'll see... :wink:

TallyStiller
12-30-2008, 10:34 PM
I hope it IS Indy, myself... we thoroughly outplayed them in that game, even though the scoreboard didn't reflect it.

Don't want San Diego...weird stat of the day: Steelers undefeated at home in regular season games vs. San Diego, winless in the postseason, 0 - 2. I remember both. '94 AFCC... incomplete pass on the goal line by Neil O'Donnell to Barry Foster sends the Bolts to the slaughter vs. the Steve Young Niners.

Also lost to them in the '82 postseason. Strike cut the season to 9 games, so the NFL came up with a 16 team playoff. We were 6 - 3, #3 seed in the AFC. San Diego #6, came to us, but we simply couldn't stop Dan Fouts. They put up 30 + on us at Three Rivers. I was 10 and absolutely furious. Still hurts. That game was the last gasp for the '70's era champs. Bradshaw and Lambert suffered the injuries that ended their careers early the next year. Made it to the AFCC in '84 after a 9 - 7 regular season, but Mark Malone was QB, Frank Pollard RB, Mike Merriweather defensive star... different team.

Djfan
12-30-2008, 11:40 PM
Still love Merriweather!

I agree with Hardliner. SD seems to own the Dolts, but Payton does better in the post season than SD does. Can't call this one, but the home team in this AFC wildcard round has a better chance than Miami does.

SteelerNation1
12-31-2008, 01:52 AM
I've also got a funny feeling its going to be the Bolts

SteelerOfDeVille
12-31-2008, 02:30 AM
We get the highest remaining seed, and Tenn gets the lowest remaining seed.

Miami beats Balt, we get Miami. Miami loses, Tenn gets Balt and we get the winner of SD v Indy.

Miami is a 3, Balt is a 6

SD is a 4, Indy ia a 5.

I'll be rooting for the phins this weekend.

MeetJoeGreene
12-31-2008, 08:55 AM
We get the highest remaining seed, and Tenn gets the lowest remaining seed.

Miami beats Balt, we get Miami. Miami loses, Tenn gets Balt and we get the winner of SD v Indy.

Miami is a 3, Balt is a 6

SD is a 4, Indy ia a 5.

I'll be rooting for the phins this weekend.

I think that everyone here thinks it is a foregone conclusion that Baltimore will beat Miami.

I, too, would like to see the Phins over any other team.

Between the Colts and Chargers, I don't make much of a distinction -- they would both be tough.

NorthCoast
12-31-2008, 10:34 AM
The Indy game in the Burgh was close. It came down to a play here and there as the difference. I don't expect any playoff game to be a cakewalk, but Indy's D is not as stout as Diego's.

Also don't forget to factor in the weather. The Burgh in Jan. could be the thing that tips it in our favor.

I hope we find a running game for the playoffs (and that running game includes a FB).

Iron Shiek
12-31-2008, 10:35 AM
We get the highest remaining seed, and Tenn gets the lowest remaining seed.

Miami beats Balt, we get Miami. Miami loses, Tenn gets Balt and we get the winner of SD v Indy.

Miami is a 3, Balt is a 6

SD is a 4, Indy ia a 5.

I'll be rooting for the phins this weekend.

I think that everyone here thinks it is a foregone conclusion that Baltimore will beat Miami.

I, too, would like to see the Phins over any other team.

Between the Colts and Chargers, I don't make much of a distinction -- they would both be tough.

That's the problem...EVERYONE is handing the game to the Rats. While it seems a one sided matchup, Dolphins are safe with the football, have a good two headed running attack and can play some Defense. Ginn might be the x-factor...coming out of nowhere. I still don't know who to pick to win this game.

RuthlessBurgher
12-31-2008, 11:54 AM
We get the highest remaining seed, and Tenn gets the lowest remaining seed.

Miami beats Balt, we get Miami. Miami loses, Tenn gets Balt and we get the winner of SD v Indy.

Miami is a 3, Balt is a 6

SD is a 4, Indy ia a 5.

I'll be rooting for the phins this weekend.

I think that everyone here thinks it is a foregone conclusion that Baltimore will beat Miami.

I, too, would like to see the Phins over any other team.

Between the Colts and Chargers, I don't make much of a distinction -- they would both be tough.

That's the problem...EVERYONE is handing the game to the Rats. While it seems a one sided matchup, Dolphins are safe with the football, have a good two headed running attack and can play some Defense. Ginn might be the x-factor...coming out of nowhere. I still don't know who to pick to win this game.

:Agree

Plus, are people forgetting that the Ravens have a rookie QB that is starting his first playoff game on the road?

papillon
12-31-2008, 12:00 PM
We get the highest remaining seed, and Tenn gets the lowest remaining seed.

Miami beats Balt, we get Miami. Miami loses, Tenn gets Balt and we get the winner of SD v Indy.

Miami is a 3, Balt is a 6

SD is a 4, Indy ia a 5.

I'll be rooting for the phins this weekend.

I think that everyone here thinks it is a foregone conclusion that Baltimore will beat Miami.

I, too, would like to see the Phins over any other team.

Between the Colts and Chargers, I don't make much of a distinction -- they would both be tough.

That's the problem...EVERYONE is handing the game to the Rats. While it seems a one sided matchup, Dolphins are safe with the football, have a good two headed running attack and can play some Defense. Ginn might be the x-factor...coming out of nowhere. I still don't know who to pick to win this game.

:Agree

Plus, are people forgetting that the Ravens have a rookie QB that is starting his first playoff game on the road?

The Ravens have been playing playoff football since we beat them second time. Flacco is more than prepared for the playoffs. Don't count on the rookie to make mistakes in a pressure packed game, he's been there already. They've basically been in a one and done mode for a few weeks now.

Pappy

RuthlessBurgher
12-31-2008, 12:10 PM
We get the highest remaining seed, and Tenn gets the lowest remaining seed.

Miami beats Balt, we get Miami. Miami loses, Tenn gets Balt and we get the winner of SD v Indy.

Miami is a 3, Balt is a 6

SD is a 4, Indy ia a 5.

I'll be rooting for the phins this weekend.

I think that everyone here thinks it is a foregone conclusion that Baltimore will beat Miami.

I, too, would like to see the Phins over any other team.

Between the Colts and Chargers, I don't make much of a distinction -- they would both be tough.

That's the problem...EVERYONE is handing the game to the Rats. While it seems a one sided matchup, Dolphins are safe with the football, have a good two headed running attack and can play some Defense. Ginn might be the x-factor...coming out of nowhere. I still don't know who to pick to win this game.

:Agree

Plus, are people forgetting that the Ravens have a rookie QB that is starting his first playoff game on the road?

The Ravens have been playing playoff football since we beat them second time. Flacco is more than prepared for the playoffs. Don't count on the rookie to make mistakes in a pressure packed game, he's been there already. They've basically been in a one and done mode for a few weeks now.

Pappy

Ben won 13 in a row as a rookie, then struggled in his first playoff game (at home) in which the team eked out an OT win against the Jets before losing the following week against the Asterisks. I don't expect more out of Flacco in the playoffs as a rookie than what Ben showed in the playoffs as a rookie. The playoffs are an entirely different animal than the regular season (regardless of whether or not he has played in pressure packed regular season game), and I expect the rookie QB to struggle. Just the nature of the beast.

Steeler Shades
12-31-2008, 12:11 PM
The Ravens have been playing playoff football since we beat them second time. Flacco is more than prepared for the playoffs. Don't count on the rookie to make mistakes in a pressure packed game, he's been there already. They've basically been in a one and done mode for a few weeks now.
The Ratbirds have lost 5 games this year......all to playoff teams.
Steelers x2
Titans
Colts
Giants
And other than losing to the Steelers they have won 5 of their last 6 games. I don't know how good Miami is (they must be good or they wouldn't be in the POs), but I've seen first hand what the Ratbirds are capable of and I really don't want any part of playing them a 3rd time. 8)

papillon
12-31-2008, 12:33 PM
Ben won 13 in a row as a rookie, then struggled in his first playoff game (at home) in which the team eked out an OT win against the Jets before losing the following week against the Asterisks. I don't expect more out of Flacco in the playoffs as a rookie than what Ben showed in the playoffs as a rookie. The playoffs are an entirely different animal than the regular season (regardless of whether or not he has played in pressure packed regular season game), and I expect the rookie QB to struggle. Just the nature of the beast.


I know all this and I'm not saying that Flacco won't struggle in the playoffs. I just wouldn't be surprised if he didn't. The Ravens can run the ball, have a great defense, a good kicker and good special teams all the things necessary to protect a rookie quarterback playing in his first playoff game.

It wouldn't surprise me one bit if he plays well and the Ravens thump the Phins.

Pappy

Jooser
12-31-2008, 12:36 PM
In a dream scenario for us, the Phins send the Rats packing, and we host them. If Indy beats the Bolts, I think they've got more than a ligitimate shot at upsetting the Titstains. That sets us up with the Ponies at home for the AFCCG. That's ok by me.

TallyStiller
01-03-2009, 09:36 AM
Rats are getting the love because all 11 - 5's are not created equal. They played a schedule almost exactly like ours... except Oakland and Miami replaced San Diego and New England, and, of course, we replaced them.

Miami played the AFC West and NFC West, plus the Rats and Texans, basically making Baltimore and Arizona the only +.500 teams they played outside the division.

Miami is a very soft 11 - 5, largely untested. The Rats have earned theirs... including the beating of the media darlings from Dallas on NFLN week 16, meaning nearly endless fawning over their defeat of the mighty, unstoppable TO and Tony Homo led juggernaut from Big D... :roll:

proudpittsburgher
01-03-2009, 08:59 PM
Still love Merriweather!

I agree with Hardliner. SD seems to own the Dolts, but Payton does better in the post season than SD does. Can't call this one, but the home team in this AFC wildcard round has a better chance than Miami does.

Can't agree with you assessment that Peyton does better in the playoffs than SD does. Peyton has acually been terrible in the playoffs, with quite a few one and dones. When SD makes it, they seem to stick around for a while, including beating indy last year. I really like SD in this game, but maybe that's because everyone is picking the colts. And because I hate the Colts. :D And I would LOVE to be playing Miami in the playoffs, but I really can't see it happening. I would love to see Peezy make it happen though.

DukieBoy
01-03-2009, 09:41 PM
Rivers is a punk. One and done suits him fine.

Steelgal
01-03-2009, 11:03 PM
Colts haven't exactly impressed me, thus far today. Neither team has.........

Wolfhound45
01-04-2009, 12:14 AM
Looks like this is heading to OT. Best case scenario for us is a brutal, tough battle that is eventually won by Indy. Want them tired and worn out. Next piece of the puzzle is a victory by Baltimore. Let the Titans deal with them. We will have a beat up Indy team. Re-match with Baltimore at home or the Titans on the road.

ColumbusSteelerFan
01-04-2009, 12:35 AM
So much for that :o

Wolfhound45
01-04-2009, 12:35 AM
And just like that, no Manning vs Manning SB.

Wolfhound45
01-04-2009, 12:36 AM
After seeing that gritty win by SD, I want the Dolphins. Let the Chargers beat the garbage out of the Titans.

Sugar
01-04-2009, 12:37 AM
Guess not

Wolfhound45
01-04-2009, 12:41 AM
SD is built to play a team like the Steelers. Let the Titans have them. I want the Dolphins now.

AkronSteel
01-04-2009, 12:55 AM
I don't care who we play next weekend. Bring on the Chargers....they don't scare me one bit, especially without LT. I actually wanna play them next week so we can show them that last time it was a fluke they were even in the game. We didn't get our extra 7 against them last time because the refs wanted to rob us.....I think we will pile up the points next week. Bring on the Chargers and little Darren Sproles!

:2c

buckeyehoppy
01-04-2009, 01:03 AM
Well, it'll either be SD or Miami...both eminently beatable teams.

The D needs to get back into A game mode and the O needs to protect the ball and horde time of possession. Will be looking at Phins/Rattards tomorrow. Everybody has the 'Tards, but we will see.

SteelerOfDeVille
01-04-2009, 02:33 AM
I still say Pennington is vastly UNDERrated as a QB... Typically doesn't make mistakes. Jets didn't cut him cuz he sucked... they cut him because of 1) Favre and 2) injuries.

Oft injured top of the 2nd teir (when healthy) QB, IMO.

I think Peezy gets in Flacco's face and makes an impact in this game, too.

It'll be a much closer game than most think - and I wouldn't be surprised at all if Miami won. I would have given Miami a better chance than SD (without LT2).

sd steel
01-04-2009, 03:17 AM
I'll be rooting for Miami, because I hate the Ravens, but I would like to see the Chargers and give them a little payback for 94. I still take crap about that loss here in SoCal.

On a side note the only team that worried me was the colts, because their offense is always in the game. Manning always seems to put up points even if they are down by a couple of scores. They can score quick. Flacco, Rivers, Pennington, and Collins don't have that abililty. If we can get rid of the Ravens in the next 2 games even better, because their defense can score points fast and change a game, plus they have seen us twice already.

If they get knocked out tomorrow, we will beat Miami, the Chargers will beat the Titans, then we get a little revenge at home against San Diego!

It's getting fun!!