Okay, so last night I wrote in a somewhat different fashion than I normally do, retelling my story of watching the Pittsburgh Steelers exciting, entertaining and (hopefully) season saving victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Now on to a few specific football thoughts from this one, a 37-36 barn burner that lasted nearly four hours and featured 852 net yards passing.
* Let's start with Ben Roethlisberger and his 502 passing yards. During the Steelers five game losing streak, Big Ben had some nice moments and several solid games stat-wise. But he also was making some costly mistakes that we weren't seeing him make earlier in the year. Against Green Bay, Roethlisberger was flat out awesome.
Ben Roethlisberger: 29 of 46 (63%), 505 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
On the game-winning drive, Roethlisberger was the franchise quarterback Steelers fans are blessed to have on their side. He was flat out remarkable in the 84 yard game winning march. He converted on 4th and 7, 3rd and 15 and then with just 3 seconds remaining in the game, found Mike Wallace in the corner of the endzone from 19 yards out. Wallace dragged his feet, much like Holmes did in last year's Super Bowl, and the Steelers were just one Jeff Reed extra point away from defeating the Packer and keeping their season alive. Reed converted and Heinz Field erupted.
* Let me state that I wasn't able to watch this game as carefully as I usually like to, so feel free to expound on this thought in particular if you're so inclined. I'd like to hear some thoughts. Anyway, I tip my cap to Bruce Arians for finally incorporating some screens to the running backs and some well designed pass plays over the middle to both Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore. The touchdown pass to Moore, where he lined up near Santonio Holmes, then basically ran behind him on a quick slant, then following Holmes' block to the endzone. Very well designed and executed play. There were a few to Mendenhall as well, if I recall correctly.
Point is to me, better late than never. Mendenhall looks really gifted catching the ball out of the backfield first of all. Second of all, this really is the best way to alleviate some of the pressure off the Steelers offensive line - a unit that's undeniably improved, but still not quite where it needs to be moving forward. The Packers got after Big Ben on numerous occasions - Green Bay had 5 sacks in total - but for as often as Ben dropped back to pass, I'd say they did a fairly sound job keeping him upright and giving him time to get the ball downfield to his playmakers. It was imperative though that there were quite a few well designed, quick-hitting plays in the passing game that allowed Ben to get in a rhythm. It was just a pleasure to watch the offense all day.
* I'm really not even going to say too much about the defense because the same issues that have plagued the unit all year reared their ugly head again on Sunday - not quite enough pass pressure, particularly from the defensive line; poor secondary play at both the safety and cornerback positions; an inability to create enough turnovers; and just enough poor tackling to really make the team susceptible to huge swings in any given game.
* I will say this though - any talk about 'Dick LeBeau needs to go' is just flat out ridiculous. This man is a living legend in football and one of the hardest working coaches in all of the National Football League. He prepares his team each week as well as any other defensive coordinator in the business. Every coach, player, etc etc is going to have an off year from time to time for reasons totally unrelated to effort or talent. Dick LeBeau knows more about football and coaching defense than any other assistant in football, and probably more than 1/5 of them combined. Period.
* I did think that Joe Burnett played fairly well given the circumstances. He made some mistakes - mental and physical - both he showed some toughness, ability to tackle, and understanding of what's going on around him to feel excited about his growth next year and beyond.
* Mike Wallace caught the first Ben Roethlisberger pass of the day - a 60 yard bomb on the Steelers opening offensive play of the game, and his last, the 19 yard game winner. The pair of touchdowns were his only two receptions of the game. Not bad, rook, not bad!
* Jeff Reed continues to be money since his gaffes against Chicago in Week 2. Reed outperformed his counterpart from the Packers - Mason Crosby - and that played a big role in helping the Steelers ultimately win. Kudos to Spikey.
* To onside, or not to onside? That was the question for Coach Tomlin, though judging by the reaction of some, including the commentators on television, many find it incomprehensible to even consider trying an onsides kick up by 2 late in the 4th quarter. All I know is that his decision worked out. I imagine the thought process was this:
Best case scenario:we recover the onsides kick that they surely won't be expecting.
Worst case scenario:they recover the onsides kick and are already close to FG range. They either score quickly or are forced to attempt a long field goal. Regardless, because they don't have to travel a full field, we'll get the ball back with enough time for a final drive and our offense is absolutely humming all game.
It's not bad logic. It's gutsy decision making that happened to work out for the team. And it's also important to emphasize that the kick was perfect and the Steelers absolutely should have recovered it had Ike Taylor not gotten overly eager and touched the ball before it advanced the necessary 10 yards.
* It was beautiful seeing Heath Miller have a big day once again. Seems like when he's having a productive day, the Steelers offense is awfully hard to stop. Miller had 7 receptions for 118 yards and all but one of his receptions was for first down yardage.
* Hines Ward also had a monster game. #86 had 7 receptions as well. His were good for 126 yards. Ward had several remarkable and important catches, including a 54 yarder on a broken play where Ben found him sneak by his man by just enough room for him to squeeze the ball in to. I'm not sure about Ward's injury status at this point. Anybody have an update?
More from me soon.