Before I get into anything about the game itself, a big congrats is in order for the Steelers, who used the 13-9 win to clinch the 2008 AFC North Title! Everyone bowl and dance!
So now...the game. Let me re-print what I wrote last week, after another back and forth defensive struggle with the Cowboys:
At some point, I'm gonna have to stop saying "We let the other team hang around too long...it's going to bite us in the ass at some point." I really do, because these Steelers have a habit of coming through games like this relatively unscathed.
There are a lot of "fans" who immediately get down on the team if we're not up 20 points at the start of the game. Those "fans" need to shut up. Tomlin and his team know what they're doing. You can't go into Baltimore, a place we haven't won at since 2002, and expect to put up gaudy numbers against the #2 D in the league. That's why Tomlin takes the ball in the Second Half. That's why he trusts Big Ben to make the necessary plays when the game is on the line. That's why the team is 11-3 through 14 games of the "hardest schedule in 25 years." The Steelers are in a cush spot, so the fairweather fans that came along during the Super Bowl should probably stay out of any and all conversations involving the team.
There still are huge caution signs on the team (Arians, Colon, etc...), but overall, Pittsburgh finds a way to win. We close with a stunned Tennessee team and the J.V. Browns, which doesn't seem half as bad as it did two days ago, when we had no first-round bye locked up.
But enough about the future. Let's look at the game.
Sasso. Jeez...Ben threw the ball 40 times. That usually causes a few picks and a lost game, but not yesterday. Ben threw the only touchdown of the game, and his only turnover was some idiotic half-fumble-half-interception. He kept the ball away from Ed Reed, and understood that Ray Lewis was going to be coming for him no matter what, just so he could get his pound-my-chest-look-at-me antics going. There were a few balls that sorta came outta his hand weird, but they didn't come back to haunt us. And his few runs early in the game were a nice touch. Good all-around game coupled with a game-winning drive, and Sasso gets 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Nate and Hines and Santonio. The WR corps looked kinda quiet in the first half, and we all knew the first team to get a big play would likely dictate the rest of the game. That's why we needed a receiver to step up, and Hines did just that. He went over 100 while Nate made a few clutch grabs to make up for several dropped balls in the first half. Santonio didn't have the numbers, but was the only player on the field to get into the end zone. While Baltimore continued to hand off to McClain, Pittsburgh beat the Ravens D by going to the air. I don't know whether to half-praise Arians for a decent adjustment, or give credit to the guys catching the ball. Eh...this is Pittsburgh, so I won't stray from the Fire Bruce Arians theme. 4.5 of 5 motorcycle helmets for the trio.
D. There weren't many "numbers" to speak of, but they stayed steady and shut down the Ravens O. Farrior had 12 tackles, Timmons and Aaron Smith got to Flacco and Ryan Clark and Willie Gay both had picks. But it's nice to see the D play well while Baltimore was holding Silverback with two or three guys. We're used to seeing 13 forced fumbles, 25 sacks and 14 interceptions a game, so while the numbers were a little more subdued, the end product was exactly the same. Forget holding Baltimore under 300 yards, we almost held 'em under 200 (202). Who really wants to see this D after a first round bye in the playoffs? 4.5 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
I'd go on, but I've pretty much summed up the game. Plus, I gotta go to the bathroom.
Tennessee next week. 1 o'clock game. Remember those?