In a game where the Steelers should have been playing with at least half an ounce of intensity, they looked as if they had spent the night at Beachland Ballroom & Tavern until 3am. And, they looked as ugly as some of the patrons of that shit hole dive bar. The day and new year started promising at about 2pm when the Bills were up 21-0 against the Patriots. As 2:01pm stuck and the Patriots scored their first touchdown in their 49 point comeback, things went uphill from there for the Steelers in a climb to mile-high Denver.
The Steelers needed two things to happen to lock up home field throughout and a bye – a Patriots loss and Ravens loss. The Steelers needed a Ravens loss for the Steelers to at least get a bye and at least one home game. The Bengals stayed close for a while with the Ravens, but two big TD runs from Ray Rice squandered any chances of the Bengals stealing one away from the Ratbirds.
With both the Pats and Ravens winning, the Steelers are locked in at the #5 seed regardless of how they finished out with the Browns. However, the Steelers needed to keep moving in a positive direction – and they struggled with that at best. For every positive that went on, there were two negatives to go with it.
The Steelers got 161 rushing yards and Redman ran for 92…. but with two fumbles lost that almost allowed the Browns to come back and win the game. The only reason Redman got 92 was because Mendenhall got injured early in the game – although I don’t really see that as too much of a step back. The Steelers made it to the red zone four times but only scored once. Suisham made two kicks, but missed a costly one early on. Ben was only sacked twice, but the O-line got beat up again – to the point of where three guys went down on the field in one play in the 4th quarter. Big Ben threw for over 4,000 for the season, but still looked mediocre and hobbly and should have had a couple passes picked off. The Steelers pretty much dominated the game statistically but still only managed 13 points and won by 4.
Biggest pluses out of the day – Hines Ward got his 1000th career catch and team MVP 3rd Down Brown continued to be the leader of the receiving core.
I’ve made my peace a long time ago with the Steelers. They always seem to struggle in critical games… games where they need to make a convincing showing. They always seem to play down to their competition when all week it seems like they should destroy the living bejeezus out of their opponent. A win is a win, but the Steelers have anything but momentum going into the playoffs.
Here are the biggest concerns for the Steelers heading to Denver (in no particular order):
- Big Ben is still hobbling. That bye week would have been great. The iron man of the NFL has shown that there are some injuries that he just can’t play through
- Ryan Clark may not play in this game. The Steelers leading tackler has a sickle cell condition that kept him out of the game the last time the team traveled to Denver – only because he almost died two years playing in Denver before that. When asked this week what would happen if the team traveled to Denver, Clark said that he would play this time. Tomlin clearly was the guy who left him out of the game last time. It is uncertain what he will decide next week.
- Redman has fumbled 2 times in one game. Mendenhall has fumbled only once this season and only three in the past two seasons. If Mendenhall can’t play next week, Redman better make sure he takes care of the ball.
- The offensive line needs a freakin’ witch doctor at this point – and it’s not to heal them. It’s to keep them from getting injured. There have only been three games this season where an offensive player did not leave the game for a significant period of time due to injury. THREE! If the Steelers find a way to get to the Super Bowl, THIS will be the story everyone should be talking about. And then Larry Zierlein should write a best selling book on how to keep an offensive line together with duct tape, fairy dust and the dreams of Mike Tomlin.
- LaMarr Woodley – will he be healthy enough to play? Even with Harrison playing, the Steelers pass rush is having a tough go at keeping constant pressure on the quarterback. The Steelers got two sacks on Wallace yesterday, but gave him too much time the rest of the afternoon.
- Tebow Time – Tim Tebow is a terrible quarterback. But, he can run the ball. The Steelers pass rush will need to be completely disciplined in not over pursuing Tebow. The option can be contained – the safeties, Harrison and Woodley (if he plays) can handle that. The concern is when the blitz over pursues and the pocket collapses – the Steelers need to make sure they keep the holes plugged and not allow Tebow to escape for big yards. The Steelers also have a habit of not taking care of the ball at the end of games, which is prime time for Tebow.
The Steelers could have their hands full come next Sunday. They could also make Tebow and the Broncos look like clowns. The week to come will be full of talk and speculations. Be sure to come back as more develops and we put our own little spin on things.
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