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mesaSteeler
12-15-2008, 10:05 PM
Steelers racking up thrilling wins, more confidence
Dec. 14, 2008
By Clark Judge
CBSSports.com Senior Writer
http://www.sportsline.com/nfl/story/11172096
BALTIMORE -- I believe.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are not only the best team in the AFC; they may be the best team in football, and Sunday's come-from-behind 13-9 defeat of Baltimore convinced me.

It's not only that they pulled off another last-minute escape. It's that they pulled it off here ... in Baltimore ... against the league's second-ranked defense ... against Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis ... and they did it by driving 92 yards when they absolutely, positively had to and scoring the game's only touchdown.

So what's new? The Steelers overcame a 10-point deficit against Dallas last week to win in the last two minutes. They rallied to beat San Diego last month, driving 73 yards for a field goal with 11 seconds left. They caught Jacksonville in early October, too, when they marched 80 yards for the go-ahead score in the last two minutes.

But to do it against Baltimore, after the Ravens held them to two field goals in 12 drives ... well, call it astonishing, unpredictable or miraculous, it all adds up to the same thing: The Pittsburgh Steelers are the team to beat in the AFC.

I know, I know, Tennessee has a better record and won its first 10 games, but the Titans are beginning to wobble. What's more they have to win next week against -- wouldn't you know it? Pittsburgh -- to maintain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Once that wasn't a question. Now it is, and not because of what Tennessee isn't doing but because of what Pittsburgh is -- like knocking off opponent after opponent with poise, confidence and Ben Roethlisberger.

"When our backs are against the wall," coach Mike Tomlin said, "(the Steelers offense) delivered. Seven (Roethlisberger) delivered, as he's done time and time again.

"I think a lot has been said about our offensive struggles, particularly in the last several weeks. But one thing that is consistent is that when we need plays ... when we have to move the ball... we have."

'We hung together,' Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says after their latest comeback victory. (AP)

Nowhere was there a better example than the last three-and-half minutes of Sunday's victory. Taking over at the Pittsburgh 8, Roethlisberger played as he has played down the stretch so many times before -- with poise, confidence and control.

He hit 7-of-11 passes as he converted seven first downs, including the game winner on a 4-yard pass to Santonio Holmes.

That play demands attention because of what Roethlisberger did to make it happen when it seemed all was lost. He bought time with his feet -- rolling left, then stopping when he saw intended targets Hines Ward and Mewelde Moore covered and scrambling back to his right.

"I was about a half-second from throwing it away," he said.

But that's what makes Pittsburgh and its quarterback so special. He didn't throw it away. Just as he didn't throw it away when he hit Ward for a key first down against San Diego or against Jacksonville. Just when the play seemed to have broken down, he found a safety net. He found Holmes uncovered in the end zone.

"I was going to try to run it in," Roethlisberger said. "All of a sudden, a bunch of purple jerseys showed, and I scrambled back to the right ... because, you know, I hold on to the ball too long. And then the line came, cleaned everybody up and I saw (Holmes) and just got it to him. He made a heck of a play."

That's one way of putting it. The other is that good teams find ways to win, and the Pittsburgh Steelers always, always seem to find ways to win when it matters most.

"We hung together," Tomlin said. "And, hopefully, that's a signature of Steelers' football for '08. I know we've been in a bunch of these (games), and we've found a way to see our way out of some of them. Today was big for us."

Here's why: With a win next week and a defeat of Cleveland in the season finale the Steelers clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They already won their division, and they already clinched a bye for the playoffs. So now all that is left is to beat Tennessee.

Pardon me for saying this, but I'll stick with Pittsburgh.

The Steelers have the momentum. They have the league's best defense. They have Big Ben. And they have the experience of playoff-caliber games the past two weekends to push them onward and upward.

"Everything we played for this season is right in front of us," linebacker James Farrior said. "We've got to go out and get it."

That won't be easy, but it never is for Pittsburgh. The Steelers have won five straight road games, with three by four or fewer points. They won five straight overall, too, three by a touchdown or less -- and all in the last two minutes.

That tells you something about the Pittsburgh Steelers, and it tells you they're dangerous and peaking at just the right time. Tennessee, on the other hand, lost two of its last four and just subtracted Defensive Player of the Year candidate Albert Haynesworth.

"To me, there's no pressure," Roethlisberger said of the Steelers' next road test. "You go down to Tennessee it's not like we have to win. I mean, we want to win. But we don't have to. I think we can go play more relaxed and have fun, and I think it will be another great game."

So what's new? There have been great games galore this season for Pittsburgh, and the Steelers keep winning them. Sometimes it's in an unconventional way -- such as last weekend when Tony Romo delivered the victory with an interception -- and sometimes it's with prolonged drives against seemingly unbeatable odds.

I think you know what I'm talking about.

"We're a 60-minute ballclub," Ward said. "We don't worry about what happens in the first, second or third quarters. We stay together, and we believe in each other, point blank.

"We don't sit there and worry about what people outside the locker room say. We're a bunch of resilient guys. Regardless of the outcome we stay together and win games."

Precisely. Which is why I am on the Steelers' bandwagon.

BozMan
12-16-2008, 12:54 AM
I don't really like this statement from Ben:

"To me, there's no pressure," Roethlisberger said of the Steelers' next road test. "You go down to Tennessee it's not like we have to win. I mean, we want to win. But we don't have to. I think we can go play more relaxed and have fun, and I think it will be another great game."

They should ALWAYS approach ANY game with the mentality that they MUST win. If they start letting their foot off the pedal and mentally checking out, they could wind up like the 1996 Broncos or 2005 Colts.

Fire Haley
12-16-2008, 08:27 AM
I don't give a crap what the players say, but I've been forced to be heavily medicated in the second half just to survive watching these 'thrilling' wins.

It takes me days to sober up.

But I'm not complaining.

markymarc
12-16-2008, 08:37 AM
Great read and thanks for sharing Mesa. There are 4 reasons why I think we are a better team than last year:

1. We are peaking at the perfect time. Right now we are playing good football and you need to do that in December and January.
2. We are getting healthy at the right time. Last year injuries killed us. At this point we are only missing 2 starters (Keisel and Smith). I don't expect Smith to play again this year and Keisel should be ready in the next couple weeks.
3. The toughest schedule in the NFL has made us a better team mentally and physically. The past few games are going to make us a very scary team come playoff time. It also seems to have brought this team closer.
4. I really believe Mike Tomlin has grown big time in only his 2nd season. He has this team playing at a high level each week. He continues to motivate this team.

Fire Haley
12-16-2008, 09:49 AM
Don't forget we got the refs in our back pockets too....

TOUCHDOWN!

woo-hoo!

http://www.baltimoresun.com/media/photo/2008-12/43875923.jpg

stlrtruck
12-16-2008, 10:07 AM
I don't really like this statement from Ben:



They should ALWAYS approach ANY game with the mentality that they MUST win. If they start letting their foot off the pedal and mentally checking out, they could wind up like the 1996 Broncos or 2005 Colts.

I think what he's trying to say is that there's no pressure and they can play the game the way it's suppose to be played. I believe, at least I want to believe, that they want to win every game. But when there's no pressure to win, it makes the game easier to play and in that case - make plays and win!

But that's just my take on his comments.

stlrtruck
12-16-2008, 10:08 AM
Great read and thanks for sharing Mesa. There are 4 reasons why I think we are a better team than last year:

1. We are peaking at the perfect time. Right now we are playing good football and you need to do that in December and January and FEBRUARY.
2. We are getting healthy at the right time. Last year injuries killed us. At this point we are only missing 2 starters (Keisel and Smith). I don't expect Smith to play again this year and Keisel should be ready in the next couple weeks.
3. The toughest schedule in the NFL has made us a better team mentally and physically. The past few games are going to make us a very scary team come playoff time. It also seems to have brought this team closer.
4. I really believe Mike Tomlin has grown big time in only his 2nd season. He has this team playing at a high level each week. He continues to motivate this team.

fixed it for ya.

BozMan
12-16-2008, 10:16 AM
Great read and thanks for sharing Mesa. There are 4 reasons why I think we are a better team than last year:

1. We are peaking at the perfect time. Right now we are playing good football and you need to do that in December and January.
2. We are getting healthy at the right time. Last year injuries killed us. At this point we are only missing 2 starters (Keisel and Smith). I don't expect Smith to play again this year and Keisel should be ready in the next couple weeks.
3. The toughest schedule in the NFL has made us a better team mentally and physically. The past few games are going to make us a very scary team come playoff time. It also seems to have brought this team closer.
4. I really believe Mike Tomlin has grown big time in only his 2nd season. He has this team playing at a high level each week. He continues to motivate this team.

It's like we have already gone through a playoff bracket already. So the Steelers have a good rehearsal under their belts.