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|12-21-2007, 05:33 AM||#1|
Join Date: May 2006
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Steelers' urgency produces clutch win
Steelers' urgency produces clutch win
By Mike Prisuta
Friday, December 21, 2007
The Steelers were facing neither a win-and-in or make-or-break scenario Thursday night at the Edward Jones Dome.
Still, their game against the St. Louis Rams was important.
It meant a lot to the Steelers' AFC North Division championship hopes.
It meant a lot to their postseason conference standing.
And it probably meant a lot to their collective confidence.
The most encouraging development amid an outbreak of unpredictable pinball football that TV networks love and coaching staffs loathe was that the Steelers responded accordingly.
In the end, their 41-24 victory was achieved by grinding it out.
But to get themselves in a position to do so, the Steelers first had to attack with passion.
Too often this season the word "flat" had been uttered in the Steelers' locker room, after wins and losses. And too often they'd shown up at a road venue against an inferior team and underachieved.
Last night was different.
Last night mattered.
For the Steelers, that was the first step back.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians acknowledged a tone of urgency on the Steelers' first possession. With the Steelers backed up at the 4-yard line after a fumbled punt return by Allen Rossum, Arians had Ben Roethlisberger drop back into the end zone and let it fly.
That was the same Roethlisberger who had been sacked 43 times in the first 14 games.
Still, Arians came into this one desperately seeking the "chunks" of yards the Steelers had ripped off easily early in the season but had eluded them lately.
This time, Arians' aggressiveness produced an 83-yard "chunk" to wide receiver Santonio Holmes.
Coach Mike Tomlin took it from there on the second possession. Faced with a fourth-and-7 at the Steelers' 46 with just under five minutes remaining in a 7-7 game, the Steelers faked a punt. In most circumstances, such calls are predicated on an anticipated formation or personnel group from the opponent and can be checked out of easily if the expected look doesn't materialize. But you still have to want to go for it, if practical. And you have to be willing to live with the consequences if the bold stroke blows up in your face.
The reward for this risk was a 32-yard completion from punter Daniel Sepulveda to running back Najeh Davenport.
Tomlin and the Steelers were also in a do-what-needs-to-be-done mode on the kickoff that followed the touchdown that had given the Steelers a 24-14 lead midway through the second quarter.
Having already surrendered kickoff returns of 43 and 49 yards, the Steelers put starting outside linebacker James Harrison back onto the kickoff coverage team for wide receiver Willie Reid, who had a right shoulder injury.
Are there any other Pro Bowl linebackers that also cover kickoffs?
Even on the last possession of the first half, the Steelers oozed urgency.
Up 24-17 and just 55 seconds from the break, they took over at their 39 with three timeouts remaining and came out in an empty backfield, with four wide receivers and a tight end deployed on either side of Roethlisberger.
A first-down sack scuttled their plan to post one more second-quarter score, but at least they weren't intending to waste the possession.
Those were too valuable on this night.
They'll all be from here on out.
|12-21-2007, 08:39 AM||#2|
Join Date: Jun 2006
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Re: Steelers' urgency produces clutch win
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