By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — This 25-17 win by the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field might not mean much a few weeks from now, but anytime it comes against a team like the New England Patriots it has to be celebrated.
It’s especially important for the Steelers with the number of starters on the sideline or playing with injuries. Young players like William Gay, Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen have stepped up in the secondary, while linebackers Stevenson Sylvester and Chris Carter had a role in the win. Carter subbed for LaMarr Woodley at outside linebacker during the final 18 minutes, while Sylvester started for captain James Farrior (calf)
“Looking at the future of this team, we have some really good guys out there who are early in their careers,” Woodley said. “That’s what I took from this game at the end. …
There’s a lot of good, young guys who have contributed for us this season. So, it’s been fun to be part of it.”
Woodley suffered a hamstring injury with about three minutes remaining in the third quarter while chasing Brady. He said he just wanted to be smart about it and not make it worse. He expected to be ready to play against the Ravens this week. If not, the Steelers should be all right for the short term.
The same could be said for the Steelers’ offense. With Hines Ward on the sideline with an ankle injury, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders figured to be prime targets for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but it was tight end Heath Miller who also had a big game.
“They were intent on not giving up big plays to our speedy wideouts, and that left me wide open in the middle sometimes,” Miller said. “I was fortunate that Ben put the ball where I was able to get it.”
Roethlisberger was 36-for-50 for 365 yards and two touchdowns, but he was sacked five times and had an interception as well. Roethlisberger targeted Brown 15 times, and he caught nine for 67 yards and a score. Miller and Wallace had seven catches each for 85 and 70 yards, respectively.
“We were a deep threat for them, and they wanted to guard against that,” Brown said. “So, that allowed Heath to get the ball down the middle. He was wide open on some of those, but the entire offense played a part in those plays.
“But I’m getting better week in and week out, and I think there’s still a long ways for me to go. We left some plays out there, and we didn’t want to do that. But we moved the ball, and that’s the first step. You can’t score if you don’t get down there, and we’ve been getting it done in that regard.”
Wallace caught every pass thrown his way, but none were longer than 16 yards.
“If we have to, we can throw the ball a lot, but that’s not really our game,” Wallace said. “But you could see that today, we knew we needed to throw it and we were successful. We had confidence in our passing game.
“We knew they had the No. 32-ranked defense in the league. Sure, some of that was because they get way up on teams and force them to throw it, but that’s not all of it. Other teams have had success on them.”
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was 24-for-35 for 198 yards and two touchdowns with three sacks. Two were by Woodley, and one was by Brett Keisel at the end. He forced a Brady fumble that led to a safety.
“When the secondary is doing their job and holding up the receivers, that means we can get in there and pressure the quarterback,” Keisel said. “We were able to get to him a couple times today, but we just need to keep it up.
“When a quarterback has to hold the ball, that plays into our hands. And we were able to take advantage of the times that Brady threw the ball too early or held onto it, so everybody played a part in a great team victory.”
The Steelers don’t have much time to rest on those laurels, however, as the Baltimore Ravens come to Heinz Field Sunday night at 8:20. Then, it’s off to Cincinnati for two big AFC North games in a row.
“This doesn’t mean anything at this point,” Ziggy Hood said. “We beat a good team and have a good record, but we need to put this behind us and move on to face Baltimore next week. They got us pretty good the first game of the season, so we need to get one from them in this coming week.”
At this season’s midpoint, the Steelers are 6-2 with the top record in the AFC.