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Old 10-19-2009, 07:22 AM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Bires: Steely resolve on display

Bires: Steely resolve on display
By: Mike Bires -
Beaver County Times

Monday October 19, 2009 12:05 AM

Times photo by LUCY SCHALY QB Ben Roethlisberger gets off a pass with pressure from the Browns' Robaire Smith.

PITTSBURGH — Check the AFC North standings, and there are the Steelers back on the top. Well, they’re tied for first place.

That two-game losing skid they had last month is ancient history.

Still, coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t sound thrilled that the Steelers (4-2) have caught the Bengals for first place in the AFC North.

“We’re not big-picture guys,” he said Sunday after a 27-14 win over the Cleveland Browns. “We don’t care where we are.”

But maybe Tomlin would feel differently if the Steelers were 2-4 after six games, as they were the last time they tried to defend a Super Bowl championship. That was in 2006 when they didn’t even make the playoffs.

Granted, beating the Browns for the 12th straight time as the Steelers did Sunday isn’t much to get excited about. This win was expected.

But the Steelers are moving forward, not backward.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the offense continue to click. With 417 passing yards — that’s his second-highest total of his career — Big Ben now leads the NFL.

With Peyton Manning and the Colts off in Week 6 with a bye, Roethlisberger was able to make the jump from second to first. He now has 1,887 passing yards this season.

“It’s the best I’ve ever seen him play, and I’ve seen him play pretty darn good at times,” tight end Heath Miller said of Roethlisberger.

“Truth be told, I don’t even think we know how good we can be as an offense,” Roethlisberger said.

Likewise for the defense, which played its most complete game of the season Sunday.

The Steelers only gave up 197 yards of offense, the fewest they’ve allowed this year.

They caused four turnovers, their highest number this year.

They didn’t seem to miss defensive end Aaron Smith, who’s on injured reserve with a season-ending shoulder injury. They seem re-energized by the return of all-star strong safety Troy Polamalu, who missed the last four games with a sprained knee.

“Creating turnovers … that’s what we’ve been lacking,” said free safety Ryan Clark, who had one of the Steelers’ two interceptions against the Browns (Polamalu had the other).

To keep Sunday’s performance in perspective, remember that it was the struggling Browns (1-5) the Steelers beat up on. But upsets do happen. Just ask the Eagles, who lost Sunday to the hapless Raiders. Just ask the Jets, who lost at home to the Bills.

By no means were the Steelers perfect against the Browns. They allowed Joshua Cribbs to return yet another kickoff for a touchdown against them. There was an ugly three-possession stretch in the third quarter when Roethlisberger threw an interception and running backs Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall fumbled the ball away.

But on this day, none of those miscues came back to haunt the Steelers.

“The thing is that as we continue to push through this journey, we better continue to be on the rise,” Tomlin said.

The Steelers are on the rise.

It may be a gradual rise. But they’re heading in the right direction.

Three weeks ago when they were 1-2, everyone was asking, “What’s wrong with the Steelers?”

Now people are saying, “Watch out for the Steelers.”

The Steelers still have a long way to go. But they’re playing their best football of the season.
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