Pittsburgh Steelers Week 9 Report Card
Pittsburgh Steelers Week 9 Report Card
This past Sunday featured a game between two teams that have won four of the last seven Super Bowls. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants were both riding into Week 9 on winning streaks, unfortunately only one team ended up continuing that streak.
The Steelers not only had to overcome playing in a hostile environment against the defending Super Bowl champions, but they also had to endure traveling on the day of the game due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and how it ravaged the East Coast.
Despite the circumstances, Pittsburgh persevered through the rough, cram-filled journey, and left MetLife Stadium with a 24-20 victory over the Giants, snapping New York’s four-game winning streak.
Even injuries, questionable calls by officials, and a dumb call by the coaching staff on special teams couldn’t stand in the way of the Steelers improving their record to 5-3. This victory keeps the Steelers at second place in the AFC North division, and one game behind the Baltimore Ravens for the lead.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning was held in check all game by the Steelers’ defense, as well as New York’s running game. The G-Men only squeezed out 182 total yards against Pittsburgh’s defense, while the Steelers’ 329 total yards on offense overwhelmed the Giants’ usually stout defense.
The Steelers have now made themselves known as a legitimate contender entering the second half of the regular season. Having five of their last eight games being against divisional teams, Pittsburgh’s newfound resurgence couldn’t have come at a better time.
Let’s look at how the Steelers’ momentum carried them to their third win in a row, and how high their marks were on this week’s report card.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did his job as usual. Despite the interception he threw midway through the third quarter and the questionable fumble that led to a Giants recovery for a touchdown, Roethlisberger did what he had to do to help the Steelers win their fifth game of the season. Big Ben finished by completing 21 of 30 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. The veteran quarterback’s biggest play probably came late in the fourth quarter when he converted on a third-and-nine with a little over two minutes left to keep the drive alive so that Pittsburgh could run out the clock.
No Rashard Mendenhall. No Jonathan Dwyer. No problem. Coming off an ankle injury that sidelined him the last couple of games, running back Isaac Redman had the best rushing performance by any Steelers running back this season. The New Jersey native son returned home and rushed for 147 yards on 26 carries (both career highs) and a touchdown. Redman started the first half off with 87 yards on the ground, and capped off the night by scoring the touchdown that put Pittsburgh up for good, and ripped off a 28-yard run just before the two-minute warning, securing the victory for the Steelers.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Once again, Roethlisberger did a great job of distributing the ball to numerous players. Wide receiver Jericho Cotchery stepped in, after Antonio Brown injured his ankle in the first quarter, and caught four balls for 50 yards. Emmanuel Sanders only had two receptions, but one was a touchdown that put the Steelers up 7-0, and the other was a 16-yard third-down conversion late in the fourth quarter. The most impactful play came from Mike Wallace’s 51 yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that narrowed New York’s lead to three points. Tight end Heath Miller’s 48 receiving yards contributed to Pittsburgh converting on six of 13 third downs.
Pittsburgh’s offensive line has made huge strides in run blocking in the past three games. The Steelers’ offensive front has paved the way for three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances by running backs, and are making opposing defenses think twice of whether to defend the run or the pass. The only downside to the offensive line’s performance from Sunday was the four sacks that were allowed. Rookie offensive tackle Mike Adams, who was filling in for the injured Marcus Gilbert, had his hands full with the Giants’ defensive line on the right side and surrendered two of those sacks in the first half.
The Steelers’ defensive front isn’t a glamorous bunch that gets your attention with gaudy numbers, but they are talented enough to get the job done. The game’s first turnover was thanks to the pressure by nose tackle Steve McLendon that was put on Manning in the first quarter. McLendon hurried the Giants’ quarterback and forced him to throw an interception, giving the Steelers the ball close to midfield. When the defensive line wasn’t causing fits in the passing game, they were lending a hand in stopping New York’s running game, which had a total of only 68 rushing yards throughout the game.
With less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter, linebacker LaMarr Woodley strip-sacked Manning, but fellow linebacker James Harrison failed to just fall on the ball, which would have given the Steelers the ball in the red zone. Lawrence Timmons chipped in with a sack earlier in the fourth quarter as well. The pressure from the Steelers’ linebacking corps is what spearheaded the fourth-quarter attack that resulted in New York’s offense having three-and-outs in all three of their offensive possessions. The ageless Larry Foote led all Steelers linebackers with seven tackles, while Harrison, who seems to be quietly feeling his way back to his old playing form, finished with five tackles.
The performance against Manning and the Giants’ passing game has put the Steelers’ pass defense at number one in the NFL. The secondary held Manning to just 125 passing yards, his worst total in almost four years. Cornerback Ike Taylor registered a rare interception for the secondary (their second of the year) in the first quarter. Pro Bowl safety Ryan Clark had a team-high eight tackles, but was unfortunately flagged on a hit to wide receiver Victor Cruz in the end zone during the second quarter. Cornerback Keenan Lewis continued to get the attention of the referees by causing two pass interference calls of his own.
Just like on offense, Emmanuel Sanders filled in for the injured Antonio Brown on punt returns. Sanders didn’t disappoint with his 63-yard punt return down to the 12-yard line. Too bad he couldn’t out run the punter, or run him over. Rookie Chris Rainey had a terrific day in returning kickoffs. Rainey had big returns of 68, 50, and 32 yards, and averaged 34.6 yards per return for the game. Kicker Shaun Suisham connected on his only field goal attempt from 30 yards out, while punter Drew Butler had a long of 53 yards and landed two of his four punt inside the 20-yard line.
The only blemish on the Steelers coaching staff’s decision making was in the fourth quarter when on fourth-and-one inside the Giants’ five-yard line, they called for a fake field goal that was snuffed out by New York. With Big Ben and Redman in the backfield, head coach Mike Tomlin decided to go with a scrawny kicker to punch it in for the first down (WOW). What trumps this bad decision is the fact that Tomlin was able to get all of his players mentally ready for a day in which they had to travel just hours before they took the field. Athletes are creatures of habit, and once a single thing is taken out of their routine, then it could have a negative effect on how they perform. However, somehow Tomlin rallied his troops, kept the momentum going from the previous two weeks, and came away with the victory.
Follow me on Twitter @ClydeASpeller
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