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10-31-2011, 06:09 AM
Steelers Report Card: Game 8 vs. Patriots
Steelers 25, Patriots 17
Monday, October 31, 2011
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Ben Roethlisberger picked apart the league's lowest-ranked pass defense, passing for 365 yards and two touchdowns. What's more, he piled up 29 first downs and converted 10 of 16 third downs. Roethlisberger completed 23 of 32 passes for 231 yards in the first half, putting the Steelers in possession for more than 21 minutes. His only gaffe was an interception that set up the Patriots' first TD.


Rashard Mendenhall had 49 of his 70 yards in the second half, including 25 yards on four carries on a 14-play drive that resulted in a third-quarter field goal and 20-10 lead. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry and also caught three passes for 22 yards. Mewelde Moore added 16 yards with one carry near the end of the first half, but he made a nice catch on a 5-yard TD that gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead.


Nine receivers caught passes, headed by WR Antonio Brown, who had a career-high nine for 67 yards and a 7-yard touchdown. TE Heath Miller had seven catches for 85 yards, six on the first two series when the Steelers exploited blitzes by LB Brandon Spikes. Mike Wallace had five of his seven receptions in the first half and Emmanuel Sanders had a big 17-yarder on third-and-15 to keep alive a FG drive.


Roethlisberger was sacked five times, including twice on what should have been the final possession; most of the sacks came after holding the ball too long or stepping into pressure. The biggest came on third-and-goal at the Patriots 9, forcing the Steelers to settle for a field goal. The Steelers rushed for 98 yards on 23 carries, a 4.3-yard average, including 53 yards in the second half.


The Patriots had been averaging 124 yards rushing per game, but they finished with just 43 yards on 12 carries and never had a run longer than 9 yards. Of course, it didn't help that they got behind 10-0 and had just 50 offensive plays. DE Brett Keisel had a batted pass, but his biggest play was when he lined up on the left side and caused a strip-sack that resulted in a safety to secure the victory.


Already playing without two starters, the Steelers lost a third when LaMarr Woodley went out in the third quarter (hamstring) after getting two big sacks. It has been a dominating tear for Woodley, who has 7 1/2 sacks in the past four games without injured James Harrison. But rookie OLB Chris Carter's neutral-zone penalty on third-and-2 at the Steelers 7 kept alive the Patriots' final TD drive.


The league's No. 1 pass defense held AFC passing leader Tom Brady to 8 of 13 in the first half and 198 yards total, his lowest of the season by 91 yards. CB Ike Taylor was fabulous again, holding NFL receiving leader Wes Welker to six catches for 39 yards and even following him into the slot on third down. Ryan Clark had several big pass breakups but took an unnecessary helmet-to-helmet penalty on an out-of-bounds hit.


You know it's a good day when P Daniel Sepulveda was not needed until just 19 seconds remained in the game. The coverage units were outstanding again, holding the Patriots to an average of 18.5 yards on four kickoff returns. But Shaun Suisham, who kicked three field goals, missed a 44-yard attempt with 6:03 remaining that could have given the Patriots a chance to win with two late TDs.


Give all the credit to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who repeatedly crossed-up the Patriots by throwing out of a three-tight end, run formation and running out of multiple-receiver formation in the first half. That allowed Roethlisberger to keep the Patriots off balance and possess the ball for nearly 40 minutes. And Dick LeBeau's defense held Brady and the Patriots to their lowest season totals.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11304/1186424-66-0.stm#ixzz1cMAdNmR0