When it comes to the Steelers, I've always been a glass half-full kind of guy. I fret about all the same things that most Steeler fans do, but I also try to look at things that most don't to draw either positives or negatives from. In the first quarter of the game, I was drawing a lot of negative things.
The first pass play that Haley called for Ben was a waggle play action off of an inside zone fake. The Steelers used to run this play to Hines Ward a ton. Bring Hines in motion as if he was going to block the backside edge, and then sneak him out into the flat. If you remember, this was the first play the Steelers ran against Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII.
Now, the Steelers run the play for Will Johnson, and I'd love to see them run it more. Johnson is a great athlete, and the play is never defended. It wasn't defended by the Browns either. Johnson was open in the flat. But Ben didn't throw it. You could see from his body language that he was not confident, and he didn't pull the trigger. You could pretty much say that about Ben for the entire first half. Credit Haley for calling a safe pass to start the game, but Ben still looked uncomfortable.
This had me worried. Of all the things ou could criticize Ben for being, scared is not one of them. You can't play quarterback in the NFL scared. What I mean by that is this: you have to be willing to throw the ball in tight windows. It drives me mad listening to "analysts" when they criticize some throws. They say it was a poor decision. The wide receiver was covered. The quarterback should've never made that throw.
The Ben Rothlisberger that we know and need reappeared on that throw. It was the Ben Rotlisberger that threw a 59 yard completion to Antonio Brown on a 3rd and 19 against the Ravens in the playoffs. It was the Ben Rothlisberger that threw a second quarter touchdown pass to Hines Ward, who was covered, in the AFC championship game against Denver. And, of course, we all know that Arizona had pretty good coverage against Santonio Holmes in Super Bowl XLIII.
The touchdown pass to Plax was in the tiniest of windows. Ben had to fit the ball between Haden and the linebacker who was dropping into that seam. That's why the ball was a little behind Burress; to keep it behind the linebacker.
I also loved the call. I thought for sure the Steelers were going to run the ball. Make Cleveland call a timeout, kick the field goal, and go up by two scores. But Haley and Ben decided to close out the game then and there.
They say in baseball that momentum is only as good as the next game's starting pitcher. That same logic can also be applied to football. We all know that the 2013 Steelers will be completely different from this team. Maybe a future Hall of Famer will be picked at 11 during this spring's draft. I say to Hell with all of that.
Mike Tomlin once quipped that Ben is a gunslinger, and sometimes gunslingers get shot. Ben took a lot of shots during the latter part of 2012. But, he used the last game to return some fire. And if nobody else, I'll carry that momentum into the offseason.