Steelers: Is Luck the Residue of Design?

No, it wasn't luck that caused the Pittsburgh Steelers to make the plays needed to win in Buffalo yesterday.

No, it can't be considered lucky once again win when being once again targeted by the men in the striped shirts.

But...lest there be any doubt that there are no road gimmes in the NFL, consider the three road wins of the Pittsburgh Steelers since Ben Roethlisberger resumed his duties under center:
*Steelers come from behind to beat the Dolphins by a point on their final possession with the assistance of a fortuitious call on the field and subsequent replay interpretation
*Steelers fritter away a 20-point, 4th quarter lead in Cincinnati, highlighted by the Bengals 50-yard TD drive in which they gained one non-penalty yard. Steelers make a stand at their own 12-yard line in the final minute to beat the hapless Bengals
*Steelers survive certain death in Ralph Wilson Stadium, first needing to punt from inside thier own 1-yard line in overtime, then benefitting from a clean drop of a touchdown pass by Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson

Still, while the joy of some is tempered by yesterday's win in Western New York, I exult in the victory. Simply put, there's no road gimmes in the NFL, and escaping Ralph Wilson Stadium with another addition to the "W" column sure as hell beats losing, and puts the Steelers in great shape for a playoff spot.

For my money, here's yesterdays's game balls:
*To Ben Roethlisberger for his effort in running for a first-down on 3rd & 17, on the Steelers go-ahead drive in the 4th quarter. Steelers had ceded their lead and needed something to happen offensively in that spot. Ben's coach has previously described him as a "ridiculous competitor," and it showed right there.
*To Isaac Redman, who made the most of this 5 carries, converting first downs all four times he was called upon in short-yardage situations, three times in the game-winning drive.
*Rashard Mendenhall, who excels in gaining every bit of yardage available to him, and tied Jerome Bettis for 4th on the all-time Steelers list with 36 carries in a single game, exceeded by only Willie Parker & Amos Zeroue (37 carries...both also in overtime) and Franco Harris (41 carries).
*Hines Ward for showing he's still got game, when some, self-included, are ready to write him off
*James Harrison, for continuing to play the game in the manner in which he was taught as a boy. I can tolerate little no-nothing geeks like Mike Greenburg decrying Harrison's play. It's when football people spew bullshit of which they should know better that makes me insane.
*Defense generally.  They twice in overtime shut the door when ceding one more first down puts the Bills in field goal range.
*Shaun Suisham, perfect under pressure in this first field goal attempts as a Pittsburgh Steeler.

Count me in among those who felt as though the performance of the offensive line yesterday wasn't awful. The Steelers moved the ball on the ground, it wasn't exactly a jailbreak on passing downs, and if only the holds against James Harrison were called as tightly as the four violations on Chris Kemoeatu yesterday. Granted, Kemo had a tough day at the office yesterday, and Jonathan Scott struggled as well. And yes, there work will be cut out for them next week against the front of the Baltimore Ravens.

Barring a collapse of epic proportions, these Pittsburgh Steelers will qualify for the NFL's post-season tourney. With three of their remaining five games at home, with three of their remaming five games against teams with a combined won-lost record of 7-26, three wins and a record of 11-5 will qualify for a wild-card entry. A 10-6 record might do it as well, but the Steelers would need some things to break their way, things in the form of another couple Kansas City or San Diego losses, another couple Indianapolis or Jacksonville losses, that certainly could happen. Each pair of these teams has a game remaining against each other.

Should the Steelers beat Baltimore next week, the path will be clear for a run at a first-round bye, which by virtue of last night's Indy loss, would accrue to the Steelers even if they stumble against the New York Jets on December 19th (or Carolina at home....but please). So long as the Steelers don't drop a division game, they'll hold the tiebreaker vs. Baltimore, and quite possibly would also win out if the AFC North crown comes down to the Strength of Victory tiebreaker. The Steelers currently lead in this derby.

Could the Steelers qualify as the AFC's #1 seed? Sure, by winning out, having the Jets win in Foxboro next Monday night, then not lose any ground to New England in the three remaining games on their schedule not filled by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Could be quite the prime-time weekend coming up, Steelers-Ravens Sunday night followed by Jets-Pats on Monday. Here's hoping for a repeat of 2001 in whch they went into Baltimore on Sunday night, December 16th, after losing to the Ravens in Pittsburgh in the wake of mulitple missed field goals, and came away with a victory and a Division Championship.

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