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hawaiiansteel
11-04-2011, 02:55 AM
Beaver County Times

Steelers mid-season report

Posted: Thursday, November 3, 2011
By Mike Bires mbires@timesonline.com

PITTSBURGH -- "Now it's onward and upward" Brett Keisel declared after the Steelers reached the halfway point of their season with the AFC's best record.

With a huge game against archrival Baltimore this coming Sunday night, Keisel and the rest of his teammates are in no mood to reflect on the past. They're 6-2 but they know there's a lot of football left to play. All they're focused on right now is continuing their winning streak and avenging their 35-7 opening-day loss to the Ravens.

But those of us in the media are allowed to look back. So here are some of my mid-season observations on the Steelers:

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

At first glance, it's almost unthinkable that an offensive lineman who's only played in four games could be MVP. But before Max Starks arrived, the Steelers were 2-2 and struggling offensively largely in part to injuries on the O-line.

So two days after a 17-10 loss in Houston where Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times and suffered a sprained foot, Starks was re-signed. The big man who was cut just as training camp began was back at left tackle and it's been smooth sailing every since.

The Steelers are 4-0 with Starks back in the lineup. And no one has benefited more with Starks back than Roethlisberger. Without Starks, Roethlisberger threw five interceptions compared to only three touchdown passes. With Starks, Roethlisberger has thrown 11 TD passes and only two picks.

"I wish I could say there's something I did that was miraculous," Starks said. "But I just came in and did what I have always done. I'm just trying to be as helpful as possible to whoever needs it."

BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER

On the day the Steelers reported to training camp, Mike Wallace raised some eyebrows by saying his goal was to rack up 2,000 receiving yards this season. That was quite a statement considering the NFL record of 1,848 was set by Jerry Rice in 1995.

At this stage of the season, it's virtually impossible for Wallace to get close to Rice's record let alone reach 2,000. But with 800 yards, he's on pace to shatter the Steelers' single-season record of 1,398 set by Yancey Thigpen in 1997.

Wallace, who leads the Steelers with five touchdowns, is arguably the NFL's best deep threat. He has six catches of 40 yards or more this season including TD catches of 81 and 95 yards. The 95-yarder is longest pass play in franchise history.

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER

LaMarr Woodley is red-hot. In the last four games, he's recorded 7.5 sacks and is tied for third in the NFL with nine. The left outside linebacker is showing why the Steelers signed him to that monster contract extension in August. But so is cornerback Ike Taylor, who also got a new deal during the preseason.

Taylor has yet to intercept a pass. But he's playing outstanding pass defense. Week in and week out, he takes on the opponent's best wide receivers and makes him non-factors. Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said Taylor "erases them."

In the last two weeks, Taylor has been at his best against two all-stars. He played Larry Fitzgerald tough in the win in Arizona, and this past Sunday, he was spectacular in shutting down New England's Wes Welker.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER

I know that Bryant McFadden was bothered with a hamstring injury for much of training camp and again early in the season. But he hasn't even been listed on the official injury report for several weeks now. Not only has McFadden lost his starting job at cornerback to William Gay, but he can't even get on the field.

Keenan Lewis is now the No. 3 corner and in the past few games, it's been rookie Cortez Allen who's often come in when the Steelers use six defensive backs.

McFadden is being paid $2.5 million this season. That's a lot of money the Steelers are paying for a guy who right now is their fifth or sixth option at cornerback.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

Certainly Gay and Lewis deserve consideration. They have played very well for the NFL's top-ranked pass defense. But second-year pro Antonio Brown has been especially impressive.

A wide receiver/kick return specialist, Brown is second on the team in receptions (34) and receiving yards (431).

Every practice, every game, Roethlisberger's trust in Brown increases. In the last four games - each Steeler wins - Roethlisberger has thrown to Brown more times than any other receiver.

And don't forget that Brown handles all kickoff and punt returns, and he's an above-the-line specialist. He's yet to break one for a touchdown this season, but he does have a 41-yard punt return and a 52-yard kickoff return.

Last year as a rookie, Brown caught 16 passes for 167 yards and no touchdowns. He's on pace this year for 68 catches, 862 yards and four TDs. He's developing into a productive and exciting weapon for the Steelers.

http://www.timesonline.com/columnists/s ... 0f31a.html (http://www.timesonline.com/columnists/sports/mike_bires/steelers-mid-season-report/article_40290a42-0620-11e1-923e-0019bb30f31a.html)

anger 82&95
11-04-2011, 06:09 AM
Beaver County Times

Steelers mid-season report

Posted: Thursday, November 3, 2011
By Mike Bires mbires@timesonline.com

PITTSBURGH -- "Now it's onward and upward" Brett Keisel declared after the Steelers reached the halfway point of their season with the AFC's best record.

With a huge game against archrival Baltimore this coming Sunday night, Keisel and the rest of his teammates are in no mood to reflect on the past. They're 6-2 but they know there's a lot of football left to play. All they're focused on right now is continuing their winning streak and avenging their 35-7 opening-day loss to the Ravens.

But those of us in the media are allowed to look back. So here are some of my mid-season observations on the Steelers:

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

At first glance, it's almost unthinkable that an offensive lineman who's only played in four games could be MVP. But before Max Starks arrived, the Steelers were 2-2 and struggling offensively largely in part to injuries on the O-line.

So two days after a 17-10 loss in Houston where Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times and suffered a sprained foot, Starks was re-signed. The big man who was cut just as training camp began was back at left tackle and it's been smooth sailing every since.

The Steelers are 4-0 with Starks back in the lineup. And no one has benefited more with Starks back than Roethlisberger. Without Starks, Roethlisberger threw five interceptions compared to only three touchdown passes. With Starks, Roethlisberger has thrown 11 TD passes and only two picks.

"I wish I could say there's something I did that was miraculous," Starks said. "But I just came in and did what I have always done. I'm just trying to be as helpful as possible to whoever needs it."

BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER

On the day the Steelers reported to training camp, Mike Wallace raised some eyebrows by saying his goal was to rack up 2,000 receiving yards this season. That was quite a statement considering the NFL record of 1,848 was set by Jerry Rice in 1995.

At this stage of the season, it's virtually impossible for Wallace to get close to Rice's record let alone reach 2,000. But with 800 yards, he's on pace to shatter the Steelers' single-season record of 1,398 set by Yancey Thigpen in 1997.

Wallace, who leads the Steelers with five touchdowns, is arguably the NFL's best deep threat. He has six catches of 40 yards or more this season including TD catches of 81 and 95 yards. The 95-yarder is longest pass play in franchise history.

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER

LaMarr Woodley is red-hot. In the last four games, he's recorded 7.5 sacks and is tied for third in the NFL with nine. The left outside linebacker is showing why the Steelers signed him to that monster contract extension in August. But so is cornerback Ike Taylor, who also got a new deal during the preseason.

Taylor has yet to intercept a pass. But he's playing outstanding pass defense. Week in and week out, he takes on the opponent's best wide receivers and makes him non-factors. Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said Taylor "erases them."

In the last two weeks, Taylor has been at his best against two all-stars. He played Larry Fitzgerald tough in the win in Arizona, and this past Sunday, he was spectacular in shutting down New England's Wes Welker.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER

I know that Bryant McFadden was bothered with a hamstring injury for much of training camp and again early in the season. But he hasn't even been listed on the official injury report for several weeks now. Not only has McFadden lost his starting job at cornerback to William Gay, but he can't even get on the field.

Keenan Lewis is now the No. 3 corner and in the past few games, it's been rookie Cortez Allen who's often come in when the Steelers use six defensive backs.

McFadden is being paid $2.5 million this season. That's a lot of money the Steelers are paying for a guy who right now is their fifth or sixth option at cornerback.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

Certainly Gay and Lewis deserve consideration. They have played very well for the NFL's top-ranked pass defense. But second-year pro Antonio Brown has been especially impressive.

A wide receiver/kick return specialist, Brown is second on the team in receptions (34) and receiving yards (431).

Every practice, every game, Roethlisberger's trust in Brown increases. In the last four games - each Steeler wins - Roethlisberger has thrown to Brown more times than any other receiver.

And don't forget that Brown handles all kickoff and punt returns, and he's an above-the-line specialist. He's yet to break one for a touchdown this season, but he does have a 41-yard punt return and a 52-yard kickoff return.

Last year as a rookie, Brown caught 16 passes for 167 yards and no touchdowns. He's on pace this year for 68 catches, 862 yards and four TDs. He's developing into a productive and exciting weapon for the Steelers.

http://www.timesonline.com/columnists/s ... 0f31a.html (http://www.timesonline.com/columnists/sports/mike_bires/steelers-mid-season-report/article_40290a42-0620-11e1-923e-0019bb30f31a.html)
Best coaching acquisition- Carnell Lake

Flasteel
11-04-2011, 06:18 AM
I love Max Starks, but there is only one MVP on this team and it ain't him.

Discipline of Steel
11-04-2011, 07:04 AM
I love Max Starks, but there is only one MVP on this team and it ain't him.

+1 BB

Ghost
11-04-2011, 08:21 AM
Suisham is most disappoininting. McFadden is hurting anyone being on the sidelines. SS is one of the worst kickers in the league and can't hit over 35. Total liability.

flippy
11-04-2011, 08:42 AM
MVP Candidates

1. Ike
2. Big Ben
3. Max
4. Woodley
5. Beardo

Most Improved Candidates

1. Wallace
2. Brown
3. Gay
4. Lewis

Most Disappointing Candidates

1. Timmons
2. Sushi

Slapstick
11-04-2011, 08:51 AM
Most Disappointing Candidates

1. Timmons
2. Sushi

I disagree about Timmons...

Timmons is playing out of position and filling in for one of our best defensive players...with all that being said, the Steelers are 4-0 with Timmons starting at ROLB...

While he isn't James Harrison, he isn't proving to be a weak link at that position either...

steelz09
11-04-2011, 09:31 AM
Most Disappointing Candidates

1. Timmons
2. Sushi

I disagree about Timmons...

Timmons is playing out of position and filling in for one of our best defensive players...with all that being said, the Steelers are 4-0 with Timmons starting at ROLB...

While he isn't James Harrison, he isn't proving to be a weak link at that position either...

he's lost out there at ROLB. He's not necessarily weak but he's not an impact player at all.

MeetJoeGreene
11-04-2011, 09:59 AM
I wonder at what point we can cut bmac to free up a roster spot for something else that may be needed ....

feltdizz
11-04-2011, 10:56 AM
BMac is making 2.5 this year? ouch!

phillyesq
11-04-2011, 11:12 AM
Most Disappointing Candidates
1. Timmons
2. Sushi

I was having a hard time thinking of a most disappointing player. Suisham is easy.

Timmons has also been disappointing. I understand that he has been a fill-in at ROLB, but he did not do much at ILB early in the season. I do remember him having a good game in coverage, but that is about it. So far, he has not played up to his contract at all.

Chavezz
11-04-2011, 12:54 PM
Most Disappointing Candidates
1. Timmons
2. Sushi

I was having a hard time thinking of a most disappointing player. Suisham is easy.

Timmons has also been disappointing. I understand that he has been a fill-in at ROLB, but he did not do much at ILB early in the season. I do remember him having a good game in coverage, but that is about it. So far, he has not played up to his contract at all.

Timmons gets a pass from me while he's out of position. Also when he's back at Ilb he's generally been used covering RB and TE's. Not a lot of opportunity to make impact plays.

Ghost
11-04-2011, 01:09 PM
Can't say Timmons is the biggest disappointment. He may not be making a lot of splash plays but he's head and shoulders above Farrior out there who is weak on the run and can't gover a Granny with a walker. His calf injury might be a blessing to get some playing time for younger guys and see if we're good or need to look to the draft.

phillyesq
11-04-2011, 01:49 PM
Most Disappointing Candidates
1. Timmons
2. Sushi

I was having a hard time thinking of a most disappointing player. Suisham is easy.

Timmons has also been disappointing. I understand that he has been a fill-in at ROLB, but he did not do much at ILB early in the season. I do remember him having a good game in coverage, but that is about it. So far, he has not played up to his contract at all.

Timmons gets a pass from me while he's out of position. Also when he's back at Ilb he's generally been used covering RB and TE's. Not a lot of opportunity to make impact plays.

I get that he's playing out of position, but at $10 million per year, you'd like to think that he wouldn't completely disappear with a position change. Chad Brown was an ILB who relied on quickness who remained a stud when moved outside to cover for an injury. At some point, Timmons needs to show that he is a prime talent and step up.

papillon
11-04-2011, 02:05 PM
Most Disappointing Candidates
1. Timmons
2. Sushi

I was having a hard time thinking of a most disappointing player. Suisham is easy.

Timmons has also been disappointing. I understand that he has been a fill-in at ROLB, but he did not do much at ILB early in the season. I do remember him having a good game in coverage, but that is about it. So far, he has not played up to his contract at all.

Timmons gets a pass from me while he's out of position. Also when he's back at Ilb he's generally been used covering RB and TE's. Not a lot of opportunity to make impact plays.

I get that he's playing out of position, but at $10 million per year, you'd like to think that he wouldn't completely disappear with a position change. Chad Brown was an ILB who relied on quickness who remained a stud when moved outside to cover for an injury. At some point, Timmons needs to show that he is a prime talent and step up.

He'll get his chance Sunday night; he's the last man standing so to speak out of the line backing corps.

Pappy

Chavezz
11-04-2011, 02:36 PM
Most Disappointing Candidates
1. Timmons
2. Sushi

I was having a hard time thinking of a most disappointing player. Suisham is easy.

Timmons has also been disappointing. I understand that he has been a fill-in at ROLB, but he did not do much at ILB early in the season. I do remember him having a good game in coverage, but that is about it. So far, he has not played up to his contract at all.

Timmons gets a pass from me while he's out of position. Also when he's back at Ilb he's generally been used covering RB and TE's. Not a lot of opportunity to make impact plays.

I get that he's playing out of position, but at $10 million per year, you'd like to think that he wouldn't completely disappear with a position change. Chad Brown was an ILB who relied on quickness who remained a stud when moved outside to cover for an injury. At some point, Timmons needs to show that he is a prime talent and step up.

So if Troy goes out should Ike Taylor be able to slide over to safety and make impact plays? I think that you are underestimating the difficulty of picking up a new position.

It's not like your swapping a LOLB for a ROLB or a LCB for a RCB where the job is essentially the same just "flipped".

Just my opinion.

papillon
11-04-2011, 03:33 PM
Most Disappointing Candidates
1. Timmons
2. Sushi

I was having a hard time thinking of a most disappointing player. Suisham is easy.

Timmons has also been disappointing. I understand that he has been a fill-in at ROLB, but he did not do much at ILB early in the season. I do remember him having a good game in coverage, but that is about it. So far, he has not played up to his contract at all.

Timmons gets a pass from me while he's out of position. Also when he's back at Ilb he's generally been used covering RB and TE's. Not a lot of opportunity to make impact plays.

I get that he's playing out of position, but at $10 million per year, you'd like to think that he wouldn't completely disappear with a position change. Chad Brown was an ILB who relied on quickness who remained a stud when moved outside to cover for an injury. At some point, Timmons needs to show that he is a prime talent and step up.

So if Troy goes out should Ike Taylor be able to slide over to safety and make impact plays? I think that you are underestimating the difficulty of picking up a new position.

It's not like your swapping a LOLB for a ROLB or a LCB for a RCB where the job is essentially the same just "flipped".

Just my opinion.

Rod Woodson moved to safety and did okay for himself. I'm not saying Ike is Woodson-like, but it has happened. However, I don't really have a problem with the way Timmons has played even though he hasn't had many big plays. He's hel down a position that has been manned by a perennial pro-bowl player without the defense really losing anything. I think we're good; Timmons will get back inside at some point.

Pappy

Steelerphile
11-04-2011, 03:43 PM
Timmons doesn't have any sacks. That is why I think of his play as somewhat disappointing. He is getting some pressures. He had a better season last year, though. But I don't think Timmons is the type of guy to cash the check and rest on his laurels. I think he will eventually make some more visibly impactful plays.

hawaiiansteel
11-05-2011, 12:30 AM
Kovacevic: Lake is Steelers' first-half MVP

By Dejan Kovacevic, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, November 4, 2011

http://files.pittsburghlive.com/photos/2011-11-04/1104LakeSteelCAP-a.jpg

Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake works with William Gay in practice.

What once was an abomination now seems like an aberration.

It's hard to quantify, really, how much the Steelers have improved from that opening 35-7 loss in Baltimore to this rematch Sunday: They're contenders at 6-2, confident in all phases, deeper than anyone knew and so strategically sharp that the noted New England scholars Bill Belichick and Tom Brady just left town with swelling, itching brains.

It's a good team, one that's enjoyed a wealth of quality individual performances.

And yet, in choosing a first-half MVP, I'll go way off the board, even off the 53-man roster, and take defensive backs coach Carnell Lake.

Most of us think of Lake as the cerebral four-time Pro Bowl safety for the Steelers from 1989-98. But in his new life as a rookie NFL coach, he has dramatically transformed what was supposed to be the team's No. 1 weakness into the NFL's No. 1 pass defense, with an average of 171.6 yards allowed per game.

"Carnell's really done a great job," defensive coordinator D!ck LeBeau said Thursday on the South Side. "Our secondary has played well. All you have to do is look at our pass numbers. Somebody's doing something right there."

"Coach Lake deserves a lot of credit," safety Ryan Clark said. "He's the guy who's had us prepared physically and mentally, who's given us the game plans. We have some good men in here, but he's the one that's put it together."

Seriously, why is no one talking about this guy?

Ike Taylor was a very good corner, but he's now one of the NFL's best, and he's the Steelers' best since Lake's old teammate, Rod Woodson. He's matching up against the opponents' top receivers and held Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald to three catches each, Wes Welker to four. Overall, Taylor has the league's best burn rate how often a defensive back is targeted vs. the number of completions at 32.1 percent.

For a comparison, Bryant McFadden's burn rate last season was 67 percent, the league's fourth-worst.

And how about William Gay?

When it became clear in Latrobe that McFadden's hamstring would keep him out, all the talk-show and social-media rage was vented at Gay. And not without cause. His play ranged from clumsy to cringe-worthy, even though he took the field only in the nickel package.

This season, though, Gay has been outstanding after a rough start in Indianapolis upon taking over for McFadden. His breakthrough was the primary reason LeBeau and Lake felt comfortable with switching to man-to-man coverage against Brady and the Patriots.

This surely represents Lake's crown jewel to this point.

Lake worked with Gay, his teammates say, to study his tendencies and preferences. Gay wanted to be up on the line, handling receivers physically. The Steelers' previous defensive backs coach, Ray Horton, now the defensive coordinator in Arizona, wanted Gay to stay back, as with all his corners. Lake cut him loose.

"I'm just playin' my game, man," Gay said.

LeBeau and the Steelers' players praise Horton for his technique teaching, but they sound like they love Lake for adding that physical element. We saw it with Taylor, too, last week in chipping at Welker.

"Ray Horton was a great coach," LeBeau said. "The reason we wanted to get Carnell was that I had personal experience with him here and knew he was a man of great character. I also knew he was an aggressive player and that he'd be an aggressive coach. I knew what he'd be asking our guys to do."

There are others. Third-year man Keenan Lewis has looked so strong that he's pushing for more duty. Not far behind is Cortez Allen, the fourth-round draft pick. Only McFadden has fallen off, now relegated to special teams after his injury limited his time with Lake in Latrobe.

Lake, 44, has been a quick study. He left the private business world in 2010 to join Green Bay as a coaching intern, then accepted the Steelers' offer in March. He has preferred to lay low, which is why he declined an interview request for this column. He told me during the preseason he wanted the focus on his players, and he's obviously achieved that for all the right reasons.

Next challenge for Lake's secondary, especially Taylor, will be the Ravens' Anquan Boldin, fresh off a 145-yard gem against Arizona.

Anyone still worried?

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... z1cnIWeVXW (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_765484.html#ixzz1cnIWeVXW)

steeler_george
11-05-2011, 07:30 AM
mvp ben, woodley, kiesel

improved gay, lewis, brown

disapointment j. scott, kemo, sushi

hawaiiansteel
11-06-2011, 01:35 AM
Midseason retrospective: Ben is the MVP

By Scott Brown, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, November 6, 2011


A record five teams have erased deficits of 20 points or more en route to victory. Five teams have matched or surpassed their win total from a year ago. Rookie Cam Newton has more passing yards than Tom Brady and fewer interceptions than Drew Brees.

The Steelers being 6-2 is one of the few things that seemingly has followed script during the first half of the NFL season. But few could have predicted how they would get to this point.

They lost by four touchdowns in the season opener -- and it wasn't that close. Rashard Mendenhall is on pace for less than 1,000 rushing yards. The defense hasn't forced many turnovers, and James Harrison has only slightly fewer sacks (two) than games played (four).

Yet the Steelers still have managed to climb to the top of the AFC. The next two games, starting tonight against the visiting Baltimore Ravens, will go a long way in shaping the rest of their season.

Before looking ahead, here is a look back at the Steelers' first half:

Offensive MVP: Ben Roethlisberger, QB

Roethlisberger is having a monster season despite a disastrous start in Baltimore when he accounted for five turnovers. He is on pace to establish career highs in just about every major passing category, including yards and completions.

A week after sustaining a mid-foot sprain in Houston, Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes against Tennessee in a game the Steelers had to win. He has never looked more in control than when he led the Steelers to victories over the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots.

The biggest question with Roethlisberger is whether the Steelers can keep him in one piece. He is on pace to get sacked 50 times this season. That would tie a career high.

Defensive MVP: Ike Taylor, CB

No player has been as consistently good as Taylor. The nine-year veteran is a big reason the Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard receiver this season and why they are ranked No. 1 in pass defense (171.9 yards per game).

Taylor is playing as well as any cornerback, Darrelle Revis included. He has allowed only 11 receptions in the 45 times he has been targeted by opposing quarterbacks. The blanket job Taylor has done on receivers should get him to the Pro Bowl for the first time.

Biggest underachiever: Mike Wallace, WR

Well, he did say in late July that his goal was to become the first 2,000-yard receiver in NFL history.

Wallace is at 800 yards, putting him on pace for 1,600. That would smash Yancey Thigpen's single-season franchise record of 1,398 yards. But as coach Mike Tomlin always says, the standard is the standard, and Wallace is the one who set it.

Of course, it's easy to see why third-year veteran aspires to heights not even Jerry Rice scaled.

He has become one of the premier receivers in the game, and his speed has opened up things for the passing game.

Wallace is first in the NFL with six catches of 40 yards or more, fourth with 800 receiving yards and fifth in yards per catch (18.6).

He also is on pace for eight 100-yard receiving games, which would establish a Steelers' single-season record.

Best recovery: LaMarr Woodley, OLB

Four games into the season, Woodley's play had been so pedestrian that questions arose about his weight and whether signing a bloated contract extension had blunted his desire.

Since a 17-10 loss in Houston, Woodley has been as dominant as any player in football.

He has 7 1/2 sacks during that span, one in which the Steelers were without Harrison but won all four of those games anyway.

The only question with Woodley now is how the hamstring he injured during a 25-17 win over New England will hamper him in the second half of the season.

Best play: Roethlisberger's 95-yard touchdown pass to Wallace.

No play better showed how much of a weapon Wallace's speed is than when he and Roethlisberger hooked up against Arizona for the Steelers' longest play from scrimmage since 1949.

Roethlisberger's first option was an underneath pass to tight end David Johnson. But when he saw Wallace streaking down the right sidelines, Roethlisberger let one fly and hit his No. 1 receiver in stride.

Wallace outran two Cardinals to the end zone, including the safety who had arrived late but appeared to have an angle on Wallace.

Worst play: Ray Rice's 36-yard run

The Ravens running back flashed through an opening on the first play from scrimmage, then cast aside Ryan Clark as if the Steelers free safety were a cardboard cutout.

Rice's stiff-arm of Clark and the long run that resulted set the tone in the Sept. 11 game. Two plays later, Joe Flacco threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, and the Ravens never looked back.

Most pivotal sequence: Third quarter in 32-20 win at Arizona

The upset-minded Cardinals pulled within three points after LaRod Stephens-Howlings' 73-yard catch and run. The Steelers' offense responded with its most timely and perhaps impressive drive of the season.

Roethlisberger completed 6 of 8 passes in leading the Steelers on an 11-play, 80-yard drive that he capped with a 4-yard scoring toss to Emmanuel Sanders.

After a well-covered kickoff and Cardinals penalty, Woodley forced an intentional grounding call on Kevin Kolb in the end zone. The penalty deprived Woodley of a sack but gave the Steelers a safety, and the Cardinals never seriously threatened again.

That kind of synergy among the Steelers' offense, defense and special teams carried over to the team's 25-17 win against the Patriots the following week.

M*A*S*H unit: Steelers offensive line

The linebackers made a late run at this one, but the Steelers' offensive line had to weather an avalanche of injuries through the first eight games.

It started when started right tackle Willie Colon sustained a season-ending triceps injury in the 35-7 loss to the Ravens. His replacement, Marcus Gilbert, left the third game in Indianapolis with a bum shoulder -- and had to go back in after several more in-game injuries left the rookie as the closest thing the Steelers had to a healthy replacement.

Left guard Chris Kemoeatu missed two games and played another one (against the Texans) essentially with one good leg. Doug Legursky started at right guard and left guard before he was sidelined with a dislocated toe.

One positive is the Steelers brought back left tackle Max Starks after the fourth game. Starks, who had been released in late July, has had a stabilizing effect.

Unsung: The reserves

Tomlin calls them "starters in waiting." It may sound trite, but one of the coach's strengths is getting his players to buy into his concepts and wringing everything he can out of the team's 53-man roster.

Twelve players on offense and defense who entered the season as starters have missed at least one game due to injury. The beat-up offensive line started seven different combinations in the first seven games.

Despite the injuries, Tomlin and his staff have been masterful at plugging holes and forging ahead.

During the two seasons the Steelers have gone to the Super Bowl under Tomlin, they have gotten major contributions from their starters in waiting.

Say-what statistic

The Steelers are last in the NFL in turnover differential, as they have 10 more giveaways than takeaways.

That number is somewhat skewed because the Steelers committed seven turnovers at Baltimore and didn't have a takeaway. Still, in the four seasons the Steelers had fewer takeaways than giveaways since 1992, they missed the playoffs. The last time it happened was in 2009.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... z1ctPQ7pGO (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_765847.html#ixzz1ctPQ7pGO)