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Old 01-03-2009, 12:04 AM   #1
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Default Steelers rely on resiliency in AFC race

Steelers rely on resiliency in AFC race
Friday, January 02, 2009
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In the idealistic, though often fruitless, search for a quality that can define a football team, the Steelers are like most members of the National Football League: They are reduced to embracing the element most recently responsible for their playoff ascent.

But their defense is too obvious a choice.

The Steelers are not unlike most of the other AFC teams who will compete this weekend in the wild-card playoff round. They head into the postseason on something of a roll, winning six of their past seven games and looking like a team with which to be reckoned.

That, though, is no different than the two AFC wild-card teams -- Indianapolis (12-4), which is riding the league's longest winning streak (9); and Baltimore, which has won nine of its past 11. Or even the other two division winners -- AFC East champ Miami, which has won five in a row and nine of its past 10; or San Diego, the surprising AFC West winner, which won its final four games.

In fact, the only AFC team that can be accused of perhaps stumbling toward the playoffs is Tennessee, which lost three of its final six games. That, though, is a pardonable offense for a team that started 10-0 and clinched the AFC South title in November.

The Steelers, though, accomplished something not many thought possible before the season: finishing with the second-best record in the league despite having one of the league's toughest schedules.

"We got tired hearing about it," running back Willie Parker said. "We stayed together all year long, week in and week out."

And so began, Parker said, the foundation for the quality he and many of his teammates believe carried the Steelers to their second AFC North title and a first-round playoff bye.

It was the same resilient quality, they said, that allowed them to be just one of two AFC playoff teams -- Tennessee is the other -- to not lose back-to-back games this season. Or to rally for victory in five games in which they trailed or were tied in the fourth quarter.

And it is the defining element that many of the players believe will help carry the team in the playoffs and perhaps beyond, maybe to another Super Bowl appearance.

"The one quality we have is that no-fear quality, that quality of not quitting, playing through any situation," said cornerback Deshea Townsend, one of only two players on the roster who have spent 11 seasons with the Steelers. "That bodes well for our team because we know all games aren't going to go perfectly, and when they don't go perfectly we still find ways to win. We have a team that's able to do that and it makes our team very special. When you're able to find ways to win, it makes a team really, really tough to beat."

"We're a confident team, we never give up," said center Justin Hartwig, who is in his first season with the Steelers after spending his previous six NFL years with Tennessee and the Carolina Panthers. "I just feel that there's a sense that, no matter what the circumstance, we're going to win the game at the end.

"We just believe in each other. When the offense struggles, the defense never lets down. They've been rock-solid all year. We know the defense is going to get stops. We know it's just a matter of time before we get some points."

Hartwig uses the comeback victories against the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens in back-to-back weeks as prime example. Not only did the Steelers rally in the final minutes in each of those games, it was the manner in which they came back -- scoring 17 points in the final seven minutes against the Cowboys and mounting a 92-yard drive against the league's No. 2 defense to score a touchdown with 43 seconds remaining in Baltimore.


Indeed, said Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu. But he also said one of the reasons the Steelers possess that quality is because the players genuinely like each other, leading to an unselfish desire to do whatever is necessary to win those games.

"We're very close; we're a close team," Polamalu said. "I know there are a lot of people who have been successful who take a business approach, and I don't think we take that approach. There are no cliques in here; there's not even an offensive and defensive clique here. That's what's special about this team."

Polamalu said his favorite saying that defines the team is an expression used by Townsend: "When one person makes a play, we all make a play."

"That's the kind of feeling and closeness we have for one another," Polamalu said.

Said Parker: "When you believe in each other, anything can happen. You believe you can get the job done no matter how many seconds are left on the clock. If you believe and keep believing, something good will happen."

Even with a tough schedule.
Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com.
First published on January 2, 2009 at 12:00 am

(Reflect for a moment on lucky we are. Consider how different this team is from say, the The Drama Drag Queens of Dallas. Perhaps we should start calling this team the "Band of Brothers" from the very famous speech from Shakespeare's Henry V.

"We few, We happy few, We Band of Brothers".

Here is a link to the entire speech from the 1989 Kenneth Branagh version of Henry V. It's brilliant interpretation of one of the greatest speeches ever written in the English language.

- mesa)
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Old 01-03-2009, 07:56 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers rely on resiliency in AFC race

Already posted.
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Old 01-03-2009, 08:20 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers rely on resiliency in AFC race

Sorry, mesa, but galaxsteeler posted this yesterday.


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