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Old 09-12-2010, 09:14 PM   #1
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Default Steelers manage game, earn win

Steelers manage game, earn win
Published: Sunday, September 12, 2010, 7:33 PM Updated: Sunday, September 12, 2010, 7:41 PM
BY DALE GRDNIC, For The Patriot-News

PITTSBURGH — Mike Tomlin has said that the playbook is entirely open for quarterback Dennis Dixon. But if Sunday’s game is an indication, the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach still appears to be playing it close to the vest while his young signal-caller is under a rookie center.

And that means the Steelers defense will need to be extremely stingy.

That combination turned out to be a winning formula for the Steelers during a 15-9 overtime win against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field, as the club’s defense held the opposition out of the end zone and forced a punt in overtime to set up the winning possession for its offense.

“Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve had a lot of close ballgames,” Steelers defensive tackle Chris Hoke said. “That’s Steeler football. Since my rookie year, 10 years ago, it seemed like all the games have come down to the fourth quarter and are close games.

“Some go into overtime. So, we’re ready for that, and we’re going to keep going out there and playing tough defense. The offense, they did all right, but they’ll keep working at it and will get better every week.”

The Steelers offense has a lot of room for improvement. While Dixon was 18-for-26 for 236 yards, he had one interception and was nearly picked off three other times. He also short-armed several throws that could have gone for first downs.

Hines Ward got loose for 25 and 24 yards midway through the fourth quarter to set up a go-ahead field goal by Jeff Reed. And one pass was a 52-yarder to Mike Wallace, but the rest were dinks and dump-offs.

“It was a winning effort,” Tomlin said. “The scoreboard says so. ... I don’t necessarily call [him] tentative, but he was a little off-target, at least early in the game. But what I did like is that there was no panic in him or anyone.”

The Steelers offense had poor field position often, starting six possessions at their 20 or worse, but the club’s defense was stout throughout. The Steelers held Atlanta to 297 total yards and just 58 on the ground, with Michael Turner averaging 2.2 yards per carry.

“I thought our defense played well all day,” Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior said. “We held them to three field goals and gave the offense the ball in overtime with a chance to win the game. We gave them two chances.”

Farrior referred to late in regulation when safety Troy Polamalu read the play perfectly, stepped in front of Roddy White, picked off Matt Ryan’s pass and amazingly stayed inbounds. That gave the Steelers the ball at the Atlanta 30. After three plays netted nine yards, Jeff Reed missed a 40-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.

“It was a called defense, the right call, but Troy made the play,” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. “It was Troy making the call work. ... It was a great play, a great individual play. We gave them something different to see. It’s one thing to talk about it, but it was all Troy. He went out and made a big play.”

In overtime, Atlanta got the ball first and was set back on its 9 due to a holding call. The Falcons got just one first down before the Steelers forced a punt. The Steelers won the game on Rashard Mendenhall’s 50-yard run on the ensuing play from scrimmage.

“That was a big-time defensive stop, and we definitely had a great start for the defense today,” Farrior said. “We held them to three field goals in key situations, and that was crucial to our win today.”

Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel agreed.

“I think we did real good, overall, especially playing against a guy like Michael Turner,” Keisel said. “Teams are going to test us, because we’re old and washed-up. So, teams are going to test us to see if we can play.

“[But] it felt good to keep them out of the end zone. We’re happy with the start, but we’re not patting ourselves on the back too much. We have to go out and play this way every week.”

Especially if the offense is as conservative as it was against the Falcons.
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