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mesaSteeler
12-25-2010, 12:42 AM
Steelers vow to correct their mistakes
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/print_715322.html
By Kevin Gorman
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Steelers are home for the holidays, but they aren't about to spread the Christmas cheer after a 27-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers that was dominant yet disappointing.

The offense accounted for 408 yards and three touchdowns but left the locker room knowing its ineffectiveness in the red zone leaves room for improvement. The defense forced an interception and four sacks including one on a fourth-and-5 at their own 32 but dwelled on missing tackles early and allowing a field goal late that prevented a shutout.

"We haven't put together a complete game yet," outside linebacker James Harrison said. "That's something we really need to start working on as we roll towards January football. We kind of hold ourselves to a high standard. If we don't play the way we expect ourselves to play, then it's disappointing whether it's a win or a loss."

One thing that helped the Steelers' spirits is that, at 11-4, they are one game closer to clinching the AFC North title and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. If Cleveland beats Baltimore at home Sunday, the Steelers will win the division. If not, the Steelers need to win the Jan. 2 finale at Cleveland.

Just don't expect the black and gold to root for the Browns.

"I don't root for anybody," free safety Ryan Clark said. "The positive thing is, I'm rooting for the Steelers. We've got a chance to do this thing ourselves. We don't have to count on any people. We don't have to worry about other people. If we go out and win in Cleveland next week, we're in.

"That's the fun way to do it."

The Steelers had a blast in beating Carolina (2-13), considering Ben Roethlisberger completed 22 of 32 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown for a 111.5 passer rating. He connected with eight receivers, finding five for gains of 18 yards or longer, as Mike Wallace had a 43-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown and Emanuel Sanders set up another score with a 35-yarder.

But it was in short yardage where the Steelers struggled, especially inside the Panthers' 20. The Steelers were 2 of 6 in the red zone (33 percent), scoring both times on 1-yard runs - and the second took three tries after a pass interference penalty gave them the ball at the 1.

The Steelers gained 14 yards on 11 pass plays and 8 yards on eight run plays in the red zone. Rashard Mendenhall had a 5-yard loss on one series, which resulted in a field goal, and was stopped twice for no gain on another.

"We've got to do better than that; we've got to find a way to get seven on the board instead of three," said Mendenhall, who finished with 65 rushing yards on 18 carries and a touchdown after picking up 35 yards on his first attempt. "We're trying to come back and improve on that. With the red zone, the field is shrunk. We've got to execute better to get into the end zone. We'll figure it out, but as long as we're winning we'll be cool."

What bothered the defense was how Carolina moved the ball so effectively in the game's opening drive. The Panthers marched 42 yards on 11 plays before stalling at the Steelers' 32 and were running the ball effectively before abandoning it once they had a double-digit deficit.

Never mind that Carolina finished with 119 yards total offense, scoring only a John Kasay 27-yard field goal on a drive that started at the Steelers' 23.

"We came out there real sluggish," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "We missed a lot of tackles, and that's uncharacteristic of us. That's unacceptable by our standards. That's what makes us so good. Even when we hold a team to 100-and-whatever yards they had and three points, we're still upset. That just speaks to how good we can be if we have everybody on point."

With the weekend off, the Steelers can take comfort that they have positioned themselves for the playoffs while knowing exactly what they have to work on next week before the season finale.

"It wasn't our best game, but I'm glad we got the 'W,' " center Maurkice Pouncey said. "We've got to fix a few things to go into Cleveland and try to beat them."

Kevin Gorman can be reached at kgorman@tribweb.com or 412-320-7812.