Ben Roethlisberger was given the opportunity to beat the Patriots and he delivered. This wasn't a game where we rode Jerome Bettis to clock-eating drives. Ben followed through on the clock-eating part, but it was done through the air. That's no small detail. Ben controlled the flow of the game and limited Tom Brady's on-field experience by completing passes. This isn;t the type of gameplan you bank on succeeding, and Ben came through.
For that alone, I have to do something rather foreign to me. I have to applaud Bruce Arians. Bruce is a guy who loves to watch Ben chuck it deep to Mike Wallace. And despite the pass-first gameplan, Ben finished the game without that signature deep bomb to Mike Wallace. Anyone with arms caught the ball. Jerricho Cotchery picked a big time for his first career Steelers reception against a team he remebers far too well from the AFC East. David Johnson caught one. And this on a night when the game saw Hines Ward out with an injury. It was like everyone turned into their own version of Hines.
Ben: Ben threw the ball 50 times. 50 times and it wasn't because we were down by a jillion and had to catch up fast. He completed 36 of those tosses with 2 TDs and 1 pick. The INT was a bummer at the time and set up the only reason the Patriots were in the game through 3+ quarters. But other than that he spread the ball around with an alarming efficiency. We'll get to those guys who caught the passes in a sec. Ben gets 4.75 of 5 motorcycle helmets. Nearly flawless game.
Mendy: Here's a guy that should've been invisible with the style of game Tomlin and Arians employed. Mendy somehow totaled 70 yards on 13 here-and-there carries. The Steelers put the game in Ben's hands, using Mendy as a compliment. He responded with a few nice runs in the 3rd while the Patriots expected Ben to continue the air show. 3 of 5 motorcycle helmets. Don't underappreciate his contributions to this game.
Defense: This one was big. With no Farrior, Aaron Smith, James Harrison, we wanted to see what Dick LeBeau would do to slow a Patriots offense that has routinely befuddled him. The move to man coverage made it impossible for Brady to pick a guy and fire it to him within a quick 3 step drop. The Patriots receivers and TEs were pressed to make their own room for Brady to throw. The D won the overall war over 60 minutes. 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets. Props to guys like Sylvester and Carter and Lewis making plays.
Receivers: As I explained earlier, the frequency at which Ben was spreading the ball around was fantastic to watch. 4 guys (Heath, Mike, Manny, Antonio) had at leaast 5 catches and 67 yards. They understood their superiority to the defensive backs lined up across from them and didn't squander the opportunity. 5 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
5 of 5 helmets.
Baltimore at Heinz for Sunday Night Football. Oh man.
(thanks to Doug for the banner pic)