Were Rusty Steelers Struggles Against Browns Due to Preseason Philosophy?

Why were the Pittsburgh Steelers so rusty in their 2017 opening win against the Cleveland Browns

Well, chalk it up to Mke Tomlin’s approach to preseason football this past summer. To cut to the chase, scroll down about. Otherwise enjoy our Uruguayan interlude…

Steelers vs Browns, Le'Veon Bell

The Browns gang tackle Le’Veon Bell in the Steelers 2017 opener at Cleveland. Photo Credit: Christopher Horner, Tribune Review

Steelerless Sunday and an Uruguayan Interlude….

Watching NFL football on tape delay can be a curious experience. Today, despite on-demand viewing’s dominance , the NFL has defended its Appointment Viewing turf. Football fails to excite when you know the outcome, and its getting really hard avoid spoilers. Unless…

…You live outside the United States, as yours truly has done, well for a long time. So I found myself spending my 12 wedding anniversary in Montevideo, Uruguay which happened to coincide with the Steelers 2017 opener against the Browns.

As the weekend evolved, it became clear that my wife would be tied up at a translation Congress for most of Sunday afternoon….

…Which opened the door to watching the game! (Note to Steelers fans who got or will get married from September to early February – I once tried to combine a wedding anniversary dinner follow by “meeting the guys to catch the end of the game” and, as the old faux SNL commercial goes: Bad Idea.)

But I was free on Sunday afternoon. Alas, Google searches in English and Spanish could not confirm any locale in Montevideo that showed NFL games. El Dr. de Acero gave me his NFL Game Pass login credentials, but they didn’t work. So, spent the chilly, rainy September Sunday in Montevideo unable to watch the Steelers unwilling learn of the result, plowing through Peter Carlin’s biography of Bruce Springsteen.

After all, I’d be able to watch the game, commercial free, in less than 12 hours when I was back home in Buenos Aires…

…Except that my Monday morning boat ride home turned into a Monday evening boat ride home, thanks to storms on the Rio de la Plata (take that Lake Eire! I guess) so as it was, I couldn’t see the Steelers against the Browns until 11:00 pm that night.

Rusty Steelers Struggles Against Browns Due to Preseason Philosophy?

As stated above, NFL football on tape delay can be a curious animal. Thanks to heavy rains in the porteño capital, DirectTV informed me that part of the program I’d taped (the game) hadn’t recorded.

So by the time I got to an image I could see, the game had barely started, the Steelers were ahead 7-0, and Chris Boswell was kicking off to the Browns. Wow! The Koolaid of the return of the Steelers Killer Bees sure does give you a nice sugar high!

While I’d assumed that Juju Smith Schuster had probably returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, surely this was a sign that the offensive juggernaut created by Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant was going to treat Steelers Nation to a season opener in Cleveland somewhat akin to 1999’s 43-0 opening day Browns beating.

Of course, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, the best recent Steelers-Browns comparison comes from 2014’s Chuck Noll Day victory. But even that analogy falls short, because that was an afternoon of extremes for Steelers.

  • Against the Browns the Steelers offense simply sputtered, while Pittsburgh’s defense punished itself with penalties.

Chalk most of the Steelers defensive woes to over aggressiveness; while set up the scores that kept the Browns in the game, does anyone here want to gentle the aggressiveness out of T.J. Watt, Ryan Shazier or Cam Heyward?

Neither do I.

The offensive side of the ball is much harder to excuse, especially because the Steelers offense looked like a group of guys who hadn’t played together for well, about 232. Which is accurate, because you could probably sum the total time the Steelers starting offense (with James Conner filling in for Le’Veon Bell, of course) played together in preseason an not break single digits.

  • While I’m too young to be a grumpy old man, perhaps there’s cause to call me a curmudgeon and I unapologetically remain a preseason football apologist.

OK, the game has changed. Salary cap realities force coaches to use preseason more strategically. A season ending injury to Terry Bradshaw or Lynn Swann would have been just as devastating to Chuck Noll’s Steelers on the field, but it wouldn’t have amounted to a dead money drag on the team.

And let’s be fair. This isn’t Mike Tomlin’s first rodeo, and all of the Steelers starters on offense, save for Roosevelt Nix, are playing on their second NFL contracts. These guys have experience and don’t need the reps.

But its hard not to notice that the one guy who surprised everyone with his shine was Jesse James, a player to saw extensive action in the exhibition season. On the flip side, Maurkice Pouncey got hit with a couple of holding calls, and Lon Ledyard of Steel City Insider pointedly called out Marcus Gilbert and David DeCastro’s play.

  • OK, Antonio Brown didn’t play much in preseason either. Joe Hayden didn’t play at all (for the Steelers at least).

Unfortunately, accurate preseason snap counts aren’t available (yet.) The “Hard Hitting Analysis” thing to do would be to go back, look at preseason summaries, and get a rough idea of who played and how much, but that falls outside of this this is a stream of consciousness type article.

So be it. The workday beckons. The Steelers had their NFL equivalent of a warmup game against Appalachian State and they won it. But it says here that such opening day rustiness could have been avoided with a slightly different approach to preseason football on the part of Mike Tomlin and his staff.

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2014 Steelers Report Card Coaches and Special Teams

Taken from the grade book who saw his pupils take an unrelenting stream of criticism without withering before coming out on top, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 Report Card for special teams and coaching. Note, these are grades for the entire season, not a composite of each week’s report cards.

Special Teams
Dri Archer was a failure as a kick returner, although Markus Wheaton was a competent if not spectacular return man for the Steelers. Shaun Suisham saw more kicks returned for the Steelers than the Steelers were able to return, but he did get it into the end zone plenty of times. Brad Wing showed himself to be a good punter, save for the Tampa game. One wonders why the Steelers continue to use Antonio Brown at punter, and then you see what he did in the season finale vs. the Bengals. Shamarko Thomas may not be a worrisome question mark on defense but he was a special teams ace – his blocked punt was play making in its purest from.

Steelers punt coverage was good, and kick coverage solid although the later gave up one touchdown. Overall, while the Steelers special teams might not have been “special” they did complete a fake punt and turn a broken PAT into a two point conversion and blocked a punt in the playoffs. And clearly this until is no longer a liability as it was in 2012. Grade: B


Todd Haley took a lot of heat early in the season, and much of it was justified. At that point in the season, it was beyond evident that center of gravity on the Steelers roster in terms of talent tilted heavily towards to the offense, but the offense struggled, mightily at times.

Then, vs. Houston, something clicked. Was it the insertion of Martavis Bryant into the lineup? Was it Le’Veon Bell finding his stride? Was it just things coming together?

Who knows. Either way, from that point forward, the Steelers offense performed consistently, and showed itself to be a force to be reckoned with.

That is not a comparison Steel Curtain Rising make lightly, and while talent is the prime component here, Haley deserves credit for deploying it effectively.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers struggled, and this was to be expected. Which is not to say that progress was not made there too. It was. Early in the season, no-name backs were looking like Jim Brown rushing against the Steelers. Although the rushing defense faltered a little bit at the end, the Steelers went back to stuffing the run by mid-season.

  • Dick LeBeau took a lot of heat all year long and most of it was simply out of place.

LeBeau is a defensive wizard, but even he couldn’t conjure up a spell to protect the likes of Taylor and Polamalu from the effects of Father Time. LeBeau did the best with what he had, and while the defense was far from a strength at the end of the season (see the playoff loss to Baltimore), it was better than it was on opening day.

  • Credit LeBeau for that progress.

It would be a mistake to say that Keith Butler inherits a defense with the front seven settled, because Jarvis Jones is still very much a question mark, and there is literally no one opposite him now. The secondary is of course a shambles, with Mike Mitchell still a question mark, William Gay playing well, and two number three corners behind him.

Still, the defense came on strong to finish the season, and that happened with contributions from players named Tuitt, Spence, and Blake which are good signs for the future.

Finally, a word about Mike Tomlin, who took a lot of criticism throughout the year.

Most, although not all, is unfair.

  • Really, fans who think Tomlin should go, need to take a good look northwest to Cleveland, north to Buffalo or southeast to Washington to see “How the other half lives.”

Seriously. Mike Tomlin has coached in the NFL for 8 seasons, reached the playoffs 5 times, won one Super Bowl, lost another, and never had a losing season and just coached a team, that as recently as Thanksgiving, most pundits had scratched in at 8-8, to its 4th AFC North Championship.

  • Fans who think the Steelers would still hold six Lombardi’s if the Rooneys changed coaches willy-nilly a la John Elway-John Fox (to give one example) need a reality check.

2014 was a growing year for the Steelers and 2015 promises to make a stiffer challenge. Celebration is premature. No future Lombardi shipments have been pre scheduled.

But assuming the Steelers progress continues in 2015, Tomlin will have overseen a major rebuilding project since 2010, and done so without dropping below .500. Just is as important is the way Tomlin did it – by keeping roster spots competitive deep into the season. The result was to get his men focused and playing their best when they needed to – each win of the 4-0 finish got more impressive.

The job done by the coaching staff in 2014 wasn’t perfect – there was far too much inconsistentcy early on and the playoffs left a lot to be desired. But overall, it was pretty damn good. Grade: A-

Unsung Hero
When he left in free agency in 2013, few fans bothered to turn a head, and chalked it up to rebuilding. When he returned in 2013 after the Steelers 0-4 start, most saw it as a desperation move on the part of the Steelers. Yet as he did in 2012 and as he did in 2013, Will Allen played a vital role in stabilizing the Steelers defense, and helping it establish the type of consistency needed to raise its level of play to keep the Steelers competitive. You won’t see many people commenting on that or praising Allen for playing that role, and that’s why Will Allen is the Unsung Hero of the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers.

To read the 2014 Steelers offensive Report Card, click here.
To read the 2014 Steelers defensive Report Card, click here.


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2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for Offense

Taken from the grade book who saw his star pupil flirt with mediocrity early on, until breaking out and soaring to achieve his full potential, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 Report Card for the offense. Note, these are grades for the entire season, not a composite of each week’s report cards.

Statically speaking, this wasn’t Ben Roethlisberger’s best season, that would have been 2007 by 0.3 of a quarterback rating. Roethlisberger only threw 8 interceptions, and half of those came vs. the Saints and Jets. Beyond statistics, Roethlisberger played and acted as a team leader – not an insignificant role on an offense featuring 9 players under 30. Ben Roethlisberger is clearly in his prime now, and the unquestioned leader of this team. Grade: A

Running Backs
Le’Veon Bell succeeded beyond the wildest hopes and dreams of even the most optimistic draft day projection. Between his rushing and catching efforts, Bell accounted for close to 1/3 of the Steelers offense. Bell had 2215 yards from scrimmage on 373 touches – with no fumbles. After Bell the Steelers suffered a significant drop off. LeGarrett Blount did play well, but was a negative influence on the team, and walked out his teammates. Dri Archer may well some day vindicate the faith the Steelers showed in drafting him in the third round, but he did none of that in 2014. Josh Harris looked “OK” with his playing time as did Ben Tate. Will Johnson, in contrast, played quite well as a full back. Grade: B+

Tight Ends
Heath Miller perhaps had a little slow start to 2014, but by mid-season it was clear that he was back to form and was simply Mr. Reliable, although is performance did drop a notch in the playoffs both in the passing and blocking. Matt Spaeth didn’t get many opportunities, but caught 3 of the 4 balls thrown his way, with one for a touchdown he also converted 1 two point conversion. Spaeth was a force in the blocking game. Michael Palmer struggled to get a helmet, but did catch one touchdown. Grade: B+

Wide Receivers
This was a banner year for the Steelers wide receiving crops. Early in the year debate centered around why Justin Brown was starting over Lance Moore. By year’s end, Brown got sacrifieced when the Steelers needed to sign Ben Tate, and Moore found himself deactivated for the playoff game. That’s just how strong Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant came on. Bryant sucked up most of the ink, as you’d expect for a player who catches 8 touchdowns in 10 games played, but Wheaton also showed himself to be a treat, and came up with critical catches when the Steelers needed him to. And of course, there’s Antonio Brown, who is clearly one of the NFL’s best receivers right now. Grade: A

Offensive Line
The first accomplishment of this unit was to stay healthy. From 2010 to 2013 the Steelers offensive line resembled more of a M.A.S.H. unit. Even as the Steelers invested high round draft picks in the line, injuries forced the team to continue “plug and patch.” That ended in 2014, as the Steelers line played relatively injury free. Overall this until saw a lot of gains from years past. But for as well as it played, the until struggled to both run block and pass block in the same game a little too often, and they were dominated in the playoffs, which was a disturbing surprise. For that, their grade goes down. Grade: B-

To read the Report Card for the 2014 Steelers Defense, click here.
To read the Report Card for the 2014 Steelers Coaches and Special Teams, click here.

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Steelers Report Card vs Ravens 2014 Playoffs at Heinz Field

Taken from the grade book of a teacher who saw his star student ace his final quarter in high school, only to fall flat on his face during his first semester in college, here is the Pittsburgh Steelers Report Card for the playoff loss to the Ravens.

steelers, report card, grade, ravens, playoff, loss

The stat sheet isn’t too kind to Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for 334 yards, on 45 passes and 31 completions with one touchdown and two interceptions. Truthfully, his first interception could have been caught and was a miracle catch by Terell Suggs. The Ravens did what they could to take away the deep ball from the Steelers and Ben had no underneath check down to rely upon. Bruce Gradkowski came into a difficult spot and made a nice throw on third down and converted a fourth down. Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play his best game, but he certainly can’t be “blamed” for the loss. Grade: B

Running Backs
On the surface, the decision to start Ben Tate made sense. But if you accept that then why not sign an experienced veteran earlier in the season? Looking at the numbers Tate played a respectable game, but fumbled early and bobbled a pass that got intercepted. Josh Harris had 9 carries for 25 yards, but didn’t get a lot of running room. Tellingly, the Steelers turned to Will Johnson when they needed to convert in short yardage. Dri Archer ran once for a loss, but did catch 3 passes. The running backs weren’t asked to do a lot but, even then, they didn’t quite answer the call. Grade: C-

Tight Ends
Heath Miller came up with some clutch catches as he always does. But he also failed to come up with a few others that the Steelers needed. His fumble also made the Steelers 1 and done official. Moreover, he struggled in blocking particularly against Terrell Suggs. Miller’s catches bring the grade up, but the Steelers needed more from the tight ends than they got. Grade: D

Wide Receivers
Antonio Brown caught 9 passes, including one that almost went for a touchdown that he had little right to catch. Martavis Bryant had 6 catches including a touchdown, and Darrius Heyward Bey and one catch for six yards. The Steelers put up 356 yards of passing against the Ravens, and the wide receivers came up with 250 of those. A good night. Grade: B

Offensive Line
Baltimore’s ability to control the line of scrimmage and collapse the pocket was a big difference maker in the game. The Steelers relative lack of playoff experience has been noted, but Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, and Marcus Gilbert have all started playoff games before. Pouncey and Foster have won them too. None of the savvy supposedly gained from playoff experience was evident vs. the Ravens. The Steelers needed a strong game from their offensive line. They got the opposite. Grade: F

Defensive Line
Baltimore ran the ball when it had to, in the first half. The defensive line made its adjustments, but by then the damage had been done. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt got 4 tackles a piece, with the stat sheet showing that Heyward hit Joe Flacco twice. Fair enough, but Steelers front seven generated little pressure on Flacco, and the line must share part of that responsibility. Grade: C-

Going into the game one of the story lines was how would Baltimore’s inexperienced offensive lineman fare against the Steelers edge rushers who’d been making a lot of noise of late. The underdog won this battle in a big way. Jason Worilds personal foul penalty was boneheaded to say the least and he was a non-factor in the pass rush, as was James Harrison. Sean Spence did get a sack, and Ryan Shaizer did force a fumble in a nice play. Vince Williams had 3 tackles including one for a loss. Lawrence Timmons, turned in a strong game as he has all season. Grade: D

Three of the Steelers top four tacklers were members of the secondary, Troy Polamalu, Brice McCain, and Mike Mitchell. Polamlau did help in run support and got a lick in on Flacco, but for all intents and purposes he wasn’t an impact player. Mitchell’s personal foul penalty energized the Ravens to their first touchdown. McCain got his hands on a pick, but unlike Terrell Suggs, McCain couldn’t hold on. Welcome to the playoffs Mr. McCain. Flacco simply completed the throws he had to complete, and while the non-existent pass rush helped, the Steelers patchwork secondary also was a factor. Grade: D

Special Teams
Markus Wheaton had 3 returns which averaged 20.7 yards a full four yards below his season average. On the flip side, Jacoby Jones was held to 23.7 yards per return, in line with the Steelers regular season average, but well below Jones’ average for 2014. Brad Wing averaged below 40 yards per punt, but did pin the Ravens down twice inside the 20. Shaun Susiham made all 3 of his field goals. All of that points to an average night for the Steelers special teams, but Shamarko Thomas’ blocked punt was sensational coming at just when the Steelers needed it. The fact that the offense failed to capitalize doesn’t dim the brilliance of the play. Grade: A-

The Steelers coaches have taken a lot of heat for the Ravens performance, and this comes with the territory when you lose so badly in the playoffs. With that said, its important to acknowledge that the execution vs. game plan debate is legitimate. Even so, Todd Haley’s offense couldn’t protect its quarterback, couldn’t make the run threat real, struggled in the Red Zone, but did move the ball. Haely is certainly not responsible for the turnovers. And his backup entered without the offense missing a beat.

Dick LeBeau’s defense failed to pressure the passer, and its secondary failed to shut down the Ravens when it counted. However, the unit did eliminate the running game for an entire half.

At the end of the day, the crisp execution and smart play that had characterized the Steelers during the season’s final four weeks was largely missing, and as Mike Tomlin would be the first to say, “The Steelers are what they put on tape.” The Pittsburgh Steelers final 2014 Report Card will rate the coaches more well, but this Report Card is based solely on outcome and performance vs. the Ravens. Grade: D

Unsung Hero Award
This gentleman isn’t one of the Killer Bees. He’s not the rookie sensation who specializes in catching touchdowns. The stat sheet says he had 5 catches for 66 yards, which is respectable in today’s NFL, but will do little to make him the envy of the Fantasy Football owners next season.

But go beyond the numbers, and you’ll see why he was so special to the Steelers on a night when much went wrong. Those 5 catches came on 6 targets. And here is how they broke down: 1-11, 1-11, 1-12, 1-15, and 1-17 – all but the final catch (which came on 2nd and 20) went for a first down. You can’t score if you don’t move the chains in the NFL and this gentleman kept the chains moving for Pittsburgh. While the end result remains, his individual effort deserves far more recognition than he’s getting, and for that Markus Wheaton is the Unsung Hero of the playoff loss to the Ravens.

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Steelers Vote Le’Veon Bell MVP for 2014

Christmas came two days early on the South Side and in the end it was a mere formality as the Pittsburgh Steelers voted Le’Veon Bell as the MVP for 2014.

With one game to go, Bell has already broken the Steelers franchise record for total yards from scrimmage, which currently stands at 2,115. In games vs. the Titans, Bengals, and Saints, Bell racked up over 200 yards from scrimmage, a feat that only Walter Payton has accomplished.

  • While those numbers are impressive, they don’t tell the full story.

As Steel Curtain Rising observed on Thanksgiving, the Tennessee game marked Bell’s passage into the status of the elite. The Steelers were behind in the third quarter by two scores, and they turned the game over to Bell, and Bell delivered.

The Steelers team MVP is voted on by the players in the locker room. They don’t release vote totals, although Mark Kabloy got Michael Mitchell on the record saying that the choice was between Bell and Antonio Brown. Either would have been a good choice, as would have Ben Roethlisberger, the third member of the Steelers “Killer Bees” trio.

Bell is the first Steelers running back to win the team MVP award since Willie Parker won it in 2006. Jerome Bettis won the award in 2000, 1997, and 1996. Barry Foster won it in 1992, and Franco Harris won it in 1972.

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Steelers Defeat Chiefs Rapid Reaction as Pittsburgh Heads to Playoffs

Steelers Defeat Chiefs Rapid Reaction as Pittsburgh heads to playoffs. Woah! That was a nail bitter Steelers Nation. But the men and Black and Gold hung together, and pulled it off as the Pittsburgh Steelers won by 20 to 12 and in the process secured their first playoff berth since 2011.

As the 2014 season has progressed, the Killer Bees, aka Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell have gotten more and more attention, not only as the focal point of the Steelers offense, but of the entire team.

  • Such praise is well deserved, as each man has proven he belongs among the NFL’s elite.

Be that as it may be, it is the Steelers defense that shined today at Heinz Field. There is hardly a player on the defense whose name didn’t get called for making a big play at some point. Lawrence Timmons had perhaps his best game of the season. Cameron Heyward harassed the Chiefs all day long. James Harrison abused Eric Fisher and has to have at least someone on the South Side considering talking him into playing yet one more year.

  • Yes, the Chiefs put up a lot of yards, yes they won the time of possession battle.

But Kansas City entered the Red Zone 5 times, and each time the Steelers defense rebuffed them, holding them to 4 field goals.

The win ensures the Steelers will return to the playoffs with at least a Wild Card; the AFC North remains a possibility as Cincinnati comes to Heinz Field next week. They’ll be plenty of time to study that match up, but for now, Steel Curtain Rising encourages Steelers Nation to celebrate the way only true Steelers can. Listen to the Jimmy Psihoulis classic, the Western Pennsylvania Polka:

That’s all for now. Steel Curtain Rising will be back later with more in depth analysis. It is a great day to be a Steelers Fan!


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Steelers Defeat Falcons – Ben, Bell & Brown Lead Total Team Effort in 27-20 Victory

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Atlanta Falcons 27-20 at the Georgia Dome to raise their record to 9-5 on the year. The win, of course, allowed them to keep pace with Cincinnati and Baltimore in the AFC North race.

  • This victory also exorcise a demon that has plagued the 2014 Steelers – under performing against teams with losing records.

All of those things are important, but perhaps what is more important is how the Steelers pulled off the feat.

Steelers Heed Labriola’s Advice

Steelers Digest isn’t what it used to be (more on why in a future Watch Tower column). But you still get to read words and wisdom of editor Bob Labirola. Digest is now published twice weekly, so its most recent issue came after the Titans win and the loss to the Saints.

After summing up the root causes of the Steelers disappointing loss to the Saints, Labriola had an observation and one piece of advice for the men in Black and Gold:

There is but one month left to this 2014 NFL Season, and these next four games will label these Steelers. These four games will reveal once and for all what kind of team they are. Therefore, it would beehove the Steelers to play them as a team.

  • And that’s really the key to this Steelers victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

Yes, the “Killer BeesBen Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell will win a lot of accolades in for getting it done.

  • Ben Roethlisberger went 27 of 35 for 360 yards, protected the ball and kept chains moving on third down
  • Antonio Brown literally caught everything thrown at him, and his first half toe-tapping catch was a work of art
  • Le’Veon Bell had difficulty running the ball, but made plays in the passing game and he made Atlanta pay on the ground when it counted

And each of these three players deserve every bit of praise they get.

Ben Roethlisberger broke his single season passing record. Antonio Brown broke the Steelers single season receptions. And Le’Veon Bell broke Barry Foster’s single-season yards from scrimmage record. It’s safe to say that with the Killer Bee’s, the Steelers are as deep at the three skills positions has they have been since the days of Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, and Lynn Swann/John Stallworth.

  • But the Killer Bees can’t and didn’t do it alone.

Dick LeBeau’s defense might be a pale imitation of his ’05, ’08, and ’10 defenses. But it was William Gay’s third pick six of the season that put gave the Steelers their first touchdown. Twice in the third quarter Atlanta’s offense got deep into the Red Zone – both times they went away settling for 3. Indeed, the same thing would have happened in the second quarter, had Jason Worilds not been hit with a bogus roughing the passer call.

  • As the old cliché goes, the Steelers special teams didn’t stop Devin Hester, but they did contain him.

The Steelers return units also allowed Antionio Brown to notch a 31 yard punt return to his resumes, and Markus Wheaton looked strong.

Nor were the Killer Bees the only stars on offense. Heath Miller ended the 3rd quarter with a 26 yard catch and Markus Wheaton opened the 4th quarter with a 30 yard catch that set up Bell’s second touchdown. On the next drive Wheaton had an impressive third down conversion catch which kept the clock running.

  • None of these types of plays are sufficient to winning football games in December, they all are necessary.

And so it goes with the offensive line with the offensive line and the defense. The offensive line kept the Falcon’s defenders away from Roethlisberger for most of the day. While the line didn’t put on a road-grading quality day run blocking the Steelers converted on 3rd and short when they needed to.

On the Falcon’s final possession, Matt Ryan simply had no where to throw, and William Gay and Vince Williams made sure check down receivers got nothing.

2014 Steelers Coming Together at the Right Time

Bob Labriola was right. The 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers were a team has defied identity during the season’s first 12 games. During the season opener vs. Cleveland for two quarters they looked unstoppable on both sides of the ball, then two quarters later they allowed the Browns to look just as unstoppable.

A horrendous performance followed in Baltimore, followed by a game in Carolina where the Steelers offense looked “scary good,” followed by a game at home vs. Tampa where a street free agent named Vincent Jackson (again – see the ’09 debacle vs. Oakland) channeled his inner Jerry Rice.

  • As Labriola declared, the real Pittsburgh Steelers will reveal themselves during the final four games of 2014.

So far those Steelers have shown themselves as a team capable of overcoming faults to win two tough games on the road. So far those Steelers have seen different teammates step up with others have faltered. So far those Steelers have passed two sections of a four-part pass-fail exam.

If the Steelers play the next two games with the determination and cohesion which they displayed vs. the Bengals and again vs. the Falcons, their prospects for passing this exam look very good.

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