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mesaSteeler
12-14-2010, 06:18 AM
Shades of 2008: Pittsburgh's defense carrying the day
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/print_713607.html
By Scott Brown
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A four-game winning streak has the Steelers on track to win the AFC North and secure the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.

Since an embarrassing loss to the New England Patriots on national TV, the Steelers have won with a nasty, opportunistic defense while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has made enough plays for them to get by on offense.

That is similar to the formula they used in 2008 to win a seventh Lombardi Trophy.

Not that Ryan Clark is willing to go there just yet.

"I can't make those parallels," the Steelers' starting free safety said. "Two totally different teams."

The two teams are more alike than they are different. And with all due respect to Clark, there are many parallels between the squads.

They range from the good (punishing defense and pulling out an unlikely win at Baltimore), the bad (the Steelers winning in spite of their injury-riddled offensive line) and even the unfortunate (having to replace punter Daniel Sepulveda because of a torn ACL).

What would really help the Steelers, assuming they don't stumble while playing three teams with a combined record of 15-34: Circumstances falling into place just as they did during the 2008 postseason.

The Steelers did not have to make a return trip to Nashville after the top-seeded Titans, who had embarrassed them when the teams played in late December, were upset in the playoffs by the Ravens.

The Steelers may need a similar shakeup this season.

The Patriots are almost a lock to nail down the top seed in the AFC playoffs, and coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are proving to be as unbeatable a combination as peanut butter and jelly.

Brady is 6-1 lifetime against the Steelers, and it's hard to imagine them beating the best quarterback of his generation if they have to do it in Foxboro, Mass.

It is, of course, as premature to look ahead to the AFC title game as it is to anoint New England as Super Bowl champions.

The Patriots are the hottest team in the NFL right now, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will be the best one by the end of the season.

There are no guarantees for the Steelers, either -- no matter how well things are falling into place for them.

"When you start looking ahead, that's when teams beat you," Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. "We just have to focus on what's in front of us."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.