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Old 01-03-2011, 06:29 AM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Steelers Report Card: Game 16 vs. Browns

Steelers Report Card: Game 16 vs. Browns
Monday, January 03, 2011
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Ben Roethlisberger started with a 56-yard TD pass on the first play and he didn't stop until he put up 38 points, the most he has engineered this season. He passed for 218 of his 280 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. His 4-yard run on third down led to the second TD. Roethlisberger was not intercepted for the fourth game in a row, extending his streak to 158 passes without a pick.


Rashard Mendenhall had two rushing touchdowns to finish with 13, one shy of the team single-season record. But he finished with only 36 yards on 14 carries and didn't have a run longer than 7 yards -- not the performance expected against a defense that allowed the past three opposing backs an average of 118 yards per game. Mendenhall also had a 24-yard catch to set up a TD.


Mike Wallace made the big strike early with a 56-yard TD and had a 41-yard catch-and-run in the second possession to set up the second score. He finished with his seventh 100-yard receiving game of the season and third in a row. TE Heath Miller has only two TD catches this season, both came against the Browns. He had four catches, including a 4-yard TD from Roethlisberger in the second quarter.


Roethlisberger was not sacked for only the second time this season (the other was in his first game back against the Browns). C Maurkice Pouncey did a good job recognizing the multiple defensive fronts used by the Browns and making the right calls. Power-blocking in goal-line situations allowed the Steelers to convert 4 of 5 red-zone chances for TDs against the league's No. 6 red-zone defense.


The Steelers finished the season with one of the best rushing defenses in NFL history, allowing only 62.8 yards per game. They finished it off by holding the Browns to 43 yards on 17 carries -- testament to a line that plays a two-gap style better than any unit in the league. DE Ziggy Hood had a sack for the third game in a row. DE Brett Keisel also had a sack, forced a fumble and deflected a pass.


Everybody got into the game in this one, including rookie OLB Stevenson Sylvester, who stood out with three solo tackles. Veteran Larry Foote had five tackles, a half-sack and a big pass breakup in the end zone. Nobody was more active than ILB Lawrence Timmons, who had nine solo tackles and forced a fumble. James Harrison hurried QB Colt McCoy into the last of his three interceptions.


Troy Polamalu's interception on the second play of the game -- his career-high seventh of the season -- set the tone. The Steelers had three interceptions for the third time this season to finish with 21. They held QB Colt McCoy to 209 yards passing -- 96 in the final quarter. Ryan Clark's diving pick and 23-yard return set up the fourth TD and Anthony Madison's interception led to a field goal.


Maybe the Steelers should take this approach more often? They squib kicked against Joshua Cribbs, who has three career scoring returns against them. The Browns never had a return longer than 17 yards and averaged a paltry 9.1 yards on eight returns -- including four fewer than 8 yards. Shaun Suisham added field goals of 41 and 24 yards, making him 14 of 15, including 8 of 9 from 40 to 49 yards.


It has been a Steelers staple all season to take care of business against teams they should beat, unlike last season. They put up 41 points against a team that was the only one in the NFL that hadn't allowed 30 or more points in a game this season. Mike Tomlin's decision to play Troy Polamalu sent a quick message to the players that he wasn't about to back down in this game, and they didn't.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11003...#ixzz19yUhf2un
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