As predicted, the Steelers won on Sunday to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Their victory was lead by a solid, if pedestrian passing game that allowed the offense to stay on the field. This was done by an uncanny ability to convert critical third downs by passing the ball. Five in all. Go figure?
The running game was also very productive in the second half. This allowed the time of possession to swing in the Steelers favor and keep the defense rested.
The defense was also tough - not allowing the vaunted Raider offense into the end zone but one time. This came on an all too familiar screen/scamper to the right side. This could be the Steelers new Achilles.
Still, the Steelers were impressive for the second week in a row on offense because the passing game is vastly improved. Even though the Raiders boast solid corners in Allen, James and Woodson, the Steelers were not burdened by an inefficient passing attack.
This is has not happened in Pittsburgh the entire year.
Then Graham came in. An abhorrent play by Graham � looking right, Graham had a player jump high in his passing lane. Instead of throwing the ball away at this point, he looked left. Two receivers stood flat-footed and had given up on their routes because of the blitz. Graham threw it anyway. The play � taking four seconds at this point � was easily read. TD Raiders.
This has happened this year.
Yet, under Stewart, the receivers made the routine hitches and simple outs work! I�ve never been so excited by completing 6 yard pass patterns, but this is highly unusual.
However, when Stewart went out � I really wondered how hurt he was. This is football � show some heart. It was almost as if Stewart felt that a bad game was coming on so he figured he would dog it. Much the way Thurman Thomas sat out a quarter and a half against the Dallas Cowboys in Buffalo�s third Super Bowl because of "Cramps". How bad can cramps be to force someone to sit out a Super Bowl? How injured was Stewart? The knee was not twisted but he received a blow to that region�
Perhaps Stewart let Graham get in there and embarrass himself so the he could come in and save the day. If I have said that Graham should have been the starting QB � I was wrong.
Having said all that � the Steelers almost gave it away once again. First, Bettis � a veteran RB and team leader � foolishly ran out of bounds on a long running play. A great run, but he should have fell long before he approached the sidelines. Then, needing only a first down to win, the Steelers went horribly conservative and plunged into the line three times in a feeble attempt to pick up a first down.
These kinds of coaching moves are trademarks of coach Cowher and his mentor Marty Shottenheimer. Simply being in the game at that point was good enough for Cowher. Why not go for the win?
This game clearly demonstrates how evenly matched most teams in the AFC are these days. The Steelers could easily be 10-3 � the Raiders are, they are not. The difference is coaching philosophy in my mind.
Thus, the Steeles are a mere 7-6 and the unfortunate events that transpired on Sunday were the victories by Denver and the Jets. The Jet victory was an especially critical blow to Pittsburgh�s quest to make the playoffs. Pittsburgh must now chase three teams with only four loses and the only team they will have a tiebreaker advantage over is the Jets.
Sure would have been nice to win just one close game earlier in the year.
But Bill�s happy � he�s in a position to make the playoffs and that�s good enough for him to return as coach next year.
This also has happened in Pittsburgh before�