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Old 01-06-2011, 07:47 PM   #1
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Default NFL: Steelers stayed close during tough times

Thursday January 6, 2011
NFL: Steelers stayed close during tough times
by The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't secure the AFC North title and a playoff bye by beating Atlanta in their season opener. Or by winning their next two games at Tennessee and Tampa Bay with their No. 3 and 4 quarterbacks.

What's telling is their season didn't fall apart then, either.

The Steelers supposedly were in disarray after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drew a four-game suspension for his misbehavior and wide receiver Santonio Holmes, the Super Bowl MVP two seasons ago, forced a trade to New York with his off-field problems. There were predictions the Steelers would be 0-4 or 1-3 by the time Roethlisberger returned, and that Baltimore might have the division title secured by then.

"What we had happen to this team in the beginning, that probably would have brought another team down," defensive captain James Farrior said. "But we didn't pay too much attention to what everybody thought we'd be like during those games. We had too much to think about other than that."

The Steelers, one of the NFL's most experienced teams and one familiar with adversity, turned such talk into equal parts motivation and inspiration.

It didn't matter when backup quarterback Byron Leftwich was injured in the final preseason game, or that No. 3 QB Dennis Dixon was hurt early in the Tennessee game, one week after he steered the Steelers past Atlanta in overtime. No. 4 QB Charlie Batch, who had thrown all of 18 passes since 2006, beat the Titans and Bucs and came within a last-minute drive of beating the Ravens.

Being able to win despite going so far down their depth chart - few teams keep four quarterbacks except during camp - didn't make the Steelers' season, but it might have saved it. They went 3-1 during each quarter of the season and, with a 12-4 record and the No. 2 seeding in the AFC, they're in the same position they were when they won the Super Bowl during the 2008 season.

September probably seems like a long time ago now but, if it weren't for that successful month, there might not have been a January for these Steelers.

"I think the situation we went through early on really built up our character, because we realized that we can win even without one of our main guys in there," Farrior said. "I also think it brought us closer as a team. There's no doubt that those first four games really helped us out. Everybody took it upon themselves to step up during those games to make sure we were in a good place when he (Roethlisberger) came back."

Would first place do?

"We're doing things that people outside this locker room didn't think we could do," wide receiver Hines Ward said.
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Old 01-06-2011, 07:56 PM   #2
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Default Re: NFL: Steelers stayed close during tough times

Thanks in part to director of football operations Kevin Colbert's ability to navigate the salary cap, the Steelers had enough experienced depth to overcome a myriad of problems and injuries.

"We've really done a great job here of plugging guys in when one guy goes down or leaves, so that's been a reason for our continued success," Farrior said. "I don't know if it's luck or what, but the scouting department does a great job of getting guys in here and plugging them in right."

Batch was expected to be cut before the season, only to become a valuable fill-in. Flozell Adams, picked up the day before training camp began, stabilized the oft-changing offensive line at right tackle after Willie Colon was injured. The defense didn't crumble when end Aaron Smith missed three-quarters of the season with a triceps injury.

The multiple fines given Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison for his dangerous hits also didn't become a major distraction. Mike Wallace replaced Holmes in the lineup and had seven 100-yard receiving games.

"All the adversity we've had to deal with, a lot of injuries to deal with, so it's been a great team effort by all the players and the coaching staff," Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu said.

"We're a team that's usually kind of cruising underneath the radar."

In essence, the Steelers still are. The Patriots (14-2) are favored to reach the Super Bowl, partly because of a 39-26 dismantling of the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Nov. 14 in which they led 23-3. If the Patriots and Steelers both win their divisional round games next weekend - their opponents will be set this weekend - Pittsburgh would play at New England for the AFC title on Jan. 23.

While the Steelers have won seven road playoff games since 1974, they have won a road AFC championship game only twice - at Oakland (1974 season) and at Denver (2005 season). And while most of these players weren't involved, they lost AFC title games to New England during the 2001 and 2004 seasons, both in Pittsburgh.

"If we get to that point, we'll see what happens," cornerback Ike Taylor said. "I'm sure everybody feels like they have a Super Bowl-contending team, or they wouldn't be in the playoffs. If we get there, let the best man win."

(Sorry I didn't notice that I had not copied both pages of the article. - mesa)
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Old 01-06-2011, 08:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: NFL: Steelers stayed close during tough times

Batch for future QB coach
Ward for future WR coach
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Old 01-06-2011, 09:29 PM   #4
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Default Re: NFL: Steelers stayed close during tough times

Probably not Or Darmonti Dawson would be our line coach.
Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." - Vince Lombardi
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