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|02-07-2009, 12:03 AM||#1|
A Son of Martha
Join Date: Oct 2008
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Steelers staged pulse-pounding comebacks all season
Steelers staged pulse-pounding comebacks all season
The 2008 Steelers -- Comeback Kings / In the clutch, in for the win
Saturday, February 07, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Santonio Holmes pulls in the winning touchdown pass against the Cardinals last Sunday in Super Bowl XLIII at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
Those among the record 151.6 million who watched the Super Bowl received a CliffsNotes version of the entire Steelers season near the end of the game.
One final drive, 2:30 left, Steelers trailing, Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.
It was their theme throughout 2008, and they wrapped the whole thing up in like manner when Roethlisberger led them 88 yards to their sixth Super Bowl victory.
"I wasn't surprised in the least bit about that," Mike Tomlin said in the moments after he became the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl. "If you look at our story this football season, that has been our story. We had to win the division in Baltimore under similar circumstances. Our guys don't blink."
This season, the Steelers came from behind late in the game to win six times. Here's a look at those comebacks:
-- Feb. 1 vs. Arizona: Ben Roethlisberger caps an 78-yard drive in the last 2:30 with a 6-yard TD pass to Santonio Holmes to win Super Bowl XLIII.
-- Dec. 14 @ Baltimore: After driving 92 yards, Roethlisberger hits Holmes on a controversial TD catch on the goal line with 43 seconds left to claim the AFC North title.
-- Dec. 7 vs. Dallas: Roethlisberger leads the Steelers 67 yards and finds Heath Miller in the end zone to tie the score against the Cowboys with 2:04 left. Deshea Townsend sealed the win with a interception return for a TD with 1:53 left.
-- Nov. 16 vs. San Diego: After Roethilsberger leads a 73-yard drive, Jeff Reed lifts the Steelers ahead of the Chargers on a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left.
-- Oct. 5 @ Jacksonville: Hines Ward catches the go-ahead TD with 1:53 left after Roethlisberger leads the offense on a 73-yard drive against the Jaguars.
-- Sept. 29 vs. Baltimore: The Steelers rallied from a 13-3 deficit with the help of Jeff Reed's three field goals, including the winning 46-yard kick in overtime.
The scramble to put a name on that drive and Santonio Holmes' 6-yard, toe-tapping touchdown reception has produced some decent suggestions, such as A Perfect 10 and Big Ben Strikes 10. No matter what they call it, they've done it many times.
It was the fifth winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime for Roethlisberger and his offense this past season, not counting a sixth that tied Dallas in a game the Steelers won. That offense may have ranked 22nd overall in the NFL in yards produced in 2008, but with the game on the line in the final quarter, no one could top it.
Roethlisberger and Holmes hooked up Dec. 14 in Baltimore with 43 seconds left under similar circumstances, the AFC North title and the No. 2 playoff seed on the line. That drive covered 92 yards.
It began with Baltimore Sept. 29 in Heinz Field, although in less dramatic fashion, a Jeff Reed field goal in overtime. It continued the following week in Jacksonville when the Steelers, trailing by one and losers twice to the Jaguars the previous season, drove 80 yards, and Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward with an 8-yard touchdown with 1:53 left. That drive produced one of Roethlisberger's most spectacular plays of the year when, with two Jaguars clinging to him, he completed an 18-yard pass to Ward on third down.
A fourth winning drive occurred Nov. 16 against San Diego, this one carrying 73 yards that ended with Reed's 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left and an 11-10 victory in Heinz Field.
Another came when Roethlisberger drove them 67 yards and pitched a 6-yard scoring pass to Heath Miller with 2:04 to tie Dallas. The Steelers then won on Deshea Townsend's 25-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:53 left.
Those previous performances are why Tomlin said after the Super Bowl, "I have a great deal of belief in our football team that we were capable of doing it, so I wasn't shocked by the fact that we did."
It was a long climb since their previous Super Bowl victory three years earlier. There was all the Roethlisberger drama in 2006 and a deflating 8-8 record as defending champs and the suspicion that Bill Cowher would quit at the end, which he did. The Steelers hired Tomlin amidst controversy and some belief that Russ Grimm had been offered the job first. Joey Porter was cut, and Alan Faneca was ignored.
Tomlin's first season ended with a division title, but they collapsed at the end, losing four of five, including a home playoff game.
Then, the NFL issued them the toughest schedule in the league for 2008.
Besides comebacks, injuries were the early story of their Super Bowl season. One occurred in Foxborough, Mass, when almost-perfect Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was knocked out for the season and gave everyone else hope in the AFC. The others occurred to their own. Willie Parker was lost with a knee injury in the third game and would miss five games total. The running back they were so happy to draft in the first round, Rashard Mendenhall, made his first NFL start in the fourth game, which would be his last in 2008 because his shoulder was broken by Ray Lewis.
Roethlisberger's right shoulder was slightly separated early and re-injured, although he never missed a start. Defensive end Brett Keisel missed six games with injuries.
They lost their backup quarterback and punter for the season and two starting offensive linemen -- Marvel Smith and Kendall Simmons -- early on.
Not surprising, they had trouble running the ball -- their 23rd NFL ranking was the second lowest since they entered the AFC in 1970 -- and protecting their quarterback, who was sacked 46 times.
The receiver who would become the Super Bowl MVP was charged with marijuana possession three nights before they played the reigning Super Bowl champs. Santonio Holmes was benched by Tomlin for that game in Heinz Field against the New York Giants, who won, 21-14.
Parker complained publicly Dec. 12, before their showdown game for the division title in Baltimore, about the lack of commitment to the run.
"We're the Pittsburgh Steelers, everyone knows we're going to run the ball -- or they used to think we'd run the ball," he said to all who would listen. "We pass the ball a lot now. We go away from Steelers football, Steelers mentality."
Tomlin responded with a public comment of his own, "Every morning I come to work, I walk past five Lombardis, not five rushing titles."
The Steelers' salvation came on defense, which turned in one of the greatest seasons in franchise history. They ranked No. 1 in the NFL overall in yards, points allowed and on pass defense and No. 2 against the run.
Their pass rush came alive without having to blitz as much, thanks to linebackers James Harrison, who set their record with 16 sacks, and first-year starter LaMarr Woodley, who had 11.5. That helped a secondary that entered the season as a question mark.
It was a Golden Triangle defense in which offensive ships were swallowed and disappeared, most recently when Troy Polamalu sealed their Super Bowl trip with an interception for a touchdown against Baltimore in the AFC championship game.
Still, their great defense experienced two major lapses. One occurred during the showdown between top seeds in Nashville, when the Tennessee Titans scored two offensive touchdowns to come from 14-10 down in the second half and win.
The other took place last Sunday in the Super Bowl. Staked to a 20-7 fourth-quarter lead, the Steelers' defense could not hold it, allowing two touchdowns by Larry Fitzgerald, the last with 2:37 left to trail the Arizona Cardinals, 23-20.
That's when Ben Roethlisberger and his offense came through one final time, covering 88 yards with 84 yards of passes and 4 with a quarterback scramble.
That comeback, as with so many others, proved to be just as much Steelers football as anything else in their wild 2008 season. And it produced another in that most identifiable part of Steelers football, winning another Super Bowl.
Ed Bouchette can be reached at email@example.com.
First published on February 8, 2009 at 12:00 am
|02-07-2009, 01:49 AM||#2|
Join Date: May 2010
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Re: Steelers staged pulse-pounding comebacks all season
Thanks for reminding me of the six heart-attacks I had this year!
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