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Old 01-16-2011, 08:52 AM   #1
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Default Defense keys rally during second half By Jim Wexell

Defense keys rally during second half
By JIM WEXELL For The Tribune-Democrat The Tribune-Democrat Sun Jan 16, 2011, 12:33 AM EST

PITTSBURGH — By Jim Wexell


PITTSBURGH – Brett Keisel could laugh at the question after the game, but certainly not during the first half of the game.

Keisel was asked if it had helped the Steelers to pick up a Pro Bowler before the game.

Of course, Keisel had just been added to the Pro Bowl roster. It was announced to the home crowd just after the Baltimore Ravens had taken a 14-7 lead.

That lead eventually reached 21-7, before a stunning second-half rally – launched by the Steelers’ defense – resulted in a 31-24 Steelers win.

“They announced it right after they scored,” said Keisel. “I’m sitting there pissed off on the sideline. I wanted to stand up and blow the crowd kisses but I really couldn’t.”

No one on the Steelers’ sideline was in the mood to blow anyone kisses as they filed into the locker room down by two touchdowns.

It was a quiet locker room, a frustrated locker room. But defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau gathered his troops and spoke in a measured tone.

“He just showed us on a piece of paper how they scored, from where they scored, showed us how many big plays they had,” said Casey Hampton.

“And when you looked at it, they did not have any. So we knew that we just had to do what we had to do. There was no panic.”

The Steelers had allowed only 98 yards in the first half, yet trailed 21-7 because of a couple of turnovers and a 33-yard pass interference penalty.

“We knew they couldn’t sustain a drive on us,” Hampton said. “We had to do what we had to do. Everybody had to stay on their keys.”

And the Ravens gained only 28 yards in the second half.

How’s that for reading the keys?

“We got hot in the third quarter,” said James Farrior. “I think we rattled (Joe) Flacco a little bit and got him out of his game. Our pressure was outstanding for the whole second half. I think that made a big difference.”

The Steelers, who had no sacks in the first half, had five in the second. The first, by James Harrison with help from Keisel, occurred on Baltimore’s first snap. And after Ziggy Hood stuffed Ray Rice, Flacco threw a checkdown to Rice. The Steelers were looking for it – per their game plan – and Ryan Clark forced a fumble that LaMarr Woodley recovered. Two plays later, the Ravens’ lead was cut in half.

A three-and-out was followed by another doomed Ravens series. On the first play, from the Baltimore 10, Troy Polamalu snuck to the edge. Flacco spotted him, checked off, and threw deep. The pass was intercepted by Clark and the Steelers tied the game four plays later.

With 1:10 left in Baltimore’s abominable third quarter, Flacco fumbled a center snap and Keisel recovered. The Steelers kicked a field goal and the momentum was all theirs.

In the third quarter, the Ravens ran 10 plays, lost 4 yards, and had 2 turnovers.

“I think he might’ve got a little shook up,” Harrison said of Flacco. “When you’ve got guys hitting you from every angle, and you’re not really getting a clean look at anything, yeah, I think it might’ve shook him a little.”

When pressed for particular defensive standouts, Keisel praised Hood and Farrior credited Clark. But Clark said the comeback had everything to do with team.

“The biggest thing is that we play for each other,” Clark said. “It was embarrassing. All this talk about a 3-point game all the time and it’s always close, but we were getting blown out. I think the biggest thing was coming out and playing for each other. And then we made some plays.”
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