Steelers: Rigors of short week give way to time off
Saturday, November 22, 2008
By Robert Dvorchak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Hines Ward calls it a "mini bye week."
After playing two games in roughly 100 hours, the Steelers can warm themselves over the course of a long, four-day weekend. That means relaxing, recharging and recovering before reporting back to work Tuesday.
"It's a well-needed bye week. We've got some guys pretty banged up. We're going to enjoy this mini little bye week," Ward said.
A couple of wins, no matter if there was a dearth of style points, can do a lot to ward off the chill and snow.
"I can't say enough about our team. We fought hard all year to this point. We still have a lot of room for improvement. We left a lot of plays out there on the field, but all in all, it's all about wins and losses. And we're 8-3 right now," Ward said.
Thursday night games are a challenge in a profession where just about everybody is nicked or dinged this time of year. But the payoff is a 10-day stretch to lick some wounds while the New England Patriots, the opponent in week 13, play Sunday in Miami.
"This is a point where you kind of enjoy the short week," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We got our work out of the way, and we can watch everyone else get their work in this weekend."
It's not unlike that scene in "Cool Hand Luke" after the road gang hustles and hurries to finish tarring a road with time to spare. When someone asks what to do next, Paul Newman's character sat back on his shovel and replied, "Nothing." Officially, the Steelers don't have a thing to do until Tuesday afternoon's practice.
For those so inclined to keep up with their Steelers fix over the weekend, there's plenty to sift through after the one-of-a-kind 11-10 win against the Chargers and the 27-10 win against the Bengals, who played without Chad Johnson. But then, try to imagine what Thanksgiving week will be like for those Cincinnati fans who sat through Thursday night's flurries with bags over their heads and no playoff possibilities to compensate for the long winter of their discontent.
For a team heading into the home stretch of its schedule with the second-best record in the AFC, the extra days of rest are most welcome. After the game in New England next Sunday, the Steelers have Dallas at home, play at Baltimore and Tennessee, then close at home against the Browns. Given that the Steelers were presented the toughest schedule in the NFL, having eight wins at this point is not a bad total. But leave it to players and coaches to conjure up their best imitations of Popeye, the spinach-eating tough guy who went through his cartoon existence singing, "I am what I am."
"We are not overevaluating at this point. We are just living week to week. We met this week's challenges, and we will take a break and prepare for the ones that lie ahead," Tomlin said. "As long as we continue to live in a tunnel like that, then it will continue to take care of itself. We are what we are."
There was no further word yesterday on the conditions of players hurt against the Bengals. Willie Parker re-injured his knee, defensive end Brett Keisel sprained his right knee, and Santonio Holmes had a concussion after a vicious hit by Chris Crocker. The Holmes hit brought to mind the warnings of what goes around comes around after Ward broke the jaw of linebacker Keith Rivers with a crushing block in the first encounter this season.
"He was out of it," Ward said of Holmes. "I was looking for the guy, [but] I could never get to him. But Santonio is a warrior. He'll be back. That's just the violence of the game. It was a clean hit. The guy read it, and he made a huge hit. That's why I preach to my guys, 'Hit them before they hit you.' You know they are going to hit you, so any opportunities you can get, you have to try to take your shots."
Going into the game, the Steelers had allowed 35 sacks. But Ben Roethlisberger wasn't tackled for any losses by the Bengals, who didn't get to him in their first clash either. The only turnover was the result of Limas Sweed inadvertently touching a punt, and it didn't end up costing any points.
Leading by 10 points, the Steelers put together an 11-play, 73-yard drive in the fourth quarter to wrap the game up and re-establish some personality. That drive came with Mewelde Moore carrying the workload with Parker on the bench.
"That was Steelers football," Tomlin said.
The defense made its mark after allowing the Bengals to take a 7-0 lead. In one long stretch in the middle of the game, the Bengals couldn't pick up a first down. They deferred receiving the ball after winning the coin toss, but they went three-and-out to open the second half.
"We know that first series when we're out there is going to set the tone for the second half. You just have to bow your back and stop them," said linebacker Larry Foote.
"They tried to run it right at us, and that's pretty hard to do. Up front, we stopped them," he added.
The defense was ranked tops in the league in rushing and passing yards allowed, and Cincinnati was held to 208 net yards on 58 plays.
"When we're getting off the field, we're doing a good job," said Lawrence Timmons.
And now they'll be off the field for a long, long weekend