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|11-12-2007, 07:17 AM||#1|
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Steelers Notebook: Two-game lead in AFC North
Steelers Notebook: Two-game lead in AFC North
Monday, November 12, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Had Cleveland maintained its lead yesterday, the Browns and Steelers would have been tied atop the AFC North Division.
Instead, the Steelers are turning the race into a rout. They have, in essence, a three-game lead in the division. At 7-2, they are two games ahead of the second-place Browns, who are 5-4. The Steelers also hold the first tiebreaker with their two victories against the Browns.
The Ravens tumbled to third at 4-5 with their loss yesterday to Cincinnati, which brings up the rear at 3-6.
The Steelers are 4-0 in the division with games left at Baltimore and home against the Bengals.
"We like our chances where we're at and definitely where we're going," receiver Hines Ward said.
"It's just another step. We're moving in the right direction. We're undefeated in our division. We kind of separated ourselves from everybody else but there's still a lot of football left."
Said defensive end Brett Keisel, "We're 4-0 in our division, which is huge. We put ourselves in a good position to make a run for the playoffs. That's all we want, to get into the playoffs and let whatever happens there take its toll."
Browns nickel cornerback Daven Holly complained long and hard this week about a hit on him by Ward in the Steelers' 34-7 victory in the season opener at Cleveland.
Ward was fined $5,000 for the late hit, which left Holly with a concussion.
"The whistle blew and he hit me," Holly complained to the Akron Beacon-Journal last week. "It was a hit that came kind of late. It seems like he does that. Last week he did it twice. That's what he does, goes for guys' heads when they're not paying attention."
Apparently nothing came between Holly and Ward yesterday.
"No, no bad blood," Ward said. "I didn't even say much to him. That's part of football. If I really wanted to hurt somebody, there are other ways than that."
Fast Willie, slower feet
Willie Parker had a typical Willie Parker day, running for 105 yards on 25 carries in the victory against Cleveland, but he wasn't pleased.
Parker seemed to have problems with the worsening Heinz Field turf as the game went on. On several occasions, he fell down when there were opportunities for gains.
"I'm not getting my feet under me," Parker said. "I felt I could do a better job of that, and I take full responsibility for it.
"At this time of year, the turf is not as good and it's my job to slow down some and be careful. I need to go back and do the little things."
Parker has 873 yards in nine games so far this season. Yesterday, the Steelers kept trying to run the ball even when they were trailing, which Parker says is the very makeup of the team.
"When you get the identity of a smash-mouth football team you know you're going to stay with it [the running game]," he said.
The Steelers welcomed back Aaron Smith, who missed the past two games with a strained left knee ligament.
"It felt good," said Smith, who is in his ninth year out of Northern Colorado. "I was a little tentative early on, but then the adrenaline kicked in and I started playing. I mentally got past it [the injury] now to the point where it's OK."
Smith had been having an excellent year at defensive end before being injured on the first series at Denver Oct. 21.
Smith had three tackles yesterday.
Timeout times two
It was hard to determine if it was a breakdown in communications or just a monumental brain cramp that cost the Browns dearly in the fourth quarter when they wasted two timeouts challenging the Steelers' final touchdown. The first timeout was called because there was a belief on the field that Heath Miller's catch was not a completion. The second timeout was lost when coach Romeo Crennel's challenge of the catch was turned down.
"We ended up using a timeout because some guys on the field thought we needed to get the timeout called," Crennel said. "Then I challenged it anyway, because there was a possibility that it was incomplete.
"I'll take that one. We used two timeouts, and it hurt us down the road. But sometimes that happens in the NFL."
When the Browns got the ball back, they had the ball on their 33 with 64 seconds remaining. If they had the two timeouts, it might have enabled them to get closer than the Steelers' 35, from where Phil Dawson's 52-yard field goal fell short.
The Steelers held the Browns' leading receiver, Braylon Edwards, to one catch, but what a catch it was.
On a third-and-8 from the Steelers' 16, quarterback Derek Anderson appeared to overthrow Edwards, putting the ball out of bounds in the end zone. Even as Edwards stretched out and caught the ball it did not appear he got both of his feet down before going out of bounds, and the pass was ruled incomplete. Crennel challenged the call and the video replays confirmed that somehow Edwards dragged both feet on the ground before going out of bounds and had caught a touchdown pass.
Fullback Dan Kreider, who started the past three games for the Steelers, did not suit up because Mike Tomlin wanted to dress someone else to put on the kickoff team. Carey Davis started at fullback.
The other inactives for the Steelers: WR Willie Reid, S Ryan Clark, RB Gary Russell, OL Darnell Stapleton, OT Trai Essex, TE Jerame Tuman, QB Brian St. Clair.
Cleveland had several changes in its lineup. Right guard Seth McKinney was placed on injured reserve, and tackle Ryan Tucker started in his place. On defense for the Browns, Andra Davis moved from middle linebacker to weakside linebacker in place of injured D'Qwell Jackson and Leon Williams moved up to start in the middle. Also, left defensive end Orpheus Roye was benched in favor of backup Shaun Smith.
The Browns' inactives: DB Kenny Wright, DB Ricardo Colclough, RB Jerome Harrison, LB D'Qwell Jackson, WR Travis Wilson, DL Louis Leonard, QB Ken Dorsey.
? The Steelers' honorary captains yesterday were three of their stars from the 1970s: Safety Mike Wagner, defensive tackle Ernie Holmes and tight end Randy Grossman.
? Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger extended his Steelers record to 14 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. He has 22 this season, six from Terry Bradshaw's club record for a season.
? It was the ninth consecutive victory for the Steelers against the Browns and 15 of their past 16 against them, giving them a series lead of 57-55.
? Hines Ward's touchdown catch puts him one from tying John Stallworth's team record of 63 for his career.
? Cleveland's 40 yards rushing were a season low by a Steelers opponent, and stretched their streak to 34 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.
? Asked why he spiked the ball on the Browns' final possession instead of trying to run a play, quarterback Derek Anderson said, "Well, [wide receiver] Joe [Jurevicius] was hurt and I had to clock [spike] it. I had no other choice. I was trying to call a play but Joe couldn't run so I had to clock it because he was hurt. He was sitting there yelling, 'I can't go, I can't go.' "
|11-12-2007, 04:19 PM||#2|
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Re: Steelers Notebook: Two-game lead in AFC North
Thanks for all of the info there, LLT!
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