View Full Version : Steelers can avoid Patriots until AFC Championship Game

01-02-2011, 11:25 PM
Steelers positioned for Super Bowl run

By James Walker


AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
Hines Ward, left, and the Steelers can celebrate a week of rest before their first playoff game.

CLEVELAND -- There was no champagne in the Pittsburgh Steelers' locker room Sunday evening.

The team passed out "2010 AFC North Champion" hats and T-shirts, but very few Steelers wore them. Pittsburgh starting safety Ryan Clark said he would immediately stuff the new merchandise in a drawer somewhere and probably won’t see it again for a long time.

Pittsburgh (12-4) was not in a celebratory or reflective mood after dismantling the Cleveland Browns, 41-9. The Steelers clinched the AFC North and a first-round bye. But they truly celebrate only championships, and winning an NFL-best seventh title is foremost on the organization's mind.

"This is just hardware along the way," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of winning the division, an NFL-record 20th division title since the merger in 1970.

The real season is just beginning for the Steelers. Despite a tumultuous year that included a four-game suspension of starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh is well-positioned to make a Super Bowl run for the second time in three seasons.

The Patriots are favored in the AFC, but the Steelers have the ingredients to make things very interesting.

1. Steelers thrive under the radar

Like most defending Super Bowl champions, the Steelers didn't handle well the pressure of trying to repeat last season. Pittsburgh was inconsistent, suffered key injuries and fell apart late in the season with a five-game losing streak.

The same focus and tenacity the Steelers had in 2008 weren't there during the 2009 season, but this year has been the opposite. Few expected much out of Pittsburgh, including this AFC North blogger, who predicted the Steelers would finish third in the division. Many thought the Steelers would unravel without Roethlisberger early and never recover.

But with little fanfare, Pittsburgh started the season 3-1 and took a businesslike approach in putting together 12 victories. Even now, most prognosticators are talking about the New England Patriots (14-2) dominating the AFC.

"You're never going to see us on 'Hard Knocks.' We're not going to be the team that's seen," Clark said of Pittsburgh’s lack of hype this year. "We have a team full of football players. There's no TV stars here. We have one guy [Troy Polamalu] in here with a commercial. And that’s just because he has nice hair."

2. Pittsburgh has the NFL's best defense

Sometimes statistics can be misleading. So do not pay attention to the San Diego Chargers (9-7) finishing No. 1 in total defense.

The NFL's best defense resides in Pittsburgh, and any time a team can dominate that side of the football, it has a great chance to win in the playoffs. The Steelers finished No. 2 in total defense, which includes one of the top run defenses in NFL history.

Pittsburgh has the ability to quickly make opponents one-dimensional, which feeds into its stout pass rush. It's a very tough combination, and Cleveland found out the hard way as it rushed for just 43 yards and rookie quarterback Colt McCoy was sacked four times.

"Physically, it was a tough game, they're a tough defense," McCoy said. "I got hit probably more than I've been hit all year."

3. Bye week is crucial

No team in the league needed a bye week more than the Steelers. This is a veteran group that was banged up at key positions.

Pittsburgh showed how important its Week 17 game was against the Browns by starting ailing star safety Polamalu. He missed the past two games with an Achilles injury and wasn't expected to return until the playoffs. But the Steelers gave Cleveland (5-10) their full arsenal.

Now Pittsburgh can rest until mid-January. The Steelers will sit injured starters such as Polamalu, Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (stinger) and defensive end Aaron Smith, who is working to return from triceps surgery in October. Tomlin said he will know more about Smith's status for the playoffs next week.

"I talk to Aaron all the time," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel added. "I don't know if he'll be ready. But obviously having the bye helps him, and it helps a lot of guys who are nicked up. But he's working hard. He's working his tail off like Aaron does all the time, and we hope to get him back."

4. Pittsburgh can avoid Patriots until late

It's no secret the Steelers do not match up well against quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots. Fortunately for the Steelers, they wouldn't meet New England unless it's in the AFC Championship Game.

New England pounded the Steelers, 39-26, in Week 10 in Pittsburgh. But in a one-game scenario in the postseason, anything is possible.

I spent some time in the Browns' locker room after the game to get their thoughts on the top two seeds in the AFC. Cleveland played the Patriots and Steelers three times total this season. The Browns beat New England and lost twice to the Steelers.

"The Patriots have smart players and they have Tom Brady, and anytime you have Brady, it's a lot easier to win," Browns fullback Lawrence Vickers said. "But Pittsburgh has the same thing. They have Ben [Roethlisberger], and he's such a playmaker. And their defense, there's not much more you can say about them except they're always good.

"It would probably come down to which defense can make the most stops."

You can never count out talented teams in the AFC such as the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts. But the Steelers -- along with the Patriots -- have positioned themselves for the easiest path to Super Bowl XLV in a competitive AFC field.

http://espn.go.com/blog/afcnorth/post/_ ... r-bowl-run (http://espn.go.com/blog/afcnorth/post/_/id/22600/steelers-well-positioned-for-super-bowl-run)

01-02-2011, 11:28 PM
We don't need Hard Knocks. Steelers players on Twitter is downright hilarious.

01-02-2011, 11:43 PM
I'm OK playing anyone in the AFC, any time they come up on the schedule. Wicker Basket LeBeau has been calling some tighter pass coverage at the line lately, which is what it would take to beat NE.

Whoever, whenever - bring them on!

01-03-2011, 12:04 AM
View From The Press Box

Steelers, Ravens on a collision course

January 2nd, 2011

Wow, talk about taking care of business.

The Steelers blasted the Browns, 41-9, today, putting them on track for a third game this season against the Ravens.

The Steelers get a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs, meaning they will play the Ravens, Chiefs or Colts in the divisional round of the playoffs.

That will take place Jan. 15 in a 4:30 p.m. game at Heinz Field.

With the Patriots entrenched as the No. 1 seed the Steelers will play the higher seed of the two teams that advance in the first-round games.

And it would not be an upset if both wild-card teams beat the division winners at home.

The Ravens play the Chiefs in Kansas City where the latter is 7-1 this season but has been one of the NFL’s surprise teams -- and one that may still be a year or two away.

Only a dubious play call or a great play made by Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu, depending on your vantage point, prevented the Ravens from going 13-3 this season and entering the AFC playoffs as the No. 2 seeds instead of the No. 5 seed.

They will probably be favored against the Chiefs.

The Jets may also be favored to beat the Colts in Indianapolis.

The Fighting Mannings won the AFC South -– or were at least the last one standing in that division by the end of the regular season –- and any team that has Peyton Manning at quarterback has a fighting chance.

But I like the Jets in that game and think the Ravens beat the Chiefs.

If that scenario transpires the NFL has its dream Final Four, at least in the AFC, with division rivals playing one another in both games.

The Jets, incidentally, are the only team the Steelers can’t face in the playoffs until the AFC championship game.

My best-case scenario for the Steelers is the Ravens beating the Chiefs and the Colts knocking out the Jets.

That would put Baltimore in New England for the divisional round of the playoffs, and I think the Ravens are a team that can match up with the Patriots –- and yes, beat them.

If that happens -- and the Steelersbeat the Colts -- that would set up a rematch of the 2008 AFC title game at Heinz Field.

That game turned out to be a classic.

It would be fun to see what happens if the two rivals meet again with nothing less than a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

http://blog.triblive.com/view-from-the- ... ox+Blog%29 (http://blog.triblive.com/view-from-the-press-box/2011/01/02/steelers-ravens-on-a-collision-course/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+triblive%2Fblog%2FViewFromThe PressBox+%28View+from+the+Press+Box+Blog%29)

01-03-2011, 12:07 AM
The minute they went to Wallace after the pick you knew they were going for a short afternoon for the regulars.

01-03-2011, 05:28 AM
We can beat the Patriots. I believe we definately have the talent to do so. We have so much talent on defense and a great defensive mind that Brady and Belicheat shouldn't be able to light us up again. And our offense is clicking better than the first time we played them. Are offense,albeit inconsistent, torched a pretty good Brown's D today one that may be better than the Patriots D. Plus the Cheaters D has some youth in some areas that might crack under the playoff pressure. Plus the Patriots have lost a lot starter/key players from their Super Bowl years. So this new Patriots has proven nothing in the playoffs, just look at them getting their asses stomped by the Ravens last year. While our team has a lot of starters an proven players from our Super Bowl years. And this by and the 10 day spacing is huge for are veteran legs. I expect us to be fresh come the divisional round, and with our experience we should not lose momentum off these couple last games. And if we do make the afc ship game in Foxborough, we should come put balls to the wall. We always seem to play well with our backs against the wall( earlier this year going 3-1 without Ben, and winning SB as 6 seed) and we find ways to slip up when we have expectations(5 game losing streak last year.) Bottom line, mindset is huge with this football team, and if we have the mindset of us against the world/Patriots, correct our mistakes from the first game, and carry our momentum I think we have a decent chance in Borough. With that being said, we also need to have a great gameplan by Dick. He obviously would need to change up some things, but most importantly we would have to get pressure on Brady without him burning us. Easier said than done. Pretty much we have to impose our physical will on Brady so we can keep him uncomfterable all day long. Because once he gets in a groove and feels like he can own a defense it is pretty much over, just look at our last game with him. Also it would be huge if we are able to force a couple of turnovers from the Patriots offense. In the two games the Patriots lost this year, the had 6 turnovers. They had an all time low of 10 turnovers this season, and won all other 14 games. That shows how huge that is for disrupting their gameplan and offense.As for our offense, running the ball would be big to dictate the pace and play action bomb to Wallace. We also would have to get Heath going. Ben would have to play lights out , which he is capable off, because of the Patriots ability to score points in a hurry. All in all Ithink with a right gameplan, right mindset and emotion, and executing at our full potential we can beat the Cheaters. Them and us would obviously have to take care of the divisional round for the matchup. And who cares about their great coach/ quaterback combination we you lose to the friggin Browns! Come on, any team that loses to Stains we have a chance to beat. Would love nothing more to beat Colts,Pats to get to number 7! Here we go Steelers here we go! We control this ****( waves terrible towel at 4:00 in the morning half asleep.)

As for offense we would

01-03-2011, 09:57 AM
I'm OK playing anyone in the AFC, any time they come up on the schedule. Wicker Basket LeBeau has been calling some tighter pass coverage at the line lately, which is what it would take to beat NE.

Whoever, whenever - bring them on!

I honesty believe the loss to New England was more on the offense than the defense and the type of coverage we ran. You have to force the Pats* to do things they might not have planned to do. With our offense struggling in the first half of that game, they pretty much did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. I don't remember the Steelers doing anything out of the ordinary (aka playing press coverage) when we beat them on Halloween night in 04. We just jumped them early and forced them on offense.

01-04-2011, 12:33 AM
I'm OK playing anyone in the AFC, any time they come up on the schedule. Wicker Basket LeBeau has been calling some tighter pass coverage at the line lately, which is what it would take to beat NE.

Wicker Basket LeBeau, huh? :lol:

reminds me of the good ole days at the Trib... :Cheers

01-04-2011, 12:59 AM
Though I was a relative Johnny Come Lately there, I too have fond memories of it (cue violins here). But in retrospect, there were a lot more trolls and bad citizens there, and a lot more kindegarten-type squabbles than here.

Of course, every now and then someone shows up and proves the rule by their exception, uhmm, kind of like in the last couple of weeks, actually!

01-04-2011, 02:52 AM
Most feared? Playoff field includes number of dangerous teams

Updated: Jan. 3, 2011

NFL teams, coaches and front office executives never admit there's a team they fear. But is there a team they would prefer not to have to play?

We asked our writers who they thought was the one team no one wanted to play, and their answers were as diverse as this year's field, which just might tell you a little bit about how the postseason could unfold.

Wild-card playoff schedule

» Jets at Colts, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
» Ravens at Chiefs, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

» Saints at Seahawks, Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
» Packers at Eagles, Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Vic Carucci: Chiefs
The Chiefs have tremendous potential to keep their feel-good story alive for a few more weeks. Although they've been far stronger at home, they're built well enough to succeed in the postseason. With the NFL's best rushing attack, the Chiefs can utilize a ball-control attack anywhere to help minimize the most explosive opposing offenses and allow their own offense to be effective in the worst conditions Mother Nature can deliver. Matt Cassel is peaking at the perfect time under the guidance of Charlie Weis, who has plenty of experience calling plays in the postseason. Romeo Crennel, also no stranger to this time of year, has put together a playoff-caliber defense. And Todd Haley is smart enough to let his coordinators coach.

Steve Wyche: Saints
Taking the wild-card route won't matter for New Orleans, especially since the first game could be a momentum-building victory at Seattle. The Saints are a dome team, but their O-line will allow them to run when they have to, regardless of the climate -- as long as Pierre Thomas stays healthy. Defensive coordinators hate going against Sean Payton and Drew Brees because of their aggressiveness in scheming and executing matchup advantages, which they have, offensively, over every team in the NFC. With rookie TE Jimmy Graham emerging as an X-factor, the Who Dats are even scarier.

Pat Kirwan: Patriots
Off the record, I can usually get a coach to admit that avoiding a certain team isn't a bad idea. There are a number of solid teams in the playoffs that fit the bill, but there's no team like the Patriots. Bill Belichick is a factor, especially at home, and a guy with a rich playoff history. He has a knack for getting his team ready and creating a scheme that is problematic to any opponent coming into Foxboro. Then there's Tom Brady, who is 27-1 at home, including the playoffs, since 2007. Brady appears to be more driven than ever. He has led an offense that averaged 33 points a game this season at home (where the Patriots will play all of their playoff games), more than enough to overcome a defense that is a work in progress.

Bucky Brooks: Bears
Chicago has a dominant defense that excels at creating negative plays, and its ability to get turnovers allows it to win games without much help from the offense. Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are dominating games on a weekly basis with their speed and athleticism, which sets the table. Devin Hester has regained his touch as a returner, which consistently puts the offense in favorable field position. With Jay Cutler avoiding the costly mistakes that plagued the offense earlier in the season, the Bears can turn any contest into a low-scoring affair decided in the fourth quarter. To win in the playoffs, a team must excel in all three phases, and the Bears clearly have the blueprint to get it done.

Elliot Harrison: Ravens
No one should want to play the Ravens right now. Baltimore plays a physical game on both offense and defense. The Chiefs' main strength is their ground game, but they'll face the league's fourth-best run defense -- a unit that forced four fumbles Sunday against the Bengals. Many consider New England the Super Bowl favorite, but the Ravens destroyed the Patriots in last year's playoffs and took them deep into overtime at Gillette Stadium earlier this season. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Ravens right now, besides their five-game win streak, is how effective Ray Rice and the running game have been (104-66 run-pass ratio over the last three weeks.)

Michael Lombardi: Packers
Every year there is usually one playoff team that is feared. The makeup of those teams is always the same -- a great quarterback combined with a defense that plays well in front and can create turnovers. The Cardinals and Giants reached recent Super Bowls with this formula; this year it is the Packers. With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and a talented group of receivers to go along with the right combination of speed and pass-rushing ability on defense, no one wants to play the Packers, who are Super Bowl contenders.

Jason La Canfora: Ravens
No one in the AFC wants to face the Ravens as a wild card. They've won three road playoff games the past two seasons, Joe Flacco is much improved, and the run game has looked better down the stretch. They have won at Pittsburgh, managed to let the Patriots off the hook in overtime in New England (they won at Foxboro last year in the postseason), and have a playmaking defense. They're playoff-tested, and they don't mind going on the road. Peyton Manning has had their number, and avoiding what appeared to be a likely wild-card meeting with the Colts already bodes well for them.

Albert Breer: Packers
The Packers grew offensively in their one game without Aaron Rodgers -- against New England -- and the sky is the limit, as long as their offensive line holds up. The defense continues to ascend, too, and most of the team has some playoff experience (whether it was just last year, or it goes back to their 2007 run). So long as they can protect the franchise quarterback, there aren't many holes on this team.

http://www.nfl.com/superbowl/story/0900 ... _spotlight (http://www.nfl.com/superbowl/story/09000d5d81d6b511/article/most-feared-playoff-field-includes-number-of-dangerous-teams?module=HP_spotlight)

01-04-2011, 02:58 AM
I dont want to avoid the Cheats.....We can beat those clowns. All we have to do is be the Steelers on D by bringing the heat which confuses the pretty boy (see the clowns game).

On offense, we need to attack hard and we will kill those bums! The Super Bowl is ours as long as we dont over think ourselves like our 1st meeting. Only the coaches can cause us to lose against anyone and that includes the Cheats.