I noted yesterday on Twitter how satisfying Sunday’s Steelers win over New England was for their fans. The Patriots have been a nemesis for some time. Beating them was sweet for that reason alone, but it also set up the Steelers for a Super Bowl run. They kept their divisional lead over Baltimore and kept pace to be able to grab the second seed in the AFC – meaning a bye week and home game.
The recipe remains the same: don’t turn the ball over, stay balanced, and let the defense work its magic.
The game started out exactly the wrong way, however, as Roethlisberger threw an interception on the first possession and New England cashed in for a touchdown.
After Pittsburgh tied the game, another key series set up dominant second half. Â The Patriots moved down the field thanks to a big draw play by Kevin Faulk. Â It looked like they would take the lead before half. Â But Randy Moss dropped a open touchdown pass and Gostkowski missed the field goal attempt. Â Coming away with no points had to be deflating.
The Steelers then dominated the second half with four sacks and five turnovers leading to outscoring the Pats 23-0. Â James Harrison made Matt Cassel’s miserable and both Mewelde Moore and Willie Parker ran the ball well. Â Ben spread the ball around (Hine Ward and Santonio Holmes had TDs but Nate Washington and Heath Miller played important roles). Â This was Steeler football.
And this is the pattern the Steelers need to follow moving forward. Â The defense is good enough to keep them in every game. Â The offense needs to protect the football and take advantage of opportunities. Â If they can do that then they can take this team all the way to the Super Bowl.
But first things first. Â The Steelers have a daunting schedule. Â Next up is another traditional rival: the Dallas Cowboys. Â If they can get to Tony Romo like they did Matt Cassel then they will be in good shape. Â Dallas is a good team, but they haven’t protected Romo that well this season and the Steelers should be able to take advantage of that: shut down the run and make them one dimensional.
Next comes the Ravens. Â This is a must win. Â Win this game and they take the division. Â And again the recipe is the same: stop the run, avoid turnovers, and force Flaco to make them instead.
After these two tough games comes the best team in the AFC the Tennessee Titans. Â But the focus really doesn’t change. Â But given the strength of the Titans defensive line, the focus most also be on the offensive line and the protection of Roethlisberger. Â If they give Ben time to throw he can make the plays. Â If he feels constantly under the gun the temptation to force it downfield will grow. Â Ben has to resist this temptation.
The season wraps up with the reeling Browns. Â If the Steelers win the above three they might be resting players at this point. Â If not this is a classic example of a don’t beat yourself game.
If the Steelers win three of their last four – and beat Baltimore – they should win their division and get the first week bye. Â By beating quality teams they will also show themselves ready to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Beating the Patriots was great but Steeler fans won’t be satisfied with that for long. Â There is too much left to accomplish. Â Next week offers another opportunity to beat a rival and keep the good feelings coming.
Tags: Pittsburgh Steelers