Monday, January 2, 2012

1000 for Hines: Steelers Win


There were enough Steelers fans in the stands to prompt the Browns to treat it like an away game and wear their white jerseys.

Cleveland wins the toss, takes the ball, and promptly goes 3-and-out.

Mendenhall carries us down the field to the fringe of field goal range. Tomlin elects to go for it on 4th and 3 rather than try a 49-yarder with the wind at our back. Ben can't hit Redman and it's a turnover on downs.

Troy does his "dive through the line" play and pulls Wallace down before he can hand the ball off.
What a player. 

3-and-out again for Cleveland.

Even with the wind at our back, the passing game can't get on track. The running game carries us to midfield but Ben gets sacked and that's that.

Another 3-and-out from the Browns.

Mendenhall bounces one outside and tries to make a cut but his knee gives out and he crumples to the ground.

Might be a torn ACL.


Second Quarter

With Mendenhall out and the wind in our face, it's the Isaac Redman show. A holding penalty knocks us back but Ben zings one to Manny Sanders to get us down to the 22. Faced with a 4th and 1, Tomlin elects to go with Redman rather than try a 40-yard field goal. Redman spins off two tacklers and picks it up. Whew. After the moment of relief, Ben gets sacked on 3rd down, leaving us with a 45-yard field goal that the wind blows left.

With the wind at their back, the Browns start to move the ball and catch a spark when Wallace scrambles for 30 yards on 3rd and 2. The Steelers lock it down at the goal line and force a field goal. 


The offense sputters going into the wind and punt it back to the Browns with 3 minutes left in the half.

Wallace comes out with the wind at his back and hits two big passes to Josh Cribbs to get the Browns into long field goal range. Dawson hits a 45-yarder.


 Ben gets the ball back with a minute left and hits two quick passes to Cotch and Hines to get us near midfield. After a timeout, Ben loads up and guns one to AB down the right side that Brown catches against the side of his helmet for a huge 40-yard gain to get us down into the red zone.

All Antonio Brown does is make big plays.

After two incompletions, Ben hits AB on a crossing route near that goal line to pick up the first down with 11 ticks left. Out of timeouts, Ben tries two fade patterns that fall incomplete and Suisham gets us on the board before the half.


Third Quarter

The Steelers get the ball out of the half, and Isaac Redman just takes over. He carries us out to midfield where Ben hits Heath to convert a 3rd down. The drive keeps rolling when AB reels one in to move the sticks again. Wallace takes a WR screen down to the 10, but the Steelers can't get any closer and settle for tying the game.


The Browns get into 3rd and short but pressure on Wallace forces him to roll out and Troy jumps a route on the sideline for a big turnover in Browns territory.

The offense takes over, getting Hines a catch then pounding Redman into field goal range. AB gets us closer and Redman hits a hole and slices in from 7 yards out.


There were two things the Steelers struggled to defend in this game. Josh Cribbs and Seneca Wallace scrambling. Cribbs reels in a few more and Wallace reels off another big gain on the ground to get the Browns into field goal range. Ryan Clark gets a rare blitz opportunity and makes the most of it, bringing down Wallace. Tomlin declines a holding penalty on 3rd down that wouldn't knocked the Browns out of field goal range and elects to let Dawson try a 49-yarder.

It's right down the middle.


I honestly don't mind that call. Why give the Browns another snap? If they pick up any more than 10, it's a closer field goal. I'll take my chances with a 49-yarder any day.

Hines picks up catch #999 but Redman gets stopped for the first time all year on 3rd and 1. I think that was a bad omen of what was to come for him in the 4th.

Fourth Quarter

Kapinos flips the field and the Browns go 3-and-out.

Early in his career, Hines used to run the behind-the-line drag shovel-pass all the time. Now, it was only fitting that would be the play he would make his 1000th catch. The only problem was no one remembered to block the inside linebacker and Hines loses 3 yards. Oh well, 1000 is still an incredible record.

AB makes up for the loss by making a diving catch against his hip. Cleveland challenges the play but AB had it al the way. 

What a grab.

There were 2 things Isaac Redman hadn't done all year. One was get stopped on a 3rd and 1. The other was fumble. In two carries (one at the end of the 3rd, and his first of the 4th) he did both. Ugh.

The Browns convert a 3rd and long with a sideline out, but that was the only throw Wallace could make into the wind. The Browns elect to punt rather than try a 50 yarder.

John Clay comes in to spell Redman and isn't as effective. We get a first down via penalty and Cotch converts another one to get us out to the 40. Redman comes back in and takes off over the right side and rumbles down into Browns territory, carrying half their defense on his back as he fights for extra yards. He gets spun around and somehow the ball comes out. That's shockingly rare. But it's Browns ball.

The Browns can't do anything with it and punt back to the Steelers with 5 minutes left.

The Steelers go into "wind the clock" mode and grind out a first down with Clay and a pass to Heath. The Browns use their last timeout and the Steelers find themselves in the age-old situation. 2 minutes to go, 3rd down, the other team out of timeouts. Run the ball and wind another 40 seconds off the clock or  go for the win and throw, hoping you pick it up so that the game ends. The danger of throwing, as we saw against Baltimore, is that if it's incomplete you leave the other team with a full 2 minutes to try to score.

Tomlin has always thrown in these situations, but with 3rd and 2 I thought the run might be worth it. But they opt for a throw and it's incomplete, leaving the Browns with a full 2 minutes to drive down the field.

Wallace starts picking his way down the field, moving the Browns across midfield as the clock ticks under a minute. Ryan Clark makes a big tackle to keep a guy in bounds inside the 40 as the clock goes under 30 seconds. Timmons makes another big-time tackle near the sidelines to keep Moore in bounds at the 25. Wallace spikes the ball with 5 seconds left, leaving one last shot for the end zone. Troy gets a hand on the jump ball and knocks it away, ending the threat as time expires.

Playoffs here we come.

Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Antonio Brown
Defensive Game Ball: Troy Polamalu

Honorable Mentions:
Hines Ward
Isaac Redman
Lawrence Timmons
Ryan Clark
Jason Worlids

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game

Not only did we lose Mendenhall with a torn ACL, but we also lost Cortez Allen (shoulder), Keenan Lewis (hamstring), and David Johnson (elbow, I think). Hopefully at least a few of these guys can get healthy for the playoffs.

Final Thoughts
  • It wasn't pretty, but 12-4 is 12-4 and that's hard to argue with.
  • What an accomplishment for Hines Ward to have 1,000 career catches. We've been blessed to watch him for the last 14 years.
  • All Antonio Brown does is make big plays. Period.
  • Ryan Clark has been a big force in our run defense this year. Going to be tough in Denver without him.
  • This might have been the best game Troy played all year. He was a force all over the field and came up with a big interception.
  • Looked like Ben came up gimpy after scrambling out of the pocket late in the game.
  • Despite the two fumbles, I'm not worried about Isaac Redman. He put up almost 100 yards and had the most carries he had all season.
  • For everyone who is going to say "The Steelers almost lost to Blaine Gabbert, Tyler Palko, Curtis Painter, Andy Dalton, and Seneca Wallace" just remember that the Ravens actually did lose to Blaine Gabbert, Tavaris Jackson, and Matt Hasselbeck. Almost only counts in horseshoes.
  • Thankful to be back in the playoffs. Never take that for granted. The Bills haven't been to the playoffs since 1999.
  • This season has been a fun ride. Not the best season for our hearts and stomachs, but it's never easy with the Steelers. Now it's playoff time. Get ready.


Fred Zarguna said...

Tomlin's decision to decline the penalty was a coaching error, pure and simple. There's no defending it. By all percentages it was a terrible call.

Ugly, and exactly what I expected. The Steelers have not been a good road team this year. I expect they'll actually struggle in Denver, and pull off a narrow win. It's not going to be a blowout unless the o-line shows us something they have not showed us all year. The truth is, every time this season we've really really needed them, they've been calamitously awful.

Ryan Clark has been a huge part of our run support as you note, and as you note, he _will_ be missed on Sunday. However, the fact that a free safety is looming so large in run support is not a positive; it's a Defensive Coordinator's nightmare.

The likelihood of winning in New England or Baltimore is miniscule, so Stiller fans, don't get yinz hopes up. Our best scenario, which is not good, is for Houston to beat Cincy. Then we might squeak by New England's anemic defense, and hope Houston can bust Baltimore up for us a little.

The Steelers n'at Staff said...

Thanks for the comment!

I agree that Ryan Clark will be missed in Denver. Any time your safeties are the leading tacklers on your team, it means your inside linebackers aren't getting their job done. I really like Lawrence Timmons, but he has had the worst season of his career this year. He has missed a lot of tackles and run himself out of a lot of plays.

As you say, the Steelers have been a bad road team this year, but I think you could argue that Baltimore has been equally as bad on the road, considering they lost to Jacksonville, Seattle, Tennessee and almost lost to Arizona.

In all likelihood, I don't expect much difference in Denver than how we have played as of late. We'll rack up a lot of yards between the 20s then struggle in the red zone to punch it in the end zone (one of the many reasons why I hate Bruce Arians) and we'll just have to hope that the defense can lock it down enough to bring us back from Mile High with a win.


Fred Zarguna said...

Baltimore has been a terrible road team this year, but let us not forget that they beat Cincinnati when they needed to. And there is also that horrible disaster at Heinz Field; resist the temptation to blame that all on our two minute defense; we had to overcome a half-time 10 point deficit to take the lead -- late -- in that game.

We need only have held onto the lead against the Rat Birds, and we would be the top AFC seed, defending our AFC Champ status with every game at home.

That all said, it's irrelevant. There is no scenario that puts Baltimore on the road that can be good for the Steelers. To get to the Big Show, we will (to a 99% certainty) need to win a game in Foxborough and a game at M&T. That would be a tall order in a year when we had a decent road team.

[Of course, I'd love to be wrong...]

Here We Go.