Steelers could use signature 2012 victory
Mike Tomlin never dismisses any opponent, never considers any game to be an easy day at the office. Listen to his news conferences, and it often sounds as if that week's opponent should win the Super Bowl.
So imagine how much praise Tomlin heaped Tuesday on the team that won the Super Bowl last season.
“They have a bunch of guys that have been on big stages,” Tomlin said of the streaking New York Giants.
He also said a whole lot more.
Tomlin called the Giants a team that “knows how to win.” He said Eli Manning is a quarterback that “delivers in big moments” and wide receiver Victor Cruz has “ridiculous stop-and-go-movement.” In total, the Giants have “an awesome, consistent and winning formula.”
“We are playing the defending champions at their place,” Tomlin said. “That is varsity football, as we say in our business.”
What Tomlin didn't say was this might be the week the Steelers need to get a letter for their varsity sweater, too.
Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of their last signature victory, a 25-17 win over the eventual AFC champion New England Patriots at Heinz Field that they couldn't have scripted any better.
It was the day former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians switched from long-ball passing to small ball, and it worked perfectly.
Ben Roethlisberger ran a pass-heavy but efficient offense that dominated the time of possession by a 2-to-1 ratio. By keeping the ball in Ben's hands for nearly 40 minutes and for 50 pass attempts, the Steelers kept it out of Tom Brady's.
These Steelers could use a course-changing win like that one.
Over the past calendar year, they've won the games they were supposed to win, but they haven't won any that would have made a huge difference, such as the Ravens and 49ers games last season and the season-opening game in Denver.
But if the Steelers (4-3) are to make anything big out of a season that started slowly and only began turning around when they beat the Bengals and Redskins, this might be the game they need to win.
They play their next two at home against the Chiefs and Ravens, games that could offer them the chance to play for first place in the AFC North.
And their Super Bowl runs during the 2005, 2008 and 2010 seasons were fueled by winning a game or two like this one. (Examples: The Snow Bowl game against the Bears in '05. The Troy Polamalu sack-fumble game in Baltimore in 2008. The Falcons overtime game in 2010.)
“It was nice to get a definitive win,” defensive end Brett Keisel said after the Steelers contained Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III while winning, 27-12, on Sunday. “It feels like the way we've gotten wins around here in the past.”
The Giants (6-2), as Tomlin emphasized, are a handful. Manning has pulled out fourth-quarter wins in the past two games.
Their defense averages two interceptions per game. Stevie Brown leads the NFL with seven takeaways. Pass rushers Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul will be huge tests for Steelers tackles Max Starks and Mike Adams.
But winning on a national stage Sunday at MetLife Stadium could prove to be season-altering for a team that plays five of its final eight at home. Of the Steelers' six remaining opponents after this week (they play Baltimore and Cleveland twice each), only the Ravens (5-2) currently have a winning record.
“We're coming together right now, but that doesn't mean anything if we're not consistent,” right guard Ramon Foster said. “We just got to keep it going.”
Taking a Giant step by winning Sunday would greatly enable that.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.