Kovacevic: Steelers once again pack punch
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Troy Polamalu had been the Steelers' voice of reason all through this muddled mess of a season. He was concerned but calm after the opening bomb in Baltimore, and he stayed just as measured after all those blah victories against bottom feeders.
Even after a decent effort in Arizona last week, the man was left wanting: "Time will tell."
Well, the alarm clock went off Sunday, and the Steelers answered the bell in a big way by beating New England up, down and all over Heinz Field, much worse than the 25-17 score.
They chased Tom Brady as if endorsement deals were hanging from his neck. They made Wes Welker eat grass within a millisecond of catching the football. They rode big tight end Rob Gronkowski like a bucking bronco. And they apparently caught defensive genius Bill Belichick wholly unprepared for, of all gimmicky schemes, the underneath routes of tight end Heath Miller.
The Steelers, finally, after eight games, are the Steelers again.
The playbook was fine, the individual execution maybe the best all season, but this was all about delivering a relentless series of punches to the mouth.
And enjoying it.
And feeding off it.
Know what that is?
"That's Steelers football, man," guard Ramon Foster said, fairly beaming. "We always want to go into the game and be physically better than the other team. We knew we'd have to be good fundamentally against the Patriots, and I feel like we were. From there ..."
From there came the punches.
Just ask nose tackle Casey Hampton, who burst through the New England line on the Patriots' first series and slammed BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a 1-yard loss. A big, early snack.
Or LaMarr Woodley and Ziggy Hood, for switching off, fooling and flattening the right edge of the Patriots' offensive line. Woodley stepped up, as he needed to in James Harrison's absence, and hunted down Brady for two sacks.
Or Foster and the rest of the Steelers' offensive line, for shoving forward and giving Ben Roethlisberger the kind of time and space Brady usually enjoys. Roethlisberger wasn't great, but his pocket was.
Or safety Ryan Clark, for bouncing New England's Kevin Faulk so hard off the Steelers' goal line he looked like a pinball. "Just wanted to get him going backward," Clark explained.
Or ask Polamalu, whose performance was visibly emotional during and after some breathtaking displays.
He downplayed his emotional reactions, which are rare: "It was an emotional game, that's all," he said. And he laughed off being that guy who rode Gronkowski for several yards: "I was on his back, and I'm like, 'What am I doing• Where am I?' " he recalled with a laugh.
For once, though, he didn't downplay his sentiment about these Steelers: He loved what we saw.
"You can't beat a good team without playing good football, and we played really good team football today," Polamalu said. "It's not about the offense putting up numbers. It's not about the defense getting off the field. It's all three phases working together. It's always been our formula for winning, and it always will be."
If that sounds like it's OK to believe again, well, have at it.
Half the regular season remains, as does the rematch with Baltimore on Sunday that many Steelers already were eagerly discussing. But this team is now 6-2, atop the AFC, and no one's calling them old, slow or done anymore.
That's especially true of the receiving corps, with so much promising youth injected in recent weeks. No one should envy Mike Tomlin's week ahead when he decides to sit Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders — either of which would be ridiculous — or tell the once-great Hines Ward that he's now fourth-string.
This isn't the time for celebrating the past. The Steelers are very much contenders again, very much in the picture to return to the Super Bowl.
And just in case anyone so much as toys with the notion of excessive tinkering in the days and weeks to come, someone should pin this quote from Brady yesterday to the locker-room wall: "They run a lot of the same stuff, week in and week out. I don't think we did a very good job handling it or adjusting to it or playing against it. ... We really didn't match their physical style."
Few teams can when the Steelers are being the Steelers.
Steelers vs Patriots October 30, 2011
The Steelers defeat New England 25-17 Sunday October 30, 2011 at Heinz Field.
Columnist Dejan Kovacevic selects the game's top performers:
Heath Miller, Steelers TE • The bye week apparently didn't afford Bill Belichick time to scheme for a tight end. Miller made four catches on the opening drive, finished with seven for 85 yards.
LaMarr Woodley, Steelers LB ? Is it possible the $61 Million Man is underpaid• Two more sacks and a quarterback hurry helped complicate Tom Brady's life.
Antonio Brown, Steelers WR • Nine catches marked a career high, and young receivers' ascent as a whole might mark a changing of the guard.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Unlike years past, strength of 2014 Steelers could be offense
- Campus visit sells 4-star Ohio recruit Hall on Panthers
- Pitt, city officials inspecting student housing in Oakland
- East Allegheny teachers gather on picket lines, hope to end contract dispute
- Steelers Lookahead: Previewing Sunday’s game vs. Cleveland
- Democratic gubernatorial nominee in spotlight at Labor Day Parade
- Wedding aboard Pittsburgh’s Gateway Clipper ends in arrests
- Pa. judge identified who denied Trib request to view sexually explicit emails circulated in AG’s Office
- Dedicated California educator Hasbrouck dead at 62
- Pennsylvania amusement ride website leaves readers hanging
- Civil War officer to receive Medal of Honor for actions at Gettysburg