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|12-21-2007, 05:17 AM||#1|
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The big plays make a big difference
The big plays make a big difference
Friday, December 21, 2007
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ST. LOUIS -- Ben Roethlisberger wasted little time injecting into the offense precisely what offensive coordinator Bruce Arians had been seeking. Even if he was standing in his own end zone when he delivered.
On the first play from scrimmage, starting from the Steelers' 4, Roethlisberger dropped back and heaved a pass down the middle of the field for Santonio Holmes, a sight that had been missing from the offense for most of the past two months.
Holmes ran under the ball and scooted 83 yards before being tackled by cornerback Ron Bartell at the St. Louis 13, setting up the first touchdown and, more important, setting a tone for the offense.
"We had plenty of room," Arians said, smiling. "You got to play, man. You got to play."
And the Steelers did.
They brought the big play back to their offense, even received a couple big plays from the defense and special teams, and rolled up their most points of the season in a 41-24 victory against the Rams last night at the Edward Jones Dome.
"It was nice to play in dry weather for a change," said Arians, referring to the climate-controlled conditions in the dome. "You can really make plays on a fast track. It's so much easier in these kind of conditions to throw the football."
In the past eight games, the Steelers longest pass was a 32-yard touchdown to Najeh Davenport on a broken play against the New England Patriots. But they had three plays of that distance or longer in the first half, highlighted by the 83-yarder to Holmes -- the 11th-longest pass play in franchise history and the second longest that wasn't a touchdown.
Included was a 33-yard touchdown to Nate Washington down the right sideline on a play similar to the one on which Washington caught a 30-yard touchdown Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But that doesn't include a 23-yard catch by Holmes on second-and-18 from the Steelers' 20 that led to a Jeff Reed field goal.
"It changes field position fast," said coach Mike Tomlin. "Splash plays make it easier for you to run up the scoreboard. It hasn't been from a lack of trying. But it's not all the big plays that are important. It's about all the 4- and 5-yard runs."
Indeed, the Steelers benefited from both. Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes for the second game in a row and finished with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 for the second time this season, third time in his career.
But even without Willie Parker, who broke his right fibula on his first carry and is out for the season, the Steelers rushed for 166 yards, including 123 on 24 carries from Davenport.
"Those big plays help make the running game go because they can't bring the safety down," guard Kendall Simmons said. "That's one thing they had to account for and couldn't drop the safety down."
There hadn't been much of that lately.
And there hadn't been much of that from Holmes.
Until last night, Holmes had the four longest pass receptions of the season, ranging between 40 and 45 yards. But he didn't have any of those in the past eight games, since a 45-yard catch Nov. 5 against the Baltimore Ravens.
Part of the problem: Holmes has been slowed by an ankle sprain that caused him to miss games against the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals. Even in the two games following his inactivity, Holmes caught just five passes for 47 yards, none longer than 18 yards.
"A lot of it is based on what the defense gives us," Hines Ward said. "Teams are playing a lot of cover-2 against us and it's tough to get deep balls against cover-2."
They managed against the Rams.
The big plays weren't limited to the offense. Special teams coach Bob Ligashesky, who coached the previous two seasons in St. Louis, called a fake punt in the first quarter that resulted in a 32-yard pass from Daniel Sepulveda to Davenport, leading to a field goal.
And cornerback Ike Taylor, victimized on an earlier touchdown, returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter -- the first of his career and the second by a Steelers player this season.
"That was the key, making big plays," cornerback Deshea Townsend said. "That's what happened the last two losses -- we haven't made any significant plays to make a difference. You have to have three or four of those a game. That's what we always talk about."
|12-21-2007, 09:12 AM||#2|
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