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mesaSteeler
10-26-2009, 02:53 AM
Steelers' defensive scores make up for mistakes
Monday, October 26, 2009
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09299/1008375-87.stm

Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley picks up a loose ball in front of Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the fourth quarter. Woodley ran the ball back for a touchdown.


Funny thing is Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley actually thought he would escape ridicule from his teammates yesterday after toting the football 77 yards in what seemed like 2 1/2 minutes to score the most unlikely defensive touchdown we've seen around here since, well, Super Bowl Sunday.

Wrong.

"We don't have any Adrian Petersons on our defense. We're not going to make 11 guys miss when we run one back. We have to block for each other," safety Ryan Clark said.

"Being that LaMarr weighs 370 pounds, he needed a little more help to get to the end zone."

Ouch.

I mean, really, Woodley can't weigh a pound over 300.

"Did he really say that?" Woodley asked, rolling his eyes.

Hey, it could have been a lot worse on a day the Steelers made it clear they're still very much of a mind to defend their Super Bowl title with vigor by toppling the previously unbeaten Minnesota Vikings, 27-17, for their fourth consecutive win.

"I was just thinking, 'Legs, get me there,' " Woodley said. "At one point, I looked to my left and saw an offensive lineman coming. I'm thinking, 'I can't let this guy catch me or I'll never hear the end of it.' I didn't want to be embarrassed watching it on film."

Of course, none of the Vikings caught Woodley after he scooped up a fourth-quarter fumble by quarterback Brett Favre, who was stripped of the ball on a marvelous effort by defensive end Brett Keisel. Just when it seemed the Vikings were going to tie the game or take the lead, the Steelers took command, 20-10.

The Vikings also couldn't catch linebacker Keyaron Fox late in the game after he intercepted a Favre pass and returned it 82 yards for the most unlikely defensive touchdown we've seen around here since, well, Woodley's return about 15 minutes earlier. Just when it seemed the Vikings were going to tie the game or take the lead, the Steelers scored the clinching touchdown.

"My first thought was to get down and let our offense run out the clock," Fox said. "Then I thought, 'I can't turn down this opportunity to be a hero.' I took full advantage of that ...

"I think Ziggy [Hood] was the first guy to get to me in the end zone. We just kind of looked at each other and it was like, 'Yep, that'll do it.' "

Sure did.

The two splash plays by the defense -- the first time the Steelers scored two defensive touchdowns in a game in almost 11 years -- were enough to cover a plethora of Steelers' mistakes, including four -- count 'em, four -- offsides penalties on that very same defense. Nose tackle Casey Hampton must have had an exceptionally big breakfast. How else do you explain the Big Snack's big belly edging into the neutral zone three times?

But those penalties weren't as costly as the pass interference call on tight end Heath Miller that wiped out a first-quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Santonio Holmes. They also weren't as hurtful as running back Rashard Mendenhall's fumble at the Vikings' 4 in the fourth quarter and the 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by the Vikings' Percy Harvin midway through the final quarter. That's two such kickoff returns in two games against the Steelers, if you're counting, which coach Mike Tomlin certainly is. "We better fix it and fix it in a hurry," he growled.

Clearly, the Steelers' defense won this game, doing an admirable job against the great Favre and Peterson, an All-Pro running back. The defense probably didn't need the second-quarter help from the Vikings' coaches, but the fellows weren't about to turn it down. After Peterson was stopped for no gain on first-and-goal from the Steelers 1 by Fox, Favre threw two incompletions, forcing the Vikings to settle for a field goal.

"You have the best running back in the world and you don't run it. You throw the ball," an appreciative Clark said. "That shows respect for our front seven."

"Maybe they showed too much respect for us," linebacker James Farrior said, grinning.

Regardless, it felt mighty good to a Steelers defense that was bashed by so many of us after blowing late leads in losses to the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals. You probably won't be surprised to know that Clark wasn't shy about mentioning that.

"We were written off so fast, so early. Guys forgot who we were as a defense, who we are as a defense. It's the same guys, the same competitors."

This stand -- considering the caliber of competition -- was one of the defense's better ones. It's especially noteworthy because it came without terrific defensive end Aaron Smith (season-ending shoulder injury) and, late in the game, without his backup, Travis Kirschke (calf) and linebacker Lawrence Timmons (ankle). Nick Eason and Hood took over for Kirschke, Fox for Timmons.

"I hope I didn't let anybody down," Fox said. "Just let the standard be the standard."

Fox upheld it and then some.

No wonder Tomlin greeted him on his way to the locker room with a big smile, a firm handshake and a hearty pat on the back.

"Way to answer the bell," the coach told Fox.

On this day, everybody on the defense did.

Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com. More articles by this author
First published on October 26, 2009 at 12:00 am

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