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Kovacevic: Steelers savor W, and why not?

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall beats the Eagles' Jamar Chaney to the end zone for a second-quarter touchdown at Heinz Field on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012.

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By Dejan Kovacevic
Monday, Oct. 8, 2012
 

Mike Tomlin's voice, a hot knife through butter wherever he walks and talks, fairly sliced through the Steelers' noisy locker room.

“Six! Where's Six?”

Shaun Suisham, already out of his No. 6 jersey and almost out the door, whirled back.

When the coach barks, any player listens.

When the coach barks at the kicker after the kicker just boots a 34-yard field goal to beat the Eagles, 16-14, on the most critical Sunday at Heinz Field this early in the season in many moons ... well, that player eagerly listens.

“Good job,” Tomlin told Suisham, bringing out the smile of a kid on Christmas morning.

That's how it works in the Steelers' world. There's no complaining after victories, no matter how much complaining might swirl around them.

It's always Christmas.

Fretting over Willie Colon's golden sombrero of holding calls, over bonehead head shots by Ryan Clark and Ryan Mundy, over Mike Wallace being gobbled up by press coverage again, over the defense getting drip-drip-dripped in allowing another late touchdown drive, even over injuries to Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley … all that's for the film room.

It's for the coaches on Monday, not for the players on Sunday.

And that's especially true when the next game is coming Thursday, as with the Steelers' trip to Tennessee.

“We don't have a lot of time to enjoy it, so let's do that now,” defensive end Brett Keisel said, as if sensing a negative vibe on the outside. “That's a pretty good football team we just faced.”

Agreed.

The Steelers won. They're 2-2 rather than a fatal 1-3. And hard as it might be to accept for the style-points crowd that's sure to trash this showing on the talk shows and Twitter, this victory really did happen on merit.

At least if you take a deep breath and look at what went well.

Did you like the return of Rashard Mendenhall?

That wasn't so bad, right?

Maybe the running backs really were why the Steelers were off to a historically poor start on the ground, or maybe the line was just motivated by Mendenhall's first game back from knee surgery. Whatever the case, he grinded out 81 tough yards, took a lateral 13 yards for a TD and made a key catch on the clinching drive.

He was — repeat after me — a feature back. Let's not pretend anymore that the Steelers weren't missing that.

Oh, and Mendenhall conceded he still has another gear: “There's a lot more to come.”

Did you like James Harrison not sitting out a single snap?

Harrison had predicted he'd need to be spelled by Chris Carter, if only because he'd be winded in his return from knee trouble. But he went the distance and, more important, played well with two tackles and three solid knockdowns of Vick.

Like Mendenhall, Harrison said there's more to come.

“The knee's OK,” he said, flexing it effortlessly as he spoke. “But I still haven't found my legs, that jump. It'll take time.”

How about whoever that guy was wearing No. 94?

Dick LeBeau finally stopped yanking Lawrence Timmons 10-15 yards off the line and cut him loose to spy on Michael Vick, the running backs and the tight ends. He did so to the tune of nine tackles, two hits on Vick and a forced fumble.

Never mind why Timmons looked lost in the first three games. That's a nice find.

At least assuming LeBeau keeps him in that type of role.

Did you like the D, in general, going after takeaways for the first time since … what, 2010?

The Steelers popped the ball loose four times, including Clark's exceptional strip of Vick at the goal line in the first half.

Vick's explanation for that one: “It was just meant to be.”

Not quite. It was a mindset, one richly overdue for a revival.

“We wanted the ball,” Keisel said. “We talked about that a lot.”

How about a good word for Antonio Brown's seven catches, mostly while being blanketed by the vaunted Nnamdi Asomugha?

That total was highlighted by a 20-yarder on third-and-12 of the final drive, one soon followed by Emmanuel Sanders' 7-yarder on a third-and-4.

“AB and I had to step up, and we did,” Sanders said.

What of Ben Roethlisberger, after sputtering on what could have been winning drives in Denver and Oakland, going 4 of 5 for 50 yards on this one?

Did you like that?

It was easy to tell he did.

“I pride myself, and we pride ourselves on offense on doing that,” Roethlisberger said. “We want to go down the field and win the game.”

And they did.

Even as the most pained among you flick through the DVR to relive all 17 plays and 79 yards of the Eagles' late touchdown drive, bear in mind these words from the loquacious Clark: “What did they score, 14 points? Oooooooooooooooo!”

The Steelers have issues, no question, but buying another vowel to complete that thought isn't one of them.

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