Sunday, November 04, 2012

Back in Business

A great team win for the Steelers on Sunday.  In New Jersey.  Over the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Who blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead.  The Steelers are back in the playoff race.

Stellar individual performances, too many to enumerate, led the way: Isaac Redman, Emmanuel Sanders, Ben Roethlisberger, Keenan Lewis, Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, the offensive line and the entire defense.

Photo credit: Getty Images, via Newsday
The defense allowed just 182 net yards.  The secondary was terrific, and the front seven held the Giants to just 68 net yards rushing.  The Steelers also limited the Giants to just two third-down conversions (of 10 attempts).  Eli Manning's quarterback rating was just 41.1, for what that's worth -- 10 for 24 passing, 125 yards, one interception and no touchdowns.

On offense, the O-line played extremely well against an exceptionally good Giants defensive line. The guards, Ramon Foster and Willie Colon, were mobile, fierce and physical, especially in run-blocking.  Max Starks was solid as ever, and although rookie Mike Adams had his hands full with Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Co., he did okay, all things considered.

Controlling the Clock
Another encouraging trend continued on Sunday: The Steelers controlled time of possession by more than 11 minutes (35:15 to 24:44 for the Giants).  And when the offense needed a lightning strike, Mike Wallace bolted 51 yards for the touchdown that put the Steelers right back in the game.

The Steelers overcame worrisome in-game injuries (Antonio Brown and Chris Rainey) and flagrantly wrong penalties called on Keenan Lewis (phantom 41-yard pass interference), Ryan Clark (phantom head-to-head contact) and non-calls on Big Ben's fumble and the block in the back on the return.

Photo credit: Getty Images, via Newsday
All in all, a great team win on the road, and Joey Porter's Pit Bulls are glad they played the game after all.  Our misgivings were misplaced.  We were wrong.  The stadium appeared full, and everybody seemed happy to be there.

Maybe the Steelers ought to fly in the day of the game for road trips from now on.

Next up: The Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field, 8:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 12.

Travel Day & Game Day in East Rutherford, N.J.

Photo courtesy of Ryan Clark's Tweet @RealRClark25
It's not only Game Day, it's Travel Day for the Steelers, whose plane touched down this morning at Newark.  Ryan Clark Tweeted this morning that he and Troy Polamalu were already at MetLife Stadium: "Chilling in the Locker room with my brother @tpolamalu!! Long time to chill but it will be worth the wait!"

Clark explained on his radio show earlier this week that he and Polamalus like to go to the stadium early, with the team trainers, ahead of the team bus.  It gives them time to relax, get organized and get acclimated.  Seems like a good idea.

Jersey Shore: The real reality show.
Later, it should be quite a scene at the stadium and an emotion-filled day for fans and players.  Some of the Giants' players and their families displaced by Hurricane Sandy had to stay at teammates' homes during the week.

As for the game itself, it's the marquee game of the day, of course, with the spotlight on franchise quarterbacks Eli Manning vs. Ben Roethlisberger.  The quarterbacks alone make this game worth watching, but there's much more.

We keep thinking how Dallas's excelllent tight end Jason Whitten caught 18 passes last Sunday for 158 yards. Eighteen!  It should be interesting to see how the Giants try to defend Heath Miller today.

We worry a bit about the Steelers' special teams (as always); the possible effectiveness of the running game with a not-100 percent Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall; and an exceptional front four on the Giants' defense that has 21 sacks and 16 interceptions.  The Steelers' takeaways on defense pale by comparison.

Other than that, the Steelers have a lot going for them today. Seriously.  The Giants' defense has surrendered a ton of big plays; the Steelers have shown all season that they can carry time-of-possession; and Mike Wallace is due for a big day.  We're cautiously optimistic, despite the home field advantage for the Giants and the inevitable wave of emotion and intensity given what happened in their backyard during the past seven days. It should be interesting.

Gameday Links to Read This Afternoon
  • In New Jersey, The Star-Ledger's Jorge Castillo highlights three key matchups from the Giants' point of view   The No. 1 concern is stopping Heath Miller. 
  • The Post-Gazette's Blog 'n Gold presents its lively Game Chat.