View Full Version : Steelers escape finale with health, hopes intact

12-31-2007, 06:29 AM
Steelers escape finale with health, hopes intact
By Mike Prisuta
Monday, December 31, 2007

The game meant so much to Mike Tomlin -- or, perhaps, Tomlin wanted his players to think it did -- that the Steelers' head coach could be spotted late Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium challenging a kickoff return that had been downed and running the sideline, gesturing "Steelers ball" after what he thought had been a fumble.

In neither instance did Tomlin get what he was looking for from the officials.

Assuming Max Starks' sprained knee won't prevent him from playing against Jacksonville in the playoffs Saturday night -- Tomlin initially said Starks "hopefully" would be "OK" -- the Steelers at least got what they needed from their regular-season finale against the Baltimore Ravens.

Their 27-21 setback included a little adversity, a little intensity and, hopefully, enough ebb and flow to maintain whatever edge the Steelers had regained Dec. 20 by beating St. Louis.
Getting away as healthy as possible was paramount, which explained why Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu didn't dress and Ben Roethlisberger never left the sideline.

Beyond that, Tomlin apparently wanted his team to compete no matter who was being asked to do the competing.

That was no small order, given the understanding that it was going to take Oakland beating San Diego for the Ravens' game to alter the Steelers' playoff position. The Raiders, of course, didn't.

"You might feel a little something at the beginning of the game where you think everybody knows this game doesn't mean anything," said cornerback Deshea Townsend, who started but was pulled early. "But as the game goes along, you see how professional, you see how pride sets in and guys realize you want to win and they start to do things right.

"That says a lot about the character of our team."

The character of Tomlin's Steelers is such that they nearly rallied from a 20-point, fourth-quarter deficit despite a persistent rain and nothing to gain.

Their preparation for the Ravens was such that defensive end Brett Keisel admitted afterward to still not knowing who No. 34 in purple was (for the record, it was running back Cory Ross; your intrepid columnist didn't know either prior to kickoff).

There will be no such lapses of information against Jacksonville.

And, for what it's worth, the Jaguars won't exactly come in on a roll, either.

Not after getting whipped, 42-28, by Houston.

Jacksonville rested seven starters, including quarterback David Garrard.

The Jaguars could have played everybody to the bitter end, as could the Steelers, and the outcome still wouldn't have mattered.

Not in the big picture.

"The year we were 15-1 everybody said we were steamrolling," linebacker Clark Haggans said. "We get to the AFC Championship Game, lose that and at the end of the year all we had to show for it was a T-shirt. We win the Super Bowl one year, we didn't even win our division, but we got some Super Bowl XL rings.

"The momentum we get is the momentum we're going to create out on the practice field on Wednesdays and Thursdays and Fridays. We need to transfer that to the game."

Nothing that happened in Baltimore, again, assuming Trai Essex isn't the left tackle, should prevent that from happening.

12-31-2007, 09:29 AM
That'sd a pretty decent read.