That's the final score of the game. I'm sure there will be plenty of people admonishing our special teams, but there's gonna be just as many people rationalizing the 4th Quarter drama as some kinda fluke only made possible by a b.s. Logan strip and a Mundy mental error. You can't overlook the struggles, but at the same time, can't get too worked up over them. They were a part of the game, and the Steelers need to work to correct them before next Sunday rolls around.
There was a lot to take from this game, both good and bad. The running game clicked. The O-Line, despite a bevy of the usual holding calls, played better. Ben was on point. Silverback found the QB. But the D was inconsistent again late in the game. It was nearly the same script as last week...completely decimate the opposing team for 2.5-3 quarters, only to allow them to climb back into contention. I don't care how you look at this game, you cannot let a team score 28 points in the final 17 minutes.
But we got the win, and pulled the record back to 2-2. Here's what went down.
Sasso. 26 of 33 for 333 yards and 2 scores. "What a mediocre QB Ben is! He can't even get the best passer rating on his own team (his 128.9 rating was bested by Mewelde Moore's 131.3 mark, thanks to one completed pass for a TD). I can't believe Steelers fans consider him elite...he's always bailed out by his defense." Believe it or not, these are still the predominant feelings about Ben. But now here's a 2009 defense that has the worst 4th Quarter point differential margin in the league, and Ben is the only reason we've gotten 2 wins. Plus, remember that Ben had money TD passes to Sweed and Holmes dropped in dual 3-point losses the past two games (both losses). Time for the haters to eat it. 4.5 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Mendenhall. Beetlejuice had himself a game. With the recent struggles of Rashard and Limas Sweed, people have been quick to throw around the word "bust" when describing the Steelers 2008 draft class. One thing they forget, is that this was Mendenhall's 7th game as a pro (throwing out last week, in which Tomlin held him out of action). He reintroduced himself to the Pittsburgh fans by going for 165 yards on 29 carries for a 5.7 yard average and 2 rushing TDs. 5 of 5 motorcycle helmets. Games are fun to watch when you have a running attack.
Hines Ward. Don't look now, but Hines is 6th in the league in receiving, only 1 yard behind the Jets' Jerricho Cotchery. See...this is what happens when you have a receiver that catches the ball. In both of our wins, he's gone over 100 yards. Coincidence? Plus, he had a tough catch late in the game in which he lowered his head and initiated contact. This was after catching an elbow to the dome earlier, which clearly knocked him out cold. He's a football player, that guy. 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Defense. We miss Troy Polamalu more than we thought we would. Our run defense has been great, only allowing 1 rushing first down and 16 yards on the ground yesterday. The pass defense has been a different story. With our offense's recent rushing troubles, Ben has gone to shotgun more often, which is now something opposing offenses are dialing up against our defense. There just always seems to be gaps in the middle zones behind the linebackers, a place where Troy routinely cleans up. You miss a couple tackles or let a few receivers go free and a QB like Rivers will pull that stuff as much as he can. A win's a win, but this one shouldn't have been this close. 3 of 5 helmets. Some of the blame needs to go on...
Special Teams. Yay...Jeff Reed didn't miss a field goal! Sucks that he gets on track though, and we have mental errors in other facets of special teams. I may have thought Stefan Logan should've been down, but he can't just get careless when he assumes the play is about to be over. And the Mundy fumble is squarely on whoever our Special teams coach is. What do you have to gain by NOT putting your hands team out there when San Diego needed a handful of scores? They may not have lined up in an onside kick formation, but you had to know they were going to try something at some point. There were points to make up, and time was running down. Another 3 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
So we made it back to .500. We have the Lions this coming week and the Browns after. If we don't use these weeks to pad our record and get our defense back on track, then the rest of the season is going to be stressful.