The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a checkered history playing on Christmas Eve.
In 1994, they lost a seemingly meaningless game to a San Diego Chargers team that would inflict one of the worst playoff losses in franchise history just a few weeks later.
In 1995 the Steelers, playing basically their second team, went toe-to-toe vs. the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau and came within a dropped pass of winning.
The Steelers took care of business against the Rams in fine fashion. Be very clear on one point – shutting out another NFL team is not to be taken lightly.
Yes, the Rams have one of the worst offenses in the NFL. But the Steelers did what they were supposed to – dominate the scoreboard.
This group of Pittsburgh Steelers certainly has a couple of games and, specifically one drive, that they would like to have back. They’ve won ugly at times. But they’ve avoided dropping a game to a manifestly inferior team, which is the mark of a winner.
Steve Jackson of course did gain 100 yards, and I’ll point you to Neal Coolong’s analysis of that breakdown over at Behind the Steel Curtain.
But if the lapse in the run defense is nothing to ignore, nor is it worth tying yourself up in knots over – Steve Jackson is a phenomenal rusher who has had the misfortune to be trapped on some mediocre teams.
With an eye towards the playoffs, several postives stood out:
- James Harrison makes this defense so much better
Yours truly is of course not the first to say this (the forementioned Neal Coolong did just that), but there is no denying it. Harrison was a force as aways, despite getting held, and his presence as much as anything else contributed to forcing St. Louis to lay eggs in its Christmas stockings.
- Mike Wallace got back to doing what he does.
Earlier in the week Ed Bouchette had chronicled on PG Plus how this season had broken down neatly in two halves for Wallace, one spectacular, the other pedestrian.
Wallace was back to spectacular Saturday vs. St. Louis. He only had 4 catches, but one of those was for 46 yards, and it iced the game.
Doing it against the Rams is one thing and doing it against New England, Oakland, and Baltimore in the post season is another. But if Sunday was a sign of the way Wallace is trending, then the Steelers can go places in the playoffs
- Rashard Mendenhall ran like a stud.
When Mendenhall is hot, he’s among the top 6 or 7 rushers in the league. When he’s not its difficult to distinguish him from the rest.
Mendenhall simply tore it up on Sunday, both as a rusher and as a receiver, notching gains of both 35 and 52 yards. It was one of Mendenhall’s career performances, and if Mendenhall is similarly motivated in the playoffs, the Steelers will have a shot at the mountain top.
- Charlie Batch played well
Charlie Batch did a lot of good things against St. Louis. His only interception was not his fault. He managed the game well, and took advantage of the weapons at his disposal. On the negative side, and perhaps this is why the coaches stubbornly kept Ben in vs. San Francisco, the Steelers were woeful on third down.
- Welcome to the NFL, John Clay
Clay, according to Neal Coolong, looked bad in practice, but tearing 10 yards through the middle of the defense to score a touchdown on your first NFL touch is a good way tos start….
- Alert – Lawrence Timmons sighting
Lawrence Timmons played well, at least in the pass pressure game, leading the team for in tackles, making two tackles for losses and registering a sack and two more QB hits. Timmons is most certainly one of the players the Steelers need to see more from in the playoffs, adding more zing to the bounce back.
Of course, unless the Steelers can learn to play better on the road, a lesson they must learn very quickly, few will remember any of the stats and trends to come out of the St. Louis game, but you can’t ask for much more than 27-0 victory on Christmas Eve performance.