View Full Version : Steelers will be imping into the postseason

01-02-2012, 01:25 AM
Steelers will be imping into the postseason

Monday, January 2, 2012

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 74633.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_774633.html)

CLEVELAND The victory, not secured until after the final play on a blustery day, did nothing for the Steelers' playoff positioning.

A 13-9 win at Cleveland Browns Stadium gave the Steelers a second consecutive 12-4 season, but it also exacted a pretty stiff price.

Already thin at running back, the Steelers likely lost their feature ball-carrier to an ACL tear. Rashard Mendenhall, on his way to a second consecutive 100-yard game, went down at the end of the first quarter. An MRI taken today could confirm coach Mike Tomlin's worst fears regarding Mendenhall's right knee.

At the very least, Tomlin said Mendenhall won't play Sunday when the Steelers visit the Denver Broncos at 4:30 p.m. in the opening round of the AFC playoffs.

"You should anticipate that he won't be participating next week for us," Tomlin said of Mendenhall. "It's not good when a guy goes down in open grass, not touched by anyone. Experience tells me that's generally not good."

The Broncos finished just 8-8 but are the No. 4 playoff seed by virtue of winning the AFC West. The Steelers are the No. 5 seed and won't play at home in the postseason unless they meet the sixth-seeded Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC title game.

The Steelers needed Cincinnati to beat Baltimore yesterday to win the AFC North outright and get the No. 2 seed.

Their luck wasn't any better in Cleveland than it was in Cincinnati, as the Steelers sustained a spate of injuries.

No position has been hit harder by injuries than running back, and it started in training camp when rookie Baron Batch tore his ACL. Batch, who had been an early sensation in camp, suffered a season-ending injury while making a cut.

Since then, the Steelers have lost Jonathan Dwyer to a foot injury, while Mewelde Moore has been hampered by a knee injury. Moore didn't play yesterday for the second consecutive week and his status for the Denver game is in question.

Not that the Steelers' ground game looked beat up against the Browns.

The Steelers gashed Cleveland (4-12) for 161 rushing yards, and they averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

Isaac Redman, who takes over Mendenhall's duties as the feature back, rushed for a game-high 92 yards on 19 carries. He also scored the only touchdown of the game, a 7-yard scoring run that came after strong safety Troy Polamalu made a diving interception midway through the third quarter with the score tied, 6-6.

But Redman also lost a pair of fumbles after his touchdown, and those turnovers were a major reason why the Browns had a chance to win on the final play of the game.

Not long after Seneca Wallace's final pass was knocked down in the end zone, Tomlin was asked if rookie John Clay the Steelers signed him from the practice squad a little more than a week ago saw increased playing time in the second half because of the turnovers.

"There's no demotion there," Tomlin said. "We just utilized two guys. Obviously, we'd like (Redman) to hold on to the football better than he did there at the end of the game."

Redman said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians told him that battling for extra yardage isn't always the wisest course of action.

"I need to get down," Redman said, "and I can't hurt my team like that."

The biggest question as the Steelers prepare for their fourth playoff appearance in five years under Tomlin is whether they are healthy enough to make a run at a seventh Lombardi Trophy.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played the entire game, completing 23 of 40 passes for 221 yards. But he is still hobbled by the high ankle-sprain he sustained in the Steelers' 14-3 win over the Browns a little less than a month ago.

When asked if he is concerned about the overall health the offense, Roethlisberger said, "Absolutely."

The defense didn't allow a touchdown for the second game in a row, and the Steelers may have to rely on that unit given how beat up they are on offense.

The good news for the Steelers: outside linebacker James Harrison said the defense can play better.

"I don't feel like we're peaking," Harrison said. "I feel like we played subpar (against the Browns), but it was good enough to get the win. We've got to get better."

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01-02-2012, 01:28 AM
Steelers win, playoffs up next

Sunday, January 01, 2012

By Ed Bouchette , Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Peter Diana/Post-Gazette

Steelers Troy Polamalu sacks Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace in the first half of tonight's game in Cleveland.

CLEVELAND -- The Steelers tonight won the battle but lost the holiday bauble that would have brought them the gift of a first-round bye and a home playoff game.

Instead, the Steelers will open their playoffs on Sunday, 4:30 p.m., as a wildcard team at Denver, the AFC West champion.

The Steelers did their part by beating Cleveland 13-9, but down in southwestern Ohio, the Baltimore Ravens beat the Cincinnati Bengals 24-16 to clinch the AFC North Division title and the No. 2 seed in the conference and the bye. The New England Patriots have the No. 1 seed and the other bye.

Hines Ward did get his five receptions to hit 1,000, only the eighth receiver in NFL history to do so.

His 1,000th reception came early in the fourth quarter,a shovel pass that lost three yards. Nevertheless, he left the game and was mobbed by teammates and coaches along the sideline for the accomplishment.

The Steelers completed the regular season with a 12-4 record, tied with Baltimore but since the Ravens beat them twice, they earned the tiebreaker and the division crown. The Browns finished 4-12.

Ben Roethlisberger, who missed last week's game with a high ankle sprain, started and played the entire game. he completed 23 of 40 passes for 221 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions.

Isaac Redman replaced an injured Rashard Mendenhall and rushed for 92 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown but he also lost two fourth-quarter fumbles that helped keep the Browns in the game.

The Steelers broke in front 13-9 after three quarters, scoring 10 points on their first two drives of the second half, and hung on for another tight victory on the road.

Shaun Suisham tied the game at 6-6 with a 29-yard field goal following the first drive of the second half and Redman ran seven yards for a touchdown.

Troy Polamalu set things up for his offense by intercepting a Seneca Wallace pass at the Cleveland 43. It was the first turnover forced by the Steelers in the past three games and Polamalu's second interception of the season.

The offense took it from there, using the no huddle on the six-play drive that ended when Redman ran behind a Heath Miller block seven yards for a touchdown.

Cleveland's Phil Dawson kicked his third field goal of the game, from 49 yards late in the third quarter.

The Steelers trailed 6-3 at halftime and salvaged something out of the first half half when Ben Roethlisberger completed a 40-yard pass to Antonio Brown, who made a near mirror catch of the one in the playoff vs. Baltimore last season, securing the ball to his helmet with his left hand.

That carried to the 14, and Brown -- voted last week by his teammates as their MVP -- caught another pass of 13 yards to the one. Roethlisberger tried two passes into the end zone that fell incomplete before Suisham kicked a 19-yard field goa.

After a scoreless first quarter, Dawson kicked two field goals in the second quarter -- a 26-yard field goal with 6:03 to go in the half, and one from 45 with 1:06 to go.

Suisham missed a 45-yard field goal attempt earlier in the second quarter.

The Steelers lost two players to injuries in the second quarter. Rashard Mendenhall left with right knee injury and rookie cornerback Cortez Allen left with a right arm injury. Neither player returned to play.

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