Steelers' Woodley: Hamstring not problem
The left hamstring injury that forced LaMarr Woodley from the Steelers' 25-17 win over New England on Sunday won't keep him from playing next week when Baltimore visits Heinz Field.
That's what the outside linebacker said after he recorded his eighth and ninth sacks of the season.
"I'll be in there," he said. "I have a week (to heal)."
Woodley said he didn't tear his hamstring, which he hurt in the third quarter while rushing New England quarterback Tom Brady.
> > Injuries continue to mount on defense, but the Steelers avoided a major one after cornerback Ike Taylor went down in the third quarter and stayed down as medical personnel attended to him. Taylor left the field under his own power and later returned to the game despite shoulder and neck injuries.
"I'm straight," he said.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis suffered a shoulder injury, but he also returned. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert was in and out of the game after hurting an ankle.
> > Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times, but that might be one of the most misleading statistics from the game. The Steelers' offensive line controlled New England up front, allowing Roethlisberger to complete 36 of 50 passes for 365 yards and for the Steelers to average 4.3 yards per carry.
"Boy, they really did a nice job," coach Mike Tomlin said. "It was just a nice, good unit effort."
> > Roethlisberger won his 75th career game and is the fourth-fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach that mark. The only ones to reach the milestone in fewer than his 106 games were Tom Brady and Roger Staubach (99 each) and Kenny Stabler (105).
> > Wide receiver Hines Ward (ankle) and inside linebacker James Farrior (calf) did not play. Outside linebackers James Harrison (eye) and Jason Worilds (quad) and nose tackle Chris Hoke (neck) also didn't suit up. Quarterback Dennis Dixon was the only healthy scratch.
> > The safety that the Steelers recorded on the game's penultimate play gave them safeties in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history.
> > Former Steelers Donnie Shell and John Jackson were honorary captains, as they took part in Alumni Day festivities. Others honored at halftime included Jason Gildon, Louis Lipps, Bubby Brister and Robin Cole.
> > Brady is used to having his way with the Steelers, but the New England quarterback had his worst statistical performance of the season (198 yards) Sunday. He attributed that to seeing more man-to-man defense from the Steelers.
Typically a zone team, the Steelers played almost exclusively tight man coverage throughout the game.
"They played more man than what they showed all year," Brady said. "The way you beat man is you make plays against it and get them out of it. We didn't do enough of that."
Brady's longest pass was 23 yards to Rob Gronkowski, and Wes Welker was held to 39 yards receiving. He entered the game averaging 124 yards.
"They had some blitz zone mixed in there," Welker said. "They did a good job all the way around. We have to be better than what we were."
The Steelers turned up the pressure on Brady, blitzing him 20 of the 37 times he dropped back to pass.
"It is a lot of pressure, and you have to stand up to the pressure and complete tight throws, and we just didn't do it," Brady said. Last year, the Steelers blitzed Brady just seven times in a 39-26 loss.
> > With the Patriots trailing 23-10 with 4:15 left, it appeared that Brady connected with Gronkowski for a touchdown. However, the ball was spotted at the 1-yard line, even though replays showed Gronkowski had scored. New England didn't challenge.
"I thought about it, but there was no evidence to challenge it," coach Bill Belichick said.
It took the Pats three plays and nearly two minutes longer to score.
"I wish they would've reviewed it, but they didn't," Brady said.
> > The Patriots' offense had almost 30 fewer plays than the Steelers', mostly because the Steelers had five scoring drives of 10 plays or longer, including an 11-play drive to start the game. Brady didn't blame the defense for its inability to get off the field.
"We had an opportunity to answer their first score, and we go three-and-out," Brady said. "There were too many three-and-outs."
> > WR Julian Edelman, QB Ryan Mallett, S Josh Barnett, RB Shane Vereen, LB Dane Fletcher, OL Donald Thomas and LB Jermaine Cunningham were inactive for the Patriots.
Inside the lines
> > The Patriots were unusually inefficient and flustered on offense, partly because the Steelers effectively disguised their coverage schemes. Quarterback Tom Brady, feeling the heat from Woodley, was forced to hold the ball longer than usual because defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau deployed six defensive backs — William Gay, Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ryan Mundy and Keenan Lewis. Polamalu tucked in behind the linebackers before peeling back in coverage.
"We used our dime package because those guys can score at will," Lewis said. "We definitely knew we could guard those guys. I feel we have the best receiving corps in the league, and practicing against those guys prepared us for this game."
> > The Patriots spent the first quarter trying to figure out a way to deny tight end Heath Miller, who caught six of the eight passes thrown his way in the first half. New England's linebackers were forced into man coverage. When they countered with a zone, Miller ran straight up the zone to free up the wide receivers on underneath routes. Finally, the Patriots make the right move, as linebacker Gary Guyton policed the middle of the field to take away the short route. Roethlisberger made his first mistake, as he tried to force a pass to Emmanuel Sanders, and Guyton picked off the errant pass to set up Brady's 2-yard touchdown pass to Deion Branch to make it 10-7.
> > The Patriots struggled to get into their offense, mostly because the Steelers dominated time of possession. More importantly, tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Gronkowski were virtually shut down in the first half. They combined for only three catches. The Steelers made the Patriots' vaunted tight end tandem look rather ordinary, mostly because cornerbacks Taylor and Gay handcuffed receivers Branch and Wes Welker, who had a combined 10 receptions - all but six in the second half. Gronkowski didn't get his first catch until 2:25 remained in the first half.
• The Patriots used 6-foot-8, 319-pound rookie offensive tackle Nate Solder as an eligible receiver on five occasions, primarily as added protection for Brady.
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