View Full Version : December Declaration

12-06-2011, 10:57 AM
Steelers make December declaration
December, 4, 2011
Dec 4

By Jamison Hensley

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers might not be the AFC's top-ranked team in everyone's power rankings.
They might not capture the conference's No. 1 seed. They might not win the AFC North either.

But Pittsburgh's 35-7 dismantling of the Cincinnati Bengals delivered Sunday's boldest December declaration: The Steelers are the most complete team in the AFC. With all due respect to the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers played a more accomplished team Sunday and played a more thorough game.
The Steelers' offense finished off drives. They were 4-for-4 in the red zone.
Their defense finished off Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton with an increased pass rush. They stopped Cincinnati on nine of 11 third downs.
And Pittsburgh's special teams finished off a playoff contender in convincing fashion. A blocked field goal, a forced fumble on kickoff coverage and a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown by Antonio Brown made the new Bengals look like the old Bungles.

After Cincinnati's mistake-filled opening drive, Pittsburgh never gave the Bengals any hope of winning. The performance was equally methodical and menacing. The Steelers didn't just take away the Bengals' aspiration of winning the division. They took away Cincinnati's will. How bad was it? The Bengals pulled Dalton, a rookie of the year candidate, with 12:47 left in the game.
It's not a coincidence that the Steelers put together their best effort when the NFL calendar turned to December. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked to his teammates before the game and emphasized urgency in all three phases of the game. "There’s no more times for letdowns and would’ves, could’ves and should’ves," Roethlisberger told reporters after the game. "It’s time to start playing our best football. I hope that’s this is a good start for it."

If there's any doubt of which AFC team is hitting its stride, take a look at how Baltimore, New England and Houston began December. The Ravens can make a solid argument for being the AFC's best team after sweeping the Steelers and beating the San Francisco 49ers. But their effort Sunday was as sloppy at times as the rainy weather in an ugly 24-10 win at Cleveland.

The Patriots nearly had a monumental collapse and had to sweat out an onside kick in a 31-24 win over the winless Colts. And the Texans seem to get weaker even in victory, losing wide receiver Andre Johnson in a 17-10 win over Atlanta.
The one AFC team that has proven it can beat another with offense, defense or special teams is Pittsburgh. The Ravens and Texans can't match the depth of the Steelers' playmakers in Brown, Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders. The Patriots can't match the Steelers' talent on defense from James Harrison to Troy Polamalu to Ike Taylor to LaMarr Woodley (who could be available Thursday night after tweaking his hamstring). And few teams could match what the Steelers did on special teams Sunday. "That’s what we’re going to have to do if we want to be a championship caliber team," Brown said. "We have to be able to work well in all three phases."

The Steelers' biggest hurdle to advancing to another Super Bowl is their playoff destination. Because Pittsburgh was swept by Baltimore, the Steelers are looking at being a wild-card team, which means playing on the road in the postseason.
The Ravens' final four games are: home against Indianapolis, at San Diego, home against Cleveland and at Cincinnati. If Baltimore doesn't lose -- which is a distinct possibility -- the Steelers could win out and have to play a first-round game at Denver or Houston or New England or even Baltimore.

No one wants to face the Ravens in Baltimore because they are the AFC's most dangerous team at home. But my guess is no one wants to see the Steelers coming to their stadium in January either. "For us, it’s taking care of what we can control," Roethlisberger said of the playoff picture. "That means getting out there every week and giving our best. That’s kind of what we gave them today."
When Pittsburgh is playing at its best on offense, the Steelers are getting the ball to their speedy wide receivers who make cuts that are seen only on video games. Roethlisberger doesn't have to test that fractured right thumb with deep throws. His short one across the middle to Brown turned into a 45-yard gain and his quick one to Wallace turned into a 19-yard touchdown (after he made a handful of Bengals miss tackles).

When Pittsburgh is playing at its best on defense, the Steelers are pressuring the quarterback and creating turnovers. Pittsburgh went with a more aggressive game plan against Dalton. The result: five quarterback hits along with cornerback Ike Taylor picking off a fourth-quarter pass in front of receiver A.J. Green. After forcing an NFL-low four turnovers in its first nine games, the Steelers' defense has forced seven turnovers in three straight wins. "We’re taking strides in the right direction," wide receiver Hines Ward said.

Does that mean this team is hitting its stride?

"I think so," Ward said. "We’re playing with a lot of confidence."
No AFC North team has had a more interesting journey than the Steelers. Pittsburgh looked like the NFL's worst team in the season-opening loss at Baltimore. Now, the Steelers have proven themselves to be one of the league's best. "I feel like if we play well in all three phases, we’re going to be a tough team to beat coming down the stretch here," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "That’s what it takes -- getting rolling at the right time."


12-06-2011, 11:13 AM
The team seemed pretty pumped up Sunday, if they keep that momentum/intensity then we can win it all, even through a wild card. I agree though that playing IN baltimore would be really tough, Im not worried too much about the ravens if they have to come to Pittsburgh but if we have to go there I will be nervous. I think we can beat the pats again and I really am not worried about the Texans or whoever comes out of the west. I hope the team plays like this the rest of the season and doesn't let up, playing like that, nobody can stop us, NO BODY.

tony hipchest
12-06-2011, 07:25 PM
i cant believe so many suckers are still sold on baltimore. they havent got the fortitude to beat a good team in the AFCC game, let alone follow that up with another win in the SB.

Atlanta Dan
12-06-2011, 07:50 PM
i cant believe so many suckers are still sold on baltimore. they havent got the fortitude to beat a good team in the AFCC game, let alone follow that up with another win in the SB.

Yep - Harbaugh is a punk - keep it down until you win something

I might even root for the Pats if they play the Ravens - until this season I would have thought that was impossible but the 2 Gatorade baths after the regular season wins over the Steelers and 49ers have sent me over the edge in my loathing of Baltimore

Ravens could not keep up with Green Bay - only AFC team with a puncher's chance to match points with the Packers and have a shot at slowing down Rodgers would be the Steelers

12-06-2011, 07:50 PM
i cant believe so many suckers are still sold on baltimore. they havent got the fortitude to beat a good team in the AFCC game, let alone follow that up with another win in the SB.

Tell that to the talkin heads on all the sports channels

12-06-2011, 08:21 PM
So long as there's no declaration to unleash hell in December, I'm down with it.

As for Baltimore, they were built to beat us, and they've done it twice now, so I don't think we should take them lightly. The down side for them is that beating other teams is a bit less certain. Still, I like our chances against them in the playoff a lot more than during the regular season. These Steelers know how to win in December... and February.

12-06-2011, 08:28 PM
I'm guilty of assuming the Packers will be in the SB but there is an equal chance of them getting knocked off by New Orleans or even someone that came out of nowhere

Also - no one takes "nerves" into account and there would be more pressure on them to defend/repeat than the challenger to win.

You are absolutely right. No one has the defense capable of slowing down the Packers, except, the Steelers. AND - we have the type of offense that is capable of sustaining a long drive, keeping the likes of Rodgers on the sideline.

Our offense is 1 year more experienced and their defense is probably worst as far as giving up yards/points

That said, we got a lot of our own business to take care of first.

Nothing is impossible :)

12-06-2011, 11:55 PM
I'm not completely sold on our special teams

Our return units have actually been very good, and Kapinos has actually been an upgrade over Sepulveda, but FG kicking could be a weakness in the playoffs where we won't be able to afford to leave points on the field. And even though it was a 50 yard FG into the open end of the stadium, I can't help but feel that miss against the Bengals was a foreshadowing of misses to come. If we didn't have such a commanding lead I would have rather seen them punt in that situation, I simply don't have that much faith in Suisham.

12-07-2011, 02:11 AM
The Ravens will lose to The Chargers in SD. Philip Rivers has begun to come on and really wants to win and it is a long trip to the west coast.

Don't worry, sharkweek, we will simply keep getting TD's instead. I wouldn't be surprised if the next long FG attempt is actually a fake with a first down.