4th Down and 10 Facts: Pittsburgh/Jets Postgame Report
There are moments that define a season. That moment came late in the first half. After kicking a 36-yard field goal, Kris Brown and Co. lined up to kick off. As per Bill Cowher, Brown squibs the ball, which if all goes according to plan should allow a minimal return. Except things went horribly wrong: for the Jets.
The ball clangs off of James Darling�s leg as he turned. John Fiala (leading-special-teams-vote-getter-as-per-the-fans John Fiala) recovers and the Steelers are in business with 36 seconds left to tack on at least 3 points to their slim 5 point lead. Kris Brown, in a purely, perfectly awful theatrical moment reminiscent of such unmentionable performances as that of Tom Arnold and Carrot Top, pulls the kick wide right and further ingrains the doubts of the Steeler Country into his mind and foot.
As has been typical for most of the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are getting all the breaks�but are failing to capitalize, and this harmless looking squib kick while just one of the many breaks, perhaps defines this season.
Should we meet the St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers or Baltimore Ravens in the post-season, missed field goals and missed touchdown opportunities will be our downfall. If it hadn�t of been for 4 drives of 11+ plays and a solid defensive effort, the Jets might have had time to actually sustain a drive.
Being that is it may, we are 10�2 and well on our way to the playoffs and a possible division title, for which we should rejoice.
The Steelers could very well meet up with any of the above mentioned teams in the playoffs and take complete advantage of the breaks and the supreme ball-control advantage, and score many touchdowns. I�m not putting it past this team to turn it on in the post-season. I and the rest of Steeler Country would just like a few more future reassurances as this season winds down.
Fact 1#: Hinds Ward is the Yancey Thigpen of 2001: Ward continues to amaze. I think he proved his worth to a national television audience this evening with his 11 catches for 124 yards. Every catch was picture perfect, every route was crisp and his toughness rivals that of his style counterpart Wayne Chrebet. He doesn�t have the TD numbers to go to the Pro Bowl, but he may be the most deserving receiver in the AFC. And remember he�s gonna be around for at least 3 more years.
Fact #2: Fu looked pretty good: I caught a number of times where he missed his hole, didn�t follow the blockers and actually ran up the back of his O-Line, but he showed flashes of Bettis� ability to drag tacklers and come up with extra yards. The most comforting sign from Fu was his ability to make 3rd and short yardage consistently.
Fact #3: Where are the Touchdowns?: Plaxico had a sure touchdown taken away because of his inability to keep his feet in-bounds. He still shows flashes of future brilliance, but he needs to get his mind out of college rules. It takes two feet Plax.
I�ve already touched on this subject, but I will say this, the Jets Defense played tough and kept the team in the game. They we�re a major reason for the lack of touchdowns, but by all means, not the only reason.
Fact #4: The gamble worked. Bettis will be back and healthy next week. Had the playoffs been on the line, he would have played, but Cowher�s gamble has paid off. The Steelers get a huge win, Bettis gets an extra week to heal and everybody�s happy.
Fact #5: The Defense showed why they are the #1 unit in the league. With the Offense controlling the ball, the Defense had time to rest, grab a quick nap, play a game of poker�etc. It should be noted that they allowed the Jets only 2 sustained drives. The Jets crossed the Pittsburgh 35 only 3 times all game. One resulted in a missed field goal, the second resulted in a touchdown and the third was a meaningless final drive. Although the D didn�t record a sack, they pressured Vinny enough to force quick throws and they also limited his options on 3rd down. The secondary played very well. Coles and Chrebet we�re virtually shut down.
Fact #6: Chad Scott gave a cushion. He had a few passes defensed and he gave a cushion. The only play he was severely burnt on was the Halfback Pass play. But, then again, everyone on the Steelers Defense sans Brent Alexander bit on that play.
Fact #7: Kendrell Bell had a solid day: The stats won�t show it, but Bell had a fine day. He had two real nice tackles on Curtis Martin when it looked like Martin might break a long run. He also contributed to a pass rush that forced Vinny to throw quickly on 3rd down.
Fact #8: This is the way we can beat the Rams: Should the Steelers meet the Rams in the Super Bowl, this game needs to be shown that week of preparation. Pittsburgh controlled the ball for a whopping 36 minutes and limited the Jets to 46 plays, while running 74 plays themselves. 76. We had 4 drives that totaled 11 or more plays. We also forced the Jets into multiple 3 and out drives. Ball control, ball control, that�s how you beat the Rams.
Fact #9: Heinz Field is getting loud and hostile: And that�s how it should be. No team wants to come into Heinz Field in the playoffs. This has been a miracle season to open a new stadium. Rather than the stadium giving the Steelers a home field advantage, the Steelers are giving Heinz Field a reason to have a home field advantage. 15 degrees and snowy in January sounds great to me.
Fact #10: The nation knows the Steelers are for real: All I heard all week from the NY media was the fact that the Steelers� would fold under the loss of the Bus. It never happened. This team has too many other weapons to allow a loss like the Bus to cripple it. With players like Ward, Burress, Zereoue, Fu and Edwards contributing week in and out, pieces are falling into place for a serious run at the Super Bowl. The last piece of the puzzle is to score more touchdowns, but as I said the Jets Defense did have a hand in the absence of the touchdown this week.
Thoughts around the League and on the Game.
- So Vikings QB Todd Bouman goes and lights up Tennessee for 4 touchdowns and 348 yrds. Sort of makes what he did last week to the Steeler Defense a little more legit.
- The Packers sure proved they are the better team in NFC Central today. The Bears really didn�t have much offense at all. Look for them to win a wildcard game and then lose in the second round. The Bears are a solid QB and a healthy Marcus Robinson away from having a solid consistent offense.
- All that talk of the Browns making the playoffs has gone moot. They are also a few players away from becoming an elite team. The real nice thing though is it�s fun to see teams like the Bears and Browns making the NFL headlines again. Sorry Cleveland fans, the Brownies won�t make the playoffs�this season.
- The media outlets will jump off the Arizona bandwagon as fast as they jumped on.
- A few more teams knocked themselves out of playoff contention today: Chargers, Seahawks, Titans, Falcons and Cardinals. Although not mathematically eliminated, each of these teams got their seventh loss. The road to the playoffs this year lies in double digit wins. If a 9-7 team gets in from either division I�d be really surprised.
- Boy the Raiders are making these home games against weak teams overly interesting. First they lose to the Cardinals in overtime, then, they are a missed two-point conversion away from overtime against the Chiefs. That comes from too many distractions. Those include Notre Dame�s interest in Jon Gruden and then Daryl Russell goes off and gets himself suspended for the season.
- The Saints are a hot team right now and that Aaron Brooks-Joe Horn connection is fierce. Next Monday night vs. the Rams will be a classic.
- Much media has been focused on Jason Sehorn�s sub-par season and dwindling skills. His performance vs. the Cowboys did nothing but prove that he is the most overrated talent in the NFL. He isn�t fast enough anymore to keep up with even marginally fast wide receivers.
- The team I don�t want to play in the post-season right now is the New England Patriots. Aside from the Steelers, the Patriots are the hottest team in the AFC.
- Next week�s Game of the Week: Pittsburgh at Baltimore. I think we�ll hear more than enough about this game this week.
Check out my pre-game for next week coming to Stillers.com in a few days. I will have the MPO count and more things to think about while going to the fridge for a beer.
You know sometimes I can�t believe some of you Stillers.com faithful. Sometimes I think this team can�t do anything to make any of you truly happy. Let�s get real here and see the bigger picture.
So what if the Defense didn�t blitz Vinny like we thought we might see. They got more than enough pressure to force Vinny to hit his "hot" reads time after time and thus be forced to punt. How many third downs did they convert? And pray tell me how many were third and long? Not many.
So what if Chad Scott gave a cushion. He did have some passes defensed. I feel that Scott played a timely, controlled game in the secondary. He calmly waited for a shot at an interception, it never came but the point is he played in control unlike some of his past games where he�s looked like he�s chasing everything.
This defense completely shut down the Jets offense. Why play reckless and allow an already benign, pathetic attack the chance to make a big play because someone bites? You saw what happened when we bit on Martin�s halfback pass.
I�ll criticize Billy Ball with the best of them, but his plan of defense was great this past week. Let�s worry about Kris Brown�s foot and the lack of touchdowns rather than the Defense.
Let�s give these guys some credit and stop acting like we just barely survived the game. If you think we barely got out with our lives, we clearly weren�t watching the same game.
But I digress�
10 � 2 and a big win without Bettis. What a ride! What a fabulous ride!
JB in the Big Steel Apple