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|12-10-2008, 07:47 AM||#1|
A Son of Martha
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Pittsburgh Steelers Team Report
Pittsburgh Steelers Team Report
The Steelers have the second-best record in the AFC, but it might not have it for long if they don't play better on offense.
Pittsburgh has the No. 1 defense in the NFL, yet its offense ranks way down there at No. 26 overall, and that's not likely to improve when they but heads against the Ravens and their No. 2-ranked defense in Baltimore on Sunday.
The Steelers defense scored as many touchdowns as its offense on Sunday with cornerback Deshea Townsend returning a 25-yard interception for a touchdown in the final two minutes to beat the Dallas Cowboys, 20-13.
"Our defense is the best in the world for a reason," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "They kept us in the game and gave us an opportunity to come back late and put some points on the board, and eventually tie the game. That's what this is about. That's what the team is about. We're the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, defense, and special teams got it done."
The Steelers forced five turnovers in that game, four on defense and one on special teams, constantly turning the ball over to its offense in good field position. Yet, they still trailed 13-3 before finally scoring 10 points to tie it with 2:04 left, setting up Townsend's TD return.
Pittsburgh has a Super Bowl contending team, but it's hard to believe the Steelers will make it that far with that kind of play from its offense. The biggest problem is its No. 23-ranked running game that has dropped off the edge of the traditional map they like to use. It would be their second-lowest ranking on the ground since the NFL merger in 1970.
"We have to get better," coach Mike Tomlin said.
—Pittsburgh's record from November through the end of the regular season since 2000 is 52-24-1 (.682), second-best in the NFL to New England.
—Mike Tomlin became the first Steelers coach to win 10 games in each of his first two seasons. Bill Cowher's teams made the playoffs in his first six seasons, but as a 9-7 wildcard team in his second year, 1993.
—The Ravens have beaten the Steelers the past five times in Baltimore.
—The Steelers have 16 interceptions. They had only 11 all of last season.
"We had opportunities last year, we just didn't catch them," said SS Troy Polamalu, who leads the NFL with seven interceptions, after getting none last season. "Now we're taking advantage of those opportunities."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—WR Nate Washington appeared to have a severe lower-leg injury when he caught his final pass of the game for 16 yards to the Dallas six that set up the game-tying TD. However, he said he was OK afterward in the locker room.
—RB Mewelde Moore caught four passes Sunday, giving him 37 receptions, most by a back since Amos Zereoue's 40 in 2003. The team record is 51 by a back.
—K Jeff Reed missed his third field goal try of the season, one more than he missed all of 2007.
—P Mitch Berger has been dreadful in his return the past two games. He's averaging 37.6 net for the year and 40.6 gross.
—WR Hines Ward tied his lowest production in a game since he began his team-record streak of catching passes in 159 games at the end of his rookie season. He had one catch for two yards vs. Dallas.
REPORT CARD VS. COWBOYS
PASSING OFFENSE: C — Ben Roethlisberger barely completed half of his passes, 17 of 33, on a bitterly cold evening, but he did complete three for 51 yards to Nate Washington on the fourth-quarter tying touchdown drive in which he threw a 6-yard scoring pass to Heath Miller. He was sacked five times but had no interceptions and finished with an 80.9 passer rating.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D — Willie Parker "led" them with 25 yards on 12 carries, and they had 70 yards overall on 26 carries, a 2.7-yard average, with no touchdowns and a long run of 9. It's become apparent that this team's ground game is running on fumes and on past glory.
PASS DEFENSE: A — Three interceptions, one for the game-winning touchdown, ranked among their best games of the season. They sacked Tony Romo three times. He completed 19 of 36 for 210 yards and one touchdown of 12 yards to Terrell Owens. His 50-yard pass to Tashard Choice was a two-yard toss followed by a long run.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-plus — Not up to the usual Steelers standards, especially for a Cowboys offense that was missing its top running backs. Rookie Tashard Choice made his first start and looked good against the No. 1 rush defense with 88 yards on 23 carries. The Cowboys, though, were under 100 as a whole with 95 yards and a 3.7-yard average.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B — Santonio Holmes' 35-yard return in the fourth quarter started the Steelers' comeback from 10 points down, the longest punt return of the season for Pittsburgh. Mitch Berger was terrible with an average of 32.8 yards gross, but the Cowboys could return none of them. Jeff Reed missed a 45-yard field goal but made two others.
COACHING: B — Some questioned Mike Tomlin's choice to run on fourth down at the Dallas 1 early in the fourth quarter instead of kicking a field goal, easy to do after Gary Russell lost two yards on the play. He also pulled a surprise when he called a time out when Dallas had second down on its 17 with less than two minutes to go in a tie game. Give the Cowboys more time to try to move into position for the winning score? On the next play, Deshea Townsend intercepted Tony Romo and returned it for the winning score.
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