THREE TAKEAWAY’S FROM SUNDAY’S 24-20 STEELERS WIN
1. DOMINATING AT THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE: The Steelers are suddenly a team where there is some buzz about them in the AFC when discussing the top teams in the conference. The sense around the league is that Pittsburgh has the look of a football team that is peaking and two areas that standout over the past three to four weeks is Pittsburgh being a team that is dominating at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. Pittsburgh gave up four sacks against the Giants but against the pass rushers New York has on the edge, that is going to happen.
Where Pittsburgh’s O-line dominated was in the trenches, opening up huge holes in the running game. Maurkice Pouncey and Willie Colon might be developing into one of the best center/guard combo as punishing run blockers…….. Ramon Foster continues to shine and Mike Adams mobility at right tackle continues to be a big asset in the running game.
From where this group is now compared to the first couple weeks of the season is striking and you can say the same about the Steelers defensive line. The Steelers starting line of Ziggy Hood – Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel had the look of one of the worst groups in the NFL during the first five games and this group has become much more of a factor of late, playing a big part in the turnaround of this defense. Since the second quarter of the Bengals game, Ziggy Hood’s game has gone from awful to okay, while Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel in the past couple weeks have shown that they have some football left in them. We’re starting to see this group get more of a constant push on the line and the Steelers are also getting quality play from Steve McLendon and Casey Heyward in very limited action. McLendon’s pressure on Eli Manning led to Ike Taylor’s 1st quarter interception. The question with the D-line is whether they can keep it up over the long haul. Overall this is an average group that might be playing above their head the past couple weeks.
2. TURNING POINT IN GAME: The Steelers defense was tremendous in the fourth quarter, forcing three and outs on all three Giants possessions in the quarter but the game for Pittsburgh was saved by the defense late in the third quarter when they held the Giants to a field goal, following a bad Ben Roethlisberger interception that gave New York the football at Pittsburgh’s 33 yard line. Leading 17-10, New York moves the down the field following Roethlisberger’s INT and a Hakeem Nicks 10 yard reception on 2nd and 8 sets the Giants up with 1st and goal at Pittsburgh’s four yard line around the two minute mark in the third quarter. On 2nd and goal at the two yard line, Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor stuff Andre Brown for a 3 yard loss and then Manning throws an incomplete pass intended for Rueben Randle on 3rd down, as the Steelers defense forces the Giants to settle for a field goal. It was a huge turn of events as a touchdown likely puts the Steelers away. Moments later, Pittsburgh puts together a 5 play, 75 yard scoring drive, highlighted by a great individual 51 yard touchdown reception from Mike Wallace and we suddenly had a 20-17 game just minutes into the 4th quarter.
3. PASS RUSH FROM THE EDGE COMES ALIVE IN 4TH QUARTER: The Steelers pass rush has been a huge concern this season, especially from the edge, but that was one area that came up big in the 4th quarter. Following the Wallace TD that cut the Giants lead to three, New York opens up their first series of the 4th quarter with two straight incompletions, setting up a 3rd and 10 at the Giants 34 yard line. Dick LeBeau gives New York a different look bringing Lawrence Timmons from the edge on the left side and Timmons records an 11 yard sack as the pocket collapses, forcing a Giants punt. Pittsburgh got constant pressure to Manning from their front-seven throughout the game and the pressure from the front-three seemed to be in Manning’s head, opening up for LeBeau to attack the Giants late in the game from the edge and Pittsburgh forced a third straight Giants three and out on New York’s last possession of the game when LaMarr Woodley came off the left edge to record his first sack since September 23rd. If the Steelers are to be a Super Bowl contender by the end of the regular season, LaMarr Woodley has to get back to being the player Pittsburgh gave a $60+ million contract to.
TIDBITS OUT OF SUNDAY’S WIN
— Ben Roethlisberger has 16 touchdown passes through eight games but that’s not the best mark of his career though eight games. In 2007, Roethlisberger had 20 touchdown passes at the mid-season mark (eight games), leading to a career-high 32 touchdown season. It was also Bruce Arians first season as offensive coordinator. Guess you can say Roethlisberger adapts quickly to new offensive coordinators, which great quarterbacks do.
— Pittsburgh outgained New York 349 to 182 in the win……….The Steelers had 6 penalties for 119 yards…….How good was the Steelers defense in key situations? The Giants went 2 of 10 on third down……