Admit the envy. But give credit where credit is due...
Steelers own game through ingrained domination
Team plays hard but puts the egos aside
By Patrick McManamon
Beacon Journal sports columnist
Published on Monday, Jan 12, 2009
PITTSBURGH: As far as 11-point games go, this NFL playoff victory was rather one-sided.
The Pittsburgh Steelers took the best that San Diego had to offer on the Chargers' first drive, then gave the Chargers all they could handle the rest of the afternoon.
That wastes words.
The Steelers dominated.
Dominated from the point it was 7-0 San Diego until the end of the game, when it was 35-24 Pittsburgh — and it would have been worse had Pittsburgh not left one on the field when it was stopped inside the 1.
Yes, San Diego scored a late touchdown on a very nice pass to Darren Sproles, but that was way too little way too late.
The Steelers owned this one, and won with their particular brand of football. Which is to say they ran the ball, stopped the run, pressured the passer and came up with winning plays — all the more impressive that it all came in a playoff game and a playoff year when visiting teams have been winning.
Not in Pittsburgh.
''You can't coach what we've got,'' Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said.
You can't because it's ingrained, because it's the culture of football built and maintained by the Rooneys.
But you can coach it because the Steelers are winning with Mike Tomlin just like they did with Bill Cowher.
As Tomlin said: ''I think we played our kind of football today.''
Statistics are for losers, but there is one stat that sums up this
AFC Divisional game.
San Diego had the ball for 17 seconds in the fourth quarter.
Long enough for Darren Sproles to break a punt return and Philip Rivers to throw a slant that was tipped and intercepted by the Steelers.
It probably takes longer to put on deodorant in the morning.
So many things take longer to do than 17 seconds that it's near impossible to fathom a football team having the ball for just 17 seconds in one 15-minute period.
''I've never had that in one quarter now,'' said linebacker James Harrison.
How many have?
But that's what the Steelers do.
They do big things like dominate a quarter, but in doing that they do little things that result in wins.
Hines Ward breaks a tackle and gets extra yardage before being hit out of bounds, resulting in more yardage.
Lamarr Woodley shakes off a block and gets a key sack to put the Chargers back against their goal line.
Santonio Holmes takes a rocket kick from Mike Scifres and returns it for a touchdown. Scifres was a hero in the wild card round against Indianapolis. Holmes turned the hero on his ear in the first quarter in Pittsburgh.
Finally, Willie Parker bounces a fourth-quarter run around right end and scampers 27 yards, putting him over 100 for the day. A few plays later he scampers 16 yards around the same end for the fifth Steelers touchdown.
Parker's rushing total: 146 yards.
San Diego's team rushing total: 15 yards.
Pittsburgh's rushing in the second half: 28 carries, 107 yards.
San Diego's second-half rushing: zero carries, zero yards.
Any wonder Pittsburgh wins?
''We're grounded,'' said Harrison, who has made the trek from Kent State to undrafted to Defensive Player of the Year to one game from a chance to win a ring.
Yet he shrugs. ''I don't look back, I don't look forward,'' he said.
The Steelers epitomize team. They epitomize football the way it should be played. They play hard, they play physical, they play mean and they win.
Yet they put the egos aside.
Like it or not, that's the way it is.
''You can have an ego here if you want,'' Harrison said. ''You just better keep it to yourself.''
The locker room is not divided by position. Ward dresses next to defensive linemen. Ben Roethlisberger stopped on his way out the door to congratulate Holmes.
It's easy to say that after a win, of course, but the Steelers have been winning for years, which gives the statements validity.
The temptation exists at every Steelers game to bring up the Browns and how far they and new coach Eric Mangini have to go. Especially because the Steelers will face the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game this weekend.
Two AFC North teams — the best in the AFC.
Either this means the gulf is wide between those teams and Cleveland, or it means Cleveland's record is more understandable because the Browns played those two teams twice.
Does it really matter?
The reality is this: Merely discussing that question does not do justice to a good, sound, hard-nosed football team.
Hate them because they play in Pittsburgh if you like, but that's the reality.
And it's not going to change because they are the Steelers. In fact, it's more likely to stay that way for a few more years — because they are the Steelers.
Patrick McManamon can be reached at email@example.com
. Read his blog at http://www.ohiomm.com/blogs/mcmanamon/