The Steelers woke up in their own beds Sunday morning for an away game starting mid-afternoon. The Steelers should not have won this game. Said game was happening against the reigning champs. The Steelers should not have won this game. The reigning champs were playing for the emotional support of a city and metropolitan area (and my current hometown) that was just crippled by the full intensity of Hurricane Sandy. The Steelers should not have won this game. Pittsburgh was down to its 3rd string running back, depending on who is healthy and at what times. The Steelers should not have won this game. Ben had a pick as well as a (controversial) fumble that netted 7 NY points. The Steelers should not have won this game. Shaun Suisham ran a fake-FG for -3 yards when the Steelers were still down 3. The Steelers should not have won this game. The refs not only negated Ben's tuck-rule fumble but also called a phantom pass interference for 41 yards and kept a Giants TD drive alive by whistling Ryan Clark for hitting Victor Cruz's head which is now a part of the ribs that I've never seen. The Steelers really should not have won this game.
The Steelers won this game. No...the Steelers dominated this game. Gifted an easy Ben pick and the 87 yards of pass interference, the Giants offense mustered little more than an interception to Ike Taylor. Literally. New York had -9 yards of offense in the 4th Quarter. The Steelers had to win a game in the final frame, coming back from down 10, and did so with about as even a game as you'd like to see. This team is rounding into form right with a bigtime Ravens-Browns-Ravens stretch that can potentially decide the AFC North lead.
Ben: Ben had a great game considering how loopy the game was playing out. Sure, the interception is on him completely. And then there was the tuck-rule fumble that went for 7 NYG points. But he threw 2 TDs and had 216 yards on 21 of 30 passing, largely without the services of leading receiver Antonio Brown. While Eli Manning was crumbling on just 1 of 6 passing for 3 yards on 3rd down, Ben excelled with 8 of 9 passing for 93 yards and a TD. Those aren't fluke numbers for Ben, who has directed the best 3rd down offense in the league pretty much all season. 4 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Redman: Jon Dwyer got his props for gaining 100 yards in successive weeks these last 2 games. Isaac Redman had largely disappointed in a starting RB role vacated by Rashard Mendenhall due to injury for the better part of this season. And then the team went to New York and Isaac Redman remembered how to dominate between the tackles. 26 totes, 147 yards and the game-winning score on the ground. While earlier this season it was looking like running back-by-scrub-committee, it now appears the team is deep at the position with guys waiting to break it open, only they all need to get healthy at the same time. But if someone has to step up, these guys are doing it as of late. So nice to see the ground game clicking like it should. 5 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Defense: Here's the thing about that fake-FG, down 3, in the 4th Quarter. While the Western half of Pennsylvania (as well as pockets in NYC, there's a ton of us) was collectively finding new and clever cuss words, a funny thing happened. Mike Tomczaklin was putting trust in his defense. Now I don't really know the metrics, but this has gotta be one of the first times this season that we can safely say Mike Tomlin found his trust in this defense. A trust that we fans could see and accept, maybe not immediately, but it was there. The Giants had no offense, at all, and somehow had farted their way to 20 points thanks to Pittsburgh faults and some timely flags. The D stepped up and forced the 2nd of 3-straight 4th Quarter 3-and-outs to end the game Yes, the offense still had to manufacture 7 points, but the defense won the game. 5 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Special Teams: I wanted to use this space to just show how proud I am of guys stepping up and making plays on special teams. They've been bad all year...punt return TDs called back on flags multiple times, not getting solid blocking for the return man...it's been frustrating. Only they were stunning on Sunday. Large returns right and left. And a lot of that is due to having talent returning the ball. Much of my reasoning for lauding the special teams today lays in that area. Chris Rainey had 173 return yards. And Manny Sanders stepped up bigtime when Antonio Brown left the game, not just offensively, but coming up with a huge 63 yard punt return to make sure his team stayed fired up on the comeback trail. Unfortunately, the offense crapped out all 3 times the special teams had started drives in Giants territory. 4.5 of 5 motorcycle helmets.
Chiefs come to town Monday. Then comes the aformentioned Ravens-Browns-Ravens gauntlet. None of these coming 4 games should be taken lightly.
(thanks to Doug for the banner pic)