Harris: Steelers never make things easy
CINCINNATI -- So, how are the Super Bowl-or-bust Steelers looking these days?
On Monday night, through three quarters, coach Mike Tomlin's team passed almost every test against the Bengals. They made big plays on special teams, and the offense converted two turnovers and a blocked punt into 17 first-half points.
They seemingly rubbed it in when wide receiver Antwaan Randle El threw a long touchdown pass to Mike Wallace on the first play of the fourth quarter. It evoked memories of Randle El's touchdown pass to Hines Ward in Super Bowl XL.
Then, in the final 15 minutes, the Steelers gave up two touchdowns, and the Bengals were 12 yards away from competing a stunning comeback from a 20-point deficit. The defense stiffened, and the Steelers held on for a 27-21 win at Paul Brown Stadium.
In a game that Bengals coach Marvin Lewis probably needed to help retain his job in the final year of his contract, the Steelers did the McDonald native no favors while rolling up a 27-7 lead. Lewis, though, nearly had the last laugh.
With a 6-2 record, the Steelers have just as good a shot as the Ravens, the Patriots and the Jets of coming out of the AFC.
"This reminds me of the '08 team when we won the Super Bowl," defensive end Nick Eason said. "We won a lot of games at the last minute. That's what good teams do."
You don't need great talent to win in the NFL. Talent is equally dispersed around the league.
Great teams win titles. The Steelers have won two Super Bowls since 2005 -- more than any team.
According to nose tackle Casey Hampton, the Steelers routinely make big plays during crunch time.
"It was never a question we were going to win," Hampton said. "We've just got to do a better job of finishing. We play close games, and we win close games. That's what makes us a tough team, because we're accustomed to playing tough games all the time."
The Steelers are winning despite not featuring a powerful running game, and their passing attack still is under construction. Their special teams are better than last year, even producing a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff against the Bengals, but Al Everest's unit still is susceptible to the big play. Only the defense offers consistency.
To their credit, the Steelers -- beat-up offensive line and all -- remained committed to the run even when it wasn't working last night. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hung in the pocket and made tough throws.
The offensive line was courtesy of Backups R Us, thanks to injuries during the game to starters Maurkice Pouncey and Chris Kemoeatu. Max Starks missed a couple of series early before returning to action and then left again in the second half with a neck injury.
Keep an eye on backups Doug Legursky and Jonathan Scott. The immediate future of the offensive line could hinge on their readiness to step in while stepping up their level of performance.
Defensively, the Steelers continued with their bend-but-don't-break philosophy that has been prevalent this season.
Still, these are the Steelers, and we did say their offense remains a work in progress. Looking to take some time off the clock, Roethlisberger instead was intercepted. A roughing-the-passer penalty against Hampton followed by a pass interference call against Ike Taylor led to Cedric Benson's 1-yard touchdown run and a 27-21 Steelers lead with 9:05 remaining.
This was a time for the Steelers to show their mettle. How they did it was an eye-opener because they were faced with the same situation a year ago in a 23-20 loss to the Bengals on a late touchdown pass, also at Paul Brown Stadium.
This time, Taylor and linebacker James Harrison combined to strip the ball loose from wide receiver Jordan Shipley on fourth-and-5 from the Steelers' 12 for an incompletion with less than a minute to play.
"We won. I don't care how close it was," Taylor said. "It's those times when you've got to stand up as a defense. That's what we did."
That more than anything described the Steelers' approach last night. Even when Jeff Reed missed a field goal that would have extended the lead to nine points, there still belief the defense would hold up its end.
It did. Barely.
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.
- Founder of Z&M Cycle Sales in Hempfield killed in Florida motorcycle crash
- Starkey: Tomlin lived in his fears
- Slain St. Clair officer walked into ‘worst nightmare’ for police
- Increasing player salaries pinch financial flexibility of Pirates
- Demand for surveillance systems boosts sales for Vector Security
- Film session: Long shots dotted Steelers’ passing game
- Islamic immigration in Europe
- Steelers receiver Wheaton takes advantage of opportunity in breakout game
- Weather helps advance work on Forward roads
- Why oust Assad?
- Steelers notebook: Bryant confident in backup Jones if Big Ben can’t play