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Old 11-17-2008, 01:21 AM   #1
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Default Steelers' big-time players stand tall in final drive

Steelers' big-time players stand tall in final drive
Nov. 16, 2008
By Clark Judge
CBSSports.com Senior Writer
http://www.sportsline.com/print/nfl/story/11111571/rss

PITTSBURGH -- When Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin addressed his players at a team meeting Saturday night, he challenged a core of eight veterans -- guys who are as decorated as they are experienced -- to produce something special the next afternoon against San Diego.

The message was as clear as it was concise.

"The glory boys have just got to shine," running back Willie Parker said.

Well, then, mission accomplished. The glory boys never looked better than on the Steelers' game-winning drive in Sunday's 11-10 victory -- a 13-play series that turned on a key third-down pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Hines Ward, and let's review the videotape.

The situation was this: With more than three minutes left, Pittsburgh trailed by two and faced a third-and-6 at the San Diego 41. Roethlisberger took the snap, stepped back to throw and surveyed the field in front of him -- looking first to his primary target, wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

"But he was getting held up," Ward said.

So he turned to his most reliable receiver, and, Hines Ward, that is your cue. Ward had drifted roughly 6 to 7 yards downfield and drawn double coverage, with linebacker Stephen Cooper and safety Paul Oliver as bookends.

But he hadn't quit on the play, turning to face Roethlisberger, who slid to his left to avoid the Chargers' pass rush. Roethlisberger had to make a decision, and quickly, because he was about to take a charge -- which is where Ward comes in.

"I thought we had the look we wanted," Roethlisberger said. "I was going to throw it to (Holmes), but he and Hines and the two defensive backs were jammed together. I think Hines got jammed, and they were kind of in the way. I thought, 'Oh, great, I'm in trouble,' and the pocket kind of collapsed to my right so I slid left."

That's when he acted. He pumped once, twice and then threw to Ward, hoping to squeeze the ball into such a narrow window he admitted he thought he had little chance to succeed.

"To tell you the truth," he said, "I thought it was going to be incomplete. I thought I threw it into the ground. I don't remember what happened because I got hit really hard, but I know that if I put it close to Hines he's going to make the play."

And that's the lesson we take from Pittsburgh's latest victory. When the glory boys were called, they responded -- with no one making a bigger play than Roethlisberger and Ward on a 7-yard reception.

Ward's catch produced a first down, kept the drive going and allowed Parker to take over down the stretch -- producing the tough yards that led to Jeff Reed's game-winning field goal with 11 seconds left.

"Just a great team effort," winning coach Mike Tomlin said. "To take the ball the length of the field at the end and provide us with the win ... big-time stuff."

That doesn't mean the Steelers don't have issues. For the second straight week they threw at least 40 times, which is not exactly Pittsburgh Steelers football, and blame that on an inconsistent rushing attack that rankles Tomlin.

They were stuffed on a fourth-and-goal at the San Diego 1. They were stuffed again on a third-and-1. As Tomlin said, that must change -- especially when you have someone like Baltimore, with the league's top-ranked rushing defense, in hot pursuit and awaiting the Steelers in a Dec. 14 game in Baltimore.

But Baltimore can wait. The Steelers regained first place in the AFC North because they won at Eight Ball, simple as that. Roethlisberger, who has been under fire lately because of a sore shoulder and a rash of interceptions, was sharp -- completing 31-of-41 for 308 yards. Ward had 11 catches for 124 yards. Parker produced 115 yards rushing. Linebacker James Harrison had a sack, an interception and a forced fumble.

The list goes on, and Tomlin was only too happy to recite it.

"I thought the deciding factor, and, really, as we go forward, are those eight players," Tomlin said. "Those guys are some of the best in the world at what they do, and I am very blunt about the expectations there. Guys like Ben, Willie, Hines, James Harrison, Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Troy (Polamalu) and Potsie (James Farrior). Those guys are Pro Bowl caliber players, and they have to play at a Pro Bowl caliber level."

They just did, and that last series will serve as Exhibit A.

"You couldn't ask for any other drive like that," Ward said. "It speaks volumes about our team."

It speaks more to Roethlisberger. Let's face it, he's the key to everything the Steelers do on offense, and on this afternoon he did just enough to overcome a San Diego team that slowly, ever slowly, is starting to sink in the AFC West. More important, he made few mistakes and threw no interceptions.

OK, so he didn't throw deep, but Tomlin said that was a product of San Diego's two-deep defense; not anything to do with Big Ben. And while he absorbed more hits, getting sacked four times, he made the big throws when necessary.

In fact, on that last drive -- a 73-yard march -- Roethlisberger was 6-for-6, with four of his completions to -- who else? -- Ward ... and that's just how the Steelers drew it up.

"I hate to say it was time for us to do it because some of those guys have been doing it all year," Roethlisberger said, "but, speaking for myself, it was time for me to step up and make plays.

"The offense played great. The defense played great. Special teams.... This was a great team win."

And it's about time.
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Old 11-17-2008, 02:21 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers' big-time players stand tall in final drive

Good article.

Thanks.
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Old 11-17-2008, 04:20 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers' big-time players stand tall in final drive

I don't see why we can't stand tall on every drive with the guys we have on offense we should be able to move the ball all the time.l
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