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12-06-2010, 06:57 PM
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Deconstructing a key sequence in Steelers win
December 6th, 2010

With the Steelers badly in need of a big play late in a crucial AFC North game at Baltimore, everything seemed to come together for them –- just like at the end of a 2008 contest in Baltimore when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led them on a game-winning touchdown drive.

The Steelers did get some help from the Ravens and the elements near the end of the game, and here is how they pulled out their biggest win of the season.

-- Strong safety Troy Polamalu was actually run blitzing on the play in which he leveled Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco from the blind side and caused a fumble with just over three minutes left in the game.

“I was surprised they were passing in that situation,” Polamalu later said.

Small wonder why.

The Ravens, leading by four points at the time, had been fairly conservative on offense in the second half -- in large part because of how well their defense had played.

That is what made the call for a pass on second-and-five from the Ravens’ own 43-yard line such a curious one.

Even if the Ravens don’t pick up a first down after running the ball twice, they force the Steelers’ to use their last two timeouts and then probably pin the visitors deep in their own territory.

If the decision to pass proved to be a questionable one, the Ravens compounded their error by not accounting for Polamalu.

Polamalu had the presence of mind not only to sack Flacco but also knock the ball away from him.

“I think if I was an offensive coach and I had to pick one guy to let go Troy wouldn’t be that guy,” free safety Ryan Clark.

-- More fortune came the Steelers’ way after Polamalu drilled Flacco.

Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley happened to be the closest player to the loose ball. Unlike some many defensive players you see squander a sure turnover by not simply falling on the ball, Woodley proved to be both decisive and sure handed.

“There’s two things going through your mind. Do you fall on it or do you try to scoop and score?” Woodley said. “I said, ‘Well, I’m pretty good at scooping and scoring so let me go for it.’ ”

Woodley, mindful to protect the ball against players swiping it at from behind or the side, rumbled 19 yards to the Ravens’ 9-yard line.

“I want to let Woodley know that I did block for him,” Steelers inside linebacker Jams Farrior said with a grin. “That was his fault he didn’t score. He’s too slow.”

Woodley’s take on his most significant run as a Steeler?

“He blocked the wrong guy,” Woodley said of Farrior. “He blocked a tackle instead of a tight end.”

-- Even after Isaac Redman willed his way into the end zone on a 9-yard catch and run, the Steelers had to make one more stop – something they couldn’t do in Baltimore last season after Dennis Dixon’s 24-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter staked them to a three-point lead.

The Ravens mounted a drive but fortune and a timely play prevented Billy Cundiff from trying a field goal that would have sent the game into overtime.

The winds blowing in from the south end of the field at M&T Bank Stadium were so strong that coach John Harbaugh did not feel comfortable with Cundiff attempting a 49-yard field goal.

On fourth and 2, the Steelers got enough pressure on Flacco that he one-hopped a pass in front of tight end Ed Dickson.

“I was in his face but I didn’t get my hand on it,” Farrior said of Flacco’s final pass Sunday night. “I’d like to think that I caused him to throw it in the dirt but probably not. I think he just made a bad throw.”

The details did not matter in the Steelers’ victories locker room afterward.

And it sure felt like they had exorcized any lingering demons from the previous season when the defense could not protect fourth-quarter leads in five losses.