Divisional Playoff Recap: Steelers En Fuego
I asked for babes in bikini tops. Instead we get crazies in Lucha masks. I love Steeler Nation.
And Steeler Nation loves their Pittsburgh Steelers, who convincingly defeated the San Diego Chargers 35-24 in yesterday’s Divisional Playoff. The game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicates as the Steelers were in cruise control for almost an entire quarter. In fact, San Diego didn’t show much beyond their opening possession, a brilliant one-handed catch by WR Vincent Jackson who had CB Ike Taylor sticking to him tighter than a wet t-shirt on Scarlett Johansson.
Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians was possessed by the spirit of Ron Earhardt as the Steelers’ game plan completely reverted back to classic Steeler Football instead of the pass happy pseudo-West Coast attack that had been sputtering all season. They ran the ball, you may want to sit down for this, a whopping 46 times. Fast Willie Parker looked like the FWP of old while rushing for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. They even went back to the I Formation, which Fast Willie whined about several weeks back drawing criticism from head coach Mike Tomlin. Looks like FWP was right.
QB Ben Roethlisberger showed no ill effects from having his brains scrambled in the season finale against Cleveland. He was sharp and accurate with his passes, throwing for only 181 yards but making the plays when they needed to be made. His performance in the third quarter when he made several big third-and-long conversions was a perfect example of his steady leadership. Everybody contributed on the receiving end with Heath Miller scoring the back-breaking touchdown, Tiffin Thunder Nate Washington drawing a big pass interference penalty, and Hines Ward (who really needs to be recognized as a Big Game Player) hauling in 4 for 70, all of which were key catches to keep drives alive.
And then there’s Santonio Holmes. The Steelers return game is below average at best but Holmes picked his spot well. His punt return TD was Pittsburgh’s first score of the game and it appeared to be a very deflating blow to a San Diego team which had been quietly confident up until that point. It was only his second return TD of his career but it was the match which ignited the blast furnace.
Let’s also give some props to the much maligned offensive line. Ben wasn’t so much as coughed on yesterday. The Chargers had 1 sack but that came on a blitz where RB Mewelde Moore failed to pick up the extra pass rusher. The five big boys up front provided a perfect pocket, plenty of time to throw the ball, and gaping holes for the run game.
The third quarter of yesterday’s game was one of the most amazing things you’ll ever see as a football fan. The Chargers ran one play. That’s it. Fifteen minutes, one play. The Steelers, utilizing a ball control grind-it-out offense that we’ve been clamoring for, pounded out an 8 minute drive resulting in a TD. The Chargers got a great return out of midget Darren Sproles and looked like they got some momentum back starting at the Steelers 35. The one and only play was a ball batted skyward by Brett Keisel (who is emerging as a very good player) and picked off by both James Harrison and Larry Foote. The Steelers then ground out another drive which took them to the 4th quarter.
Speaking of the defense, what can I say? Simply the most devastating unit in the NFL. They took media darling Sproles and held the shrimp to a measly 15 yards rushing. FIFTEEN YARDS! He had 300+ last week! They sacked Philip Rivers four times, two of which were courtesy of Mister LaMarr Woodley. Silverback only had one but that was likely because they were mugging him on every play. The Chargers had 280 yards of total offense but close to 100 of that was amassed after the Steelers went up 28-10 and started playing a semi-prevent defense.
On a weekend when every home team coming off a bye lost, the Steelers took care of business on their home turf. Not only did they win, they won emphatically, showing improvement in areas they struggled with during the regular season while continuing to play well in the areas which they have always excelled. Get your bikini tops and Lucha masks ready because the AFC Championship game is coming to Pittsburgh next Sunday. The Steelers look ready, are you?