Founded in 2008, Steel Curtain Rising existed before then, but on email. Now you can enjoy these “Outtakes.”
“One for the Thumb.”
In the 26 years after Joe Greene threw down the “One for the Thumb” gauntlet for the rest of the franchise, five times before the Steelers have stood on the door step, only to fall short. 4 of those times the Steelers were unable to open the door, and the one time Pittsburgh opened it, Neil O’Donnell allowed Larry Brown to shut during Super Bowl XXX.
- The Steelers Broncos AFC Championship win again opened the door and opened it compelling fashion.
While today’s game might have lacked the suspense of the AFC divisional victory over the Colts, the Steelers compensated for it with ingenuity. One really must credit to Bill Cowher for keeping the boys mean and hungry, and Ken Whisenhunt deserves even more credit for devising and deploying a brilliant game plan. I don’t know how many coaching vacancies are left, but Steelers fans had better enjoy Ken Whisenhunt while they can.
Has a Bill Cowher-coached Steelers team ever come out and called a better game on offense? I don’t know.
Not only did Ken Whisenhunt call the right play at the right time, but his players executed. To be sure, the Steelers got a few breaks (Hines Ward turning a would be Champ Bailey int/TD into a receptions. Neither of Willie Parker’s fumbles costing the team,) but that’s all part of the game. The fact the so many people had a piece of the ball says it all. Hines Ward, Cedric Wilson, Jerome Bettis, and Ben Roethlisberger got TD’s. Heath Miller didn’t get a TD, but came up with clutch catches when the Steelers needed him.
Aside from executing a well-devised game plan, the Steelers took advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves. 10 of those 24 first half points came directly off of turnovers. Which is to say that the Steelers started 24-3 instead of 14 to three. And make no mistake about it. Getting up a lead prevented Denver from running the ball, and the Broncos had shown some ability to do that early in the game.
The Steelers defense also earned its share of the credit.
- For once, Phil Simms is right about the Steelers, Pittsburgh’s defensive backs can cover.
Although the Steelers defense did get into Jake Plummer’s face when it was important, there were also a number of times when he had loads of time to throw, but couldn’t find anyone open. One of the telling stats is that Plummer had so little success throwing long down the field. (And to think, a lot of people cited the Steelers weakness vs. the deep ball. Well, in the Steelers-Broncos AFC Championship game, defending against the long ball wasn’t a Pittsburgh weakness.)
All in all, the Steelers played a hell of a game. They had a great game plan, they executed, and they stayed focused, with the one exception of the Bronco’s only TD drive where we gave them 31 yards on penalties. Pittsburgh also prevented Denver from establishing momentum.
- When the Broncos answered Jeff Reed’s 2nd field goal with a 47 yard Charlie Adams kick return, Larry Foote answered with an interception on the very next play.
Credit the Broncos. They didn’t fold up and quit, when they could have. They stuffed the Steelers running game (yes, I did think Pittsburgh’s play calling got a little conservative, but Ken Whisenhunt’s boys did move the chains and eat up the clock.)
The Steelers fought long and hard to get here.
- Few people thought the Steelers would be here after the Steelers late season loss to the Bengals.
But I credit coach Cowher for bringing the boys back to basics (putting on full pads for practice clearly did the trick). Bill Cowher kept this team focused, he re-grounded the Steelers in their our physical identity, and that opened the door to the playoffs.
- Then Bill Cowher unleashed what was, but shouldn’t have been his secret weapon. Big Ben Roethlisberger.
The decisive edge for the Steelers through the 2005 playoffs thus far has been having a legitimate franchise quarterback under center. And what a difference Ben Roethlisberger has made.
- It’s been a hell of a ride thus far, and folks, it ain’t over yet!
Enjoy it. (Click here for our summary of Super Bowl XL)