The Steelers are back ... right?
Kovacevic: The Steelers are back ... right?
By Dejan Kovacevic
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012
Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis defends a pass intended for the Giants' Rueben Randle during the third quarter Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Steelers are back.
There really is no other way to put it, right?
Not after they set down the Super Bowl champion Giants, 24-20, Sunday, thanks to a fabulous fourth quarter that was the antithesis of all those early-season collapses.
Not after they avoided getting flustered by some of the worst officiating you’ll see in one half of football.
Not after they shrugged off what should have been a backbreaker of a decision by Mike Tomlin to have his, um, kicker try to run the ball.
Not after they coolly dealt with a discomfiting setting in which they flew up and back to Newark, N.J., at dawn and dusk and, at the same time, weren’t “even a little inconvenienced compared to what people are going through here,” as Mike Wallace gracefully referenced the region’s victims of Hurricane Sandy.
No, after all that, a three-game winning streak, a 5-3 record and a fresh strut to their step, it’s safe to say: The Steelers are back.
Or so I’d thought.
Running this concept from stall to stall in the locker room afterward, the reaction was remarkably — perhaps tellingly — similar.
“Back?” Casey Hampton said. “Naw, we’re gettin’ there, man. We know how dominant we can be, the type of team we can be. We know we’re playing OK, but we can be a lot better.”
“Getting there,” Chris Rainey said with a grin through the grimace of bruised ribs. “Just getting there.”
The most pointed response, predictably, came from Ryan Clark.
“No, we’re not back. We’re just playing football,” he said. “I think to be ‘back,’ we had to be considered gone, right? Only y’all considered us gone. I understood the type of men we had in here, the type of talent. But no, we’re not back. We just won a couple football games.”
Yeah, but … OK, you can’t fight City Hall on this stuff.
Still, let’s be real: It would be an injustice to describe this as anything less than the Steelers’ best showing since that thorough dissection of the Patriots last year at Heinz Field.
The athletes are right. This wasn’t dominant. It wasn’t the way the Steelers’ championship teams might have controlled the event front to finish. This team tips away passes. Those teams slammed the opposing quarterback 6 feet into the ground. It’s not the same feel.
And yet, this 2012 edition is taking on its own identity:
And it’s damned tough.
You see the dynamic every week with all the breakaway receivers, and you’re seeing it now in the return game. Once Emmanuel Sanders, Wallace and Rainey sprung free, the Giants had no answers.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can bust it open,” Jerricho Cotchery said. “Eventually, we did.”
You see the depth where few would have expected.
The same Keenan Lewis who went without a solitary pass defensed in the first three games delivered three of those Sunday in the first quarter alone to keep the great Eli Manning from going all guns blazing.
The same running game that had been stuck at a historic crawl now makes it impossible to tell who’s No. 1, with Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman leapfrogging each other week after week.
Ask me, and Redman’s bulldozing 147 yards should make him No. 1.
Ask me next week, and I’ll probably answer differently.
And not enough praise can be heaped on an offensive line that’s running downhill with so much gravity they could be dubbed Newton’s Line. Give credit to the backs, but just remember that the line is the constant.
Loved this line from rookie tackle Mike Adams, who was burned early but recovered nicely: “To have a number of backs rushing well behind us, it’s something we take a lot of pride in.”
The toughness is my favorite facet, though.
Stop and think to how many times Sunday this team experienced something so deflating, so dispiriting you thought that was it.
The phantom pass interference call on Lewis?
“Didn’t touch the guy,” he said.
The flag on Clark for hitting the Giants’ Victor Cruz “in the head,” according to anatomically challenged referee Bill Leavy, who clearly saw Cruz’s head down where his ribs should be?
“I tried to obey the rules,” Clark said.
The weird — though at least debatable — ruling that Ben Roethlisberger fumbled when a) his arm moved forward b) the ball was still touching his hand and c) the ball was actually thrown forward?
“I had complete control,” Roethlisberger said.
Those officiating mistakes essentially handed New York 14 points.
And what about Tomlin’s bizarre, boneheaded call for Shaun Suisham to take that circus-like flip on a fake field goal rather than going for a fourth-and-1 with, you know, his franchise quarterback?
“They overcome bad coaching sometimes,” the coach said of his players. “That’s on me.”
A team made of lesser stuff crumbles after just one of those events, never mind all of the above plus the 6-2 defending champs competing in an emotional cauldron. The Giants made no secret that they wished to play hero for a day, coach Tom Coughlin calling this “as disappointing a loss as we’ve had around here in a long time” mostly for that reason.
But these Steelers don’t crumble. And they didn’t.
Are they back?
Maybe not all the way, but …
“We’re getting better,” Heath Miller said. “And if that means we’re getting back to Steelers football, we’ll take it.”
I love that they all have the same response. It shows that the team is buying in and all on the same page.
Let's see if we don't have another let down against an inferior team like we did against Oakland and the Titans. If we roll over KC and beat the Ravens then we are truly back.
Originally Posted by Oviedo
Don't give me any of that parity BS. It's week 10 and KC is the worst team in the NFL with an incompetent head coach. The Steelers should dominate and crush this team at home. Another 100 + yard rushing game from whomever they put in the backfield and an imposing Defensive performance that dictates the flow of the game should be the expectation.
What is your bet on what really happens?
Originally Posted by Ghost
1. A 100+ yard rushing game will occur?
2. An imposing Defensive performance will occur?
I really couldn't care less if it's pretty or not...
Steelers Should Beat Chiefs But Will It Be Pretty?
Nov 7th, 2012 by Craig Gottschalk
The Steelers are beginning to stack some wins and are poised to push the pedal a bit more to the floor after beating the Giants and hitting the halfway point of the season in second place in the AFC North. The team faces off against the woeful Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night at Heinz Field. The Chiefs have struggled all season long and have yet to lead at any point in regulation this season. This bodes well for the men in Black & Gold, but don’t expect a win to be pretty, even if they do come ready to play.
The injury list is still littered, and as of Wednesday, the Steelers have already commented that Antonio Brown and Chris Rainey are shelved. Those potentially coming back (Marcus Gilbert and Jonathan Dwyer) might not be that effective. And of course, Troy Polamalu is still out (though good news with his is that he will be ready for the Ravens). The Steelers have started to find themselves a bit in a Polamalu’less world – perhaps a glance of the Steelers come 2015? The secondary has stepped up beautifully during Troy’s absence, and Dick Le’Beau seems to have found his defensive swag…. for now.
Even if Brown, Dwyer and Polamalu were cleared to play, I would hope that the coaching staff would keep them benched anyways. I don’t mean to disrespect the Chiefs, but with the way they are playing right now, this is a game that feels like a pre-playoff game where a team looks to rest players. With the Steelers getting ready to face the Ravens after the Chiefs, it seems that the Steelers should try and be as healthy as possible. The conundrum? The Steelers don’t want to lose momentum going into the Ravens game, and they certainly don’t want fall behind anymore in the standings in the AFC North.
Even with a slightly depleted squad who will look to rest players that might be in the ‘Questionable’ column, the Steelers have good odds at taking down the Chiefs. Home field advantage and an opposing team that ranks over 20th in rushing yards (22nd) and points (30th) give the Steelers a chance to have a strong run game and really control the clock. Redman will be back for his second start in a row, and should have an easy time averaging over 4 yards per carry. A Steeler who has yet to be mentioned for its offensive success is Ramon Foster. Foster is sitting strong at right guard as Marcus Gilbert and David DeCastro continue to heal on that right side. Colon has been downright impressive and Foster has been a great compliment on that interior.
He’s been able to create holes for the run game and help out rookie Mike Adams whenever he appears to be struggling on that edge.
I don’t know if the Steelers will rack up the 30 points that the Chiefs on average give up per game. Without Brown in the lineup, Cotchery will certainly need to step up as much as he did against the Giants last week. Even with a bit of deficiency in the offense, the Steelers should be able rack up a decent amount of points to get the win. The defense just needs to hold the anemic Chief offense and keep Cassel or Quinn on their back more than in the pocket.
I don’t know if the win will be a pretty one, but it’s not like it needs to be. The litmus for the character and talent of this team occurred last week against the Giants. The Steelers just need to get the win here against the Chiefs, come out with the least amount of bruises possible, and get ready for the huge rival game against the Ravens.
This is a great article. It's a damn good thing that Mike Holmgren wasn't coaching the Steelers on Sunday. Or they would have totally melted down. Of course, the calls were complete bogus in the Giants game, while they were mostly legit in SB XL. That's saying something.
Starkey: How the Steelers stabilized
Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer eludes Washington's Madieau Williams and Reed Doughty during the first quarter Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, at Heinz Field.
By Joe Starkey
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012
Nobody expected the Steelers’ season to hit a crossroads in the third week of October.
But it did.
Coming off a dreadful loss at Tennessee — two weeks after an equally dreadful loss at Oakland — Mike Tomlin’s depleted crew lugged a 2-3 record into a Sunday night game at Cincinnati.
Among the missing were Troy Polamalu, Maurkice Pouncey, Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Marcus Gilbert and, sadly, Mike Wallace’s hands, which never got off the bus.
Two days before the game, Ben Roethlisberger had referred to Todd Haley’s offense as “dink and dunk,” a phrase that has since become a source of amusement but wasn’t so funny on the heels of a meager outing against Tennessee’s historically hideous defense.
It got less funny as the first quarter wore on. The Bengals on their first drive shoved the ball down the Steelers’ throats. Wallace dropped footballs like they were flying porcupines. Baron Batch somehow lost Antonio Brown’s gorgeous spiral in the lights.
Early in the second quarter, a second Roethlisberger turnover led to a quick Bengals touchdown, a 14-3 Cincinnati lead and mass panic in the Twitter-sphere.
Were the Steelers done?
Quite the opposite: They were just beginning.
What happened next was not just the story of a football game in the middle of October but the story of two franchises.
One, as usual, could not tolerate success.
The other, as usual, could not tolerate failure.
“We come together at those times,” said Doug Legursky, who started at center that night. “I haven’t been in other organizations, but talking to friends around the league, that’s what makes the Pittsburgh Steelers very special. We’re a family here. It’s a job to some point, but it’s something to us to fight for our brothers in the room.”
The Steelers chose a most unusual way to fight their way out of that 14-3 hole — on a drive that started at the 11 after a special teams penalty (imagine that).
Haley — perhaps sensing that none of his players could catch — unexpectedly turned to his 31st-ranked running game and third-string tailback Jonathan Dwyer.
To that point, the Steelers had attempted 16 passes against six runs (for 9 yards). Yet Haley’s play progression went like this:
Seems to me that’s the point where the Steelers forged an identity for 2012.
“I appreciated it,” Dwyer said. “And I tried to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Seven consecutive running plays put the ball on the Bengals’ 32. The drive netted only a field goal, but the Steelers had stabilized.
“We had our down moment,” Dwyer said. “We showed how tough we are by flipping it around.”
On Cincinnati’s next possession, something strange and wonderful happened. In football parlance, it’s called a turnover: t-u-r-n-o-v-e-r. The Steelers got a break when Andy Dalton’s flubbed pass attempt banged off a helmet and into the waiting arms of LaMarr Woodley.
A few plays later, Heath Miller made two beautiful catches — one for a touchdown, the other for a two-point conversion — and the Steelers somehow went to the half tied, 14-14.
Since then, they have outscored their opponents, 61-35, and have looked like an entirely different football team.
Wallace is catching passes again — and then running really fast. He looked like the anchor in a 4x100 Olympic relay on his touchdown Sunday, prompting analyst Phil Simms to say, “That might be as fast as I’ve ever seen anyone run on an NFL field.”
The defense, still without Polamalu, now stiffens late in games and sometimes tackles quarterbacks.
The running game, still without Mendenhall, looks more punishing than at any time since the Super Bowl run of 2005.
Give Haley credit for going to the ground in that dire situation in Cincinnati. Give him credit, too, for reducing his menu of running plays since then. He’s shown to be quite adaptable to his new environs. Willie Colon spoke to that when I asked if he’d seen Haley get in anyone’s face yet.
“No, I haven’t, and I’m kinda glad,” Colon said. “I don’t think there’s room for that here. I think there’s a lot of guys who take pride in their work and understand that if you’re not doing a good job, the guy behind you is more than qualified. So I think the competitiveness motivates guys.”
Something does — and the Steelers look plenty motivated with half a season left.
Plenty dangerous, too.
I dont' preach to the choir. I've only been a fan since the 3rd game of the 2008 season (thats long enough).. but I've been on this board since later that year and I've learned alot from the "Elders".. I read articles and study the game daily.. My best Steeler bro, and many of the others were talking about firing players, Tomlin, LeBeau, Haley etc.. I know it was a minority but I question the "faith" of many.. I just see that ppl deal with things differently when things are not working out.. It made me sick, quite frankly. I dont' turn off games or ask for ppl to be fired so early in the season.. There will be more "bumps" in the road.... but I like the way things are coming around, thus far..
They've established an identity, a personality. It's become a team you can really get into.
Imagine how much fun it'll be around message boards if we punish KC and then take down the Rats !! That's what everyone is salivating for at this point in the season. Bring on the Rats!!!