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fordfixer
12-22-2009, 02:36 AM
Bires: Wild win, wilder league

By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sport ... eague.html (http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sports_details/article/1501/2009/december/21/bires-wild-win-wilder-league.html)
Monday December 21, 2009 12:15 AM

PITTSBURGH — In the aftermath of one of the wildest, most maddening games in Steelers’ history, Ben Roethlisberger was asked this question: How do you lose to Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland but beat San Diego, Minnesota, Denver and Green Bay?

How can the reigning Super Bowl champs lose to the also-rans of the NFL but beat serious playoff contenders?

Roethlisberger just shook his head and said, “Man, you know what, it’s a crazy league.”

It sure was crazy Sunday in the NFL.

In all corners of the league, there was zaniness.

In Kansas City, lowly Cleveland won again as Joshua Cribbs set history with two kickoff returns for touchdowns.

In San Diego, the Chargers won the AFC West by edging Cincinnati on a field goal with three seconds left to play.

In Tennessee, the Titans, who started the season 0-6, won in overtime to even their record at 7-7.

Then there was the 37-36 slugfest at Heinz Field, which is believed to be the first time ever in NFL history that a game ended with that score.

“I’ve been in this league a long time, and to tell you the truth, I don’t know if I’ve ever been in game like that,” said Steelers linebacker James Farrior, a 34-year-old war horse who’s in his 13th pro season. “That was an awesome game.”

It sure was awesome for the Steelers (7-7), who won in dramatic fashion.

With their faint playoff hopes on the line, Roethlisberger led the Steelers on an 86-yard drive that ended when rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace made a catch similar to Santonio Holmes’ last year to win the Super Bowl.

“That was a veteran, Pro Bowl-caliber catch,” Roethlisberger said of Wallace’s foot-dragging catch just inside the out-of-bounds line in the end zone. “Yeah, it did remind me a little it of (Holmes’ catch in the Super Bowl).”

In February, Holmes’ 6-yard tip-toe grab was a catch for the ages. It came with 42 seconds left to cap a 78-yard drive that gave the Steelers a 27-23 win over Arizona and their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

All the Roethlisberger-to-Wallace catch did was keep the Steelers’ playoff hopes alive.

It also allowed coach Mike Tomlin, who’s been under fire in recent weeks, to escape further criticism.

Despite becoming the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl, Tomlin nearly became the first coach of a reigning Super Bowl champion to lose six straight games in a title defense.

Tomlin is known as a motivator, but he’s not yet considered a genius on game day. His reputation took a hit in the fourth quarter when he ordered an onsides kick with 4:03 left to play after the Steelers went ahead 30-28.

The decision backfired because Ike Taylor grabbed the ball before it went 10 yards. With the ball on the Steelers’ 39-yard line, it took the Packers just six plays to regain the lead.

Imagine the outcry throughout the Steeler Nation if the Steelers would have lost Sunday.

But thanks to a pair of Green Bay penalties and Roethlisberger’s clutch passing on the game’s last possession, the Steelers rallied for the win and got Tomin off the hook.

“The way this game ended was incredible … especially that last play,” Steelers center Justin Hartwig said. “It was reminiscent of the Super Bowl last year.”

“Not dead yet,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got a little pulse here.”

That pulse will grow stronger if the Steelers win next week at home against Baltimore.

Imagine the buzz the Steelers will cause if they go into Miami on Jan. 3 with their playoff hopes alive.

Sure, the Steelers’ hopes are still dim. But like Roethlisberger said, this is a crazy league.

Mike Bires can be reached at mbires@timesonline.com.