One year ago the Pittsburgh Steelers eliminated themselves from the playoffs with a horrendous performance in Cleveland Stadium.
During the final week of the NFL’s 2010 season, the Steelers sealed a first round bye by returning to that venue and vanquishing their erstwhile division rival.
To say, “what a difference a year makes” is an understatement because this game not only provided a nutshell sketch of all that went right for the Steelers in 2010, it also hinted at what else could be possible.
Polamalu Is Polamalu
Troy Polamalu spent his press conference following his teamates’ decision to name him the Steelers MVP attempting to convince the public that he really did not deserve to win the award.
Then he went out during his second play after two weeks on the injured list and proved himself wrong.
So many things that went wrong for the Steelers in 2009 went right for them in 2010 because of Number 43. Troy Polamalu is a very special player and may God keep him healthy.
The Dynamic Duo
Taking their cue from Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace took one play to do what they’re starting to do best – go deep.
Roethlisberger’s 56 yard touchdown hook up to Mike Wallace was the duo’s 8th breaking the team record of 40 yard plus passing combos.
More importantly, it put the Steelers on the board with 7 points, immediately converting a turnover, and had the effect of laying down the law early, nipping any would be Browns spoiler plot in the bud.
Putting Their Best Foote Forward
The Steelers have overcome a slew of injuries this year because their starters in waiting, as Mike Tomlin calls them, stepped up.
Fortunately, the Steelers suffered no significant injuries in this game (save perhaps from Bryant McFadden), but Mike Tomlin went to his backups early.
In just over one half, Larry Foote came off the bench to record four tackles, half of a sack, another quarterback hit, a pass defensed, and a tackle for a loss.
He’s not the only back up to distinguish himself:
- Doug Legursky spelled Maurkice Pouncey and filled in ably as a blocking full back.
- Anthony Madison, who was “only” supposed to be a special teams start, recorded a sack and brought down an interception.
- Keenan Lewis at least compiled some nice stats and avoided mistakes.
Ziggy Hood also had his best game of the year. And so on, and so on, and so on….
Taking Care of Business
Fret about the Steelers 2-4 record against fellow playoff teams this year later.
The 2009 Steelers actually had a pretty decent record against winning teams. They just happened to fall flat when facing off against league bottom feeders.
This group of Pittsburgh Steelers has taken care of business when it has needed to.
Shades of Things to Come…?
When making his Super Bowl pick, the legendary John Madden used to anoint the team that was peaking at season’s end.
Right now the New England Patriots are redefining the concept of “peaking,” but so are the Steelers. There are many indicators to prove this, but only one will suffice.
All season long, no matter who the opponent has been, the Steelers have struggled inside the Red Zone.
Instead of struggling, the Steelers surged inside the Red Zone against the Browns, punching it in from the one twice, and adding on tosses from the 3 and 4 four good measure.
The Cleveland Browns may not have put up much of a fight, but the fact remains that the Pittsburgh Steelers closed their 2010 regular season by clinching the AFC North while playing their most complete game of the year.
No one can ask for a better way to ring in 2011.