Steelers: Lucky and Good
It was a pyrrhic victory, given the apparent season-ending injury to Aaron Smith, but that certainly beats a pyrrhic defeat. In this instance though, the Steelers were "better lucky than good" as they benefitted from an errant on-field referee's call combined with continuing uncertainty on the part of the zebras who simply couldn't determine who had recovered Ben Roethlisberger's fumble, one it was ruled a fumble. The question raised, though hopefully not seriously, is whether Washington, Pa. and referee Gene Steratore would have suffered a lawn strewn with garbage and possible moving signs had he awarded the fumble to the Dolphins.
After the Steelers were awarded life, some Steeler Nation haunts, still traumatized by the surrendering of 4th quarter leads last season and three weeks ago against Baltimore, were of the opinion that the Steelers should go for the touchdown on 4th down. It's true that a touchdown here would have forced the Dolphins to score a touchdown to win, and even a failure to score would have backed the Dolphins up to the 1, and left the Steelers with all three timeouts with which to get the ball back. Coach Mike Tomlin played it by the book though, took the sure points, the narrow lead, and turned the game over to his wounded defense, by that time missing a trio of starters.
There were a number of coaching decisions, some of which defied the chalk approach, other which did not, affecting games in the NFL today. While it created no buzz, I always think it a bit unusual, though consistent with not "chasing points' when a team scores a touchdown to trail by two points, and then kicks the extra point, leaving them with a one-point deficit. The Dolphins did just this following their lone TD of the game, and now one can't help but note that had they attempted a deuce, successfully, a Steeler field goal at the end merely ties the matter.
And what about Sporano calling his final timeout prior to the Steelers winning field goal attempt? Had he not done so, the Steelers could not have simply knelt three times to end the game. They would have needed to execute running plays, and likely would have kicked the ball back to Miami with about 30 tics remaining.
A few notables from today's South Beach tussle:
*Good thing Coach Tomlin has some patience. One certainly wandered if Manny (Colonel) Sanders would be called upon to return the 2nd Dolphins kickoff after fumbling away the first. Sanders rewarded his coach's confidence by returning one kickoff 37 yards, followed by a 53-yard TD to Mike Wallace, and then a kickoff back 48 yards following Miami's taking their only lead of the day, putting the Steelers in good position to begin their winning drive.
*Speaking of The Colonel, let's talk about Antwaan Randle El. El was targeted three times today, making one catch for 13 yards, and dropping a big 3rd down pass at the onset of the 4th quarter with the Steelers clinging to a 1-point lead. Dead-horse time: the major impact of the Steelers dealing Santonio Holmes for a bucket of mud is in the #3 wide slot. Colonel Sanders had one ball thrown his way, which he caught for an 18-yard gain. Here's hoping Sanders is installed as the #3 wide before too long. I won't even get into El's punt returning.
*Jason Worilds saw alot of action with mixed results, but when a rookie makes a play on 4th down with the game on the line, essentially clinching victory for his team, he's done awight.
*Give a game ball to Willie Gay. He may not have done a whole lot prior to the next to last defensive snap of the game, but he made a sure open field tackle on 3rd & 8 on the Fins final possession, keeping the clock moving and forcing the Dolphins to rush their 4th down attempt.
*Must note that Mewelde Moore, who had seen only 11 combined snaps in the last two games, saw more extensive action today, and while he didn't exactly demonstrate blazing speed, he did take a short pass 28 yards on the final drive, putting the Steelers in position to retake the lead.
Around the League: Today's probably not the day to whine, even a little bit, about no SBI (Steelers Best Interest) particularly if it involves complaints about officiating. I'll bitch anyway.
-Ravens over Bills: Ravens benefitted from two replay reversals on consecutive plays before halftime, and parlayed those calls into a touchdown. The first call reversed a Bills end-zone interception. The second awarded a completion to the Ravens on a key 3rd down, keeping their scoring drive alive. Then, in overtime, the Bills were driving when the Ravens were awarded a fumble recovery after forward progress had been stopped for about an hour-and-a-half. This was worsened considerably by the knuckle-headed Bills center incurring a personal foul for taking off his helmet and slamming it on the ground. Ravens were instantly in winning field goal range.
-Patriots over Chargers: Bill Belichick went against the book, going for the first down on 4th & 1 at midfield with a 3-point lead and 2 minutes remaining. He didn't make it, but he makes these calls all the time. Norv Turner goes by the book, and send out his FG team on 4th & 1 from the Pats 28, with about a minute left, trailing by 3. This ordinarily would be the right call, except that Turner's kicker is Kris Brown, the all-time choke artist. Maybe Turner never checked Brown's resume, thinking that no kicker could be worse with the game on the line than Nate Kaeding. Did any Steeler fan out there have any doubt that Brownie would miss this kick? Additionally, no surprise that the Chargers lead the league in offense and defense, but stand at 2-5. On consecutive possessions, Charger rookie receiver makes his first NFL catch, hit the ground, and ala Plaxico, circa Jacksonville 2000, places the ball on the ground, whereupon the Patriots recover. Then, Rivers throws a swing pass which falls to the ground and the intended receiver looks at the ball while a Patriot picks it up and returns in to the 8-yard line. Guess he didn't know that the swing pass was a lateral.
Going Forward: Steelers visit the Superdome on Halloween Night. Hopefully, the team masquerading as the New Orleans Saints will leave their costumes on.