Sometimes, you love being wrong. Steel Curtain Rising suggested prior to the New England game that the milestone passed in 2007’s drubbing at the hands of the Patriots might have been the fact that the Steelers were forced to resort to gadget plays during a crucial goal-line situation.
- The implications of this were as ominous as Bruce Arian’s decision to phase out Dan Krieder….
…Thankfully, the Steelers 33-10 victory against the Patriots suggests we may have been in err.
If we were, it could mean big things for the Steelers in the weeks to come, that go far beyond the fact that Pittsburgh netted its first victory in Foxboro in ten years and in doing so the Steelers played their first complete game of the 2008 season.
Steel Curtain Defense Dominates
The Black and Gold defense dominated to a degree that has perhaps not yet been seen. Matt Cassell’s development has been impressive. In the two weeks leading up to the game, Cassell became only the fifth NFL quarterback to post-back to back 400 yard games. In fact Cassell had been performing so well that some pundits suggested that New England might be better off trading Brady and naming Cassell as their standard bearer.
- His meteoric rise to the top collided head on with the Steel Curtain last Sunday. The impact left Cassell dazed and confused.
Prior to playing the Steelers, the Patriots had no given up more than one turnover in a single game. The Steelers took the ball away from the Patriots five times, and four of them came at directly off of the hands of Matt Cassell. New England failed to convert a single third down until they were deep into garbage time. Remember, this came against a New England team that has the 10th ranked offense in the league, and that still ranks 13th in 3rd down conversions.
About the only facet of the game that was went well for New England was the running game, where they did get some yards in big chunks, but neither of those drives resulted in a score. But the running game on the other side of the ball was the story of the game.
Steelers Running Game Finds Its Legs
It will take the rest of the season to determine whether or not the Patriots game yielded yet another milestone for the Steelers, but if it does it can be summed up succinctly:
- Steelers football has returned
Willie Parker, Mewelde Moore and Gary Russell teamed up to masses 161 yards on the ground, averaging 4.5 yards a carry in the process. They did this against a New England team that ranks 15th in against the run and 13th overall. This becomes more impressive when you consider the fact that the Steelers rushing offense only ranks 24th.
None of this would have been possible had the offensive line not stepped up, and stepped up big. Not only did they open holes big enough that allowed Moore and Parker to rip off big runs, but the line kept Ben clean, as he was only sacked once.
More important than the statistics however, is the fact that for the first time in a long time, Bruce Arians showed a commitment to establishing the run. When Willie Parker started slowly, he not only did he substitute Moore, he unhesitatingly continued to run the ball.
- They ran the ball to move downfield.
- They ran the ball to score.
- They ran the ball to kill the clock.
They ran the ball to win.
Bigger Tests on the Horizon
The Steelers should be proud that they earned Mike Tomlin his first win against a contender. But as Bill Cowher would have said, “this win only puts us in a position….” And he’d have been right.
With each passing week, the challenges get tougher and tougher, as the Steelers must play Dallas at home, Tennessee on the road, and then travel to Baltimore to play against the Ravens, in a game that will most likely determine the AFC North Division championship.
The Steelers are going to need to move the ball on the ground to beat all of those teams.
If they can do that, then the game against the Patriots will have been the turning point of the 2008 season.
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