Big Lead Sports Bar

1/11/2009

ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO

STEELERS (13-4) 35
CHARGERS (9-9) 24

ROETHLISBERGER 17-26, 181 YARDS, 1 TD
PARKER 27-146, 2 TD
WARD 4-70


How do you do it? How does someone summarize what went down in front of 63,899 crazed fans at Heinz Field on Sunday? Whatever I write, whatever anyone writes, can do the Steelers' dominant performance against the San Diego Chargers no justice. For all the trials and tribulations of 2008, from the schedule to the injuries to the arrests to the smallest of controversies and distractions, the team delivered their finest performance to date when it mattered most. But we all must keep one thing in mind: one, and hopefully two, even bigger tests remain on the horizon.

Sunday was about redemption. It was redemption for Ben Roethlisberger, who silenced some peristent critics with throws most quarterbacks not dare dream about. He exhibited a level of zip and accuracy that had not been seen for quite some time, due to a myriad of factors. The time off definitely did him well.

Sunday was redemption for Willie Parker, totally written off by some members of Steeler Nation. 27 carries. 146 yards. Two touchdowns. And the look of a confident running back who was healthier than he's been in months.

Sunday brought some level of redemption back to the much-maligned Steeler offensive line. The main target of Steeler-related ire all season dominated the Chargers, holding the ball for an entire quarter with the exception of one play (albeit with some help from their teammates on the defensive and special teams units).

Sunday was redemption for Santonio Holmes. A guy who made a major-league screwup with a drug-related arrest in-season scored on a first quarter punt return that might very well have saved the game for the Steelers, who dug a quick 7-0 hole just moments into the contest.

And finally, Sunday was redemption for Mike Tomlin. In case you've forgotten, the Steelers hosted (and lost) their first (and his first) playoff game last season. For the big regular season games that he's won, a postseason victory had proved elusive to this point. While some can second-guess some of his dice-rolling calls, such as the fake punt and the fourth-and-goal on the goal line call, no one can argue with a 35-24 win that wasn't even that close.

So what next for the 2008-2009 edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers? Looking ahead to an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl or a possible reunion with Ken Whisenhunt and countless others with Pittsburgh connections might be fun, but we're not quite there yet. What lies ahead will be a game that may never be matched in terms of intensity. To meet the hated Baltimore Ravens with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line in the dead of a Pittsburgh winter at Heinz Field is a script right out of Hollywood. The only question is whether or not it will have a Hollywood ending for the Steelers. Because Baltimore's got one thing on their mind: redemption.

Let's start the countdown until Sunday.

And now, the bullet points...

--So I'm in the car en route to my Steeler viewing party on Sunday and I have DVE on. I hear about Jerome Bettis participating in the coin flip, I hear Styx sing the National Anthem, and then I hear Styx sing the theme song of the defense, Renegade! Of course, upon my arrival, I'm told that none of this was shown on the CBS broadcast. So let me ask a brief question. Why not???

I know how important it is to get the last few minutes of face time in for Shannon Sharpe and company, but honestly, why doesn't a network buck this trend and show some extended goodies from the pregame? Am I alone in thinking this?

-As I sat through numerous shots of Ladainian Tomlinson on the Charger sidelines (in street clothes, as they say), it hit me that fake LT (there's only one real LT) doesn't have much of a postseason track record, given all of his regular season success. To Pro Football Reference...

Well, not counting Sunday's game, which I believe was the first he's missed since 2005, Tomlinson's played in six playoff games. Of the six, he's run for 42 yards or less four times. In fact, they've been in succession, and they're his last four playoff games: 25, 42, 28, and 5. He's had an 80-yarder (2005 loss to the Jets) and a 123-yarder (2007 loss to the Patriots), but that's it for the running back that's supposedly the best of his generation. And sure, I know the guy's had some injuries, but there always seems to be some aura of discontent/confusion/misinformation/misunderstanings around specifically his playoff injuries. There's always an appearance of some hard feelings. It's not a good vibe.

--On the other hand, Hines Ward, I take my hand off to you. Few men on this Earth can claim that they've been such a big part of so many important Steeler games. But Hines came through once again on Sunday to the tune of four catches and 70 yards, leading the Steelers in both categories. On the 41-yarder, I could've sworn that he was smiling as he was running with the ball.

--As you probably noticed, there was a play late in the game that caught my eye. Rather than go on about it, I'll let an emailer speak for me...

From Ryan J. Jones of Harrisburg:

"Okay… I love my Steelers, I do… I love my fellow Steelers fans just as much.

But I’m sorry… just watching the game here and something monumental could have just happened for Limas Sweed and the 10 people who bought his jersey this year.

Had he caught the ball that Byron Leftwich just threw him in ‘garbage time’, it would have totally redeemed both his season and the 10 people who bought his jersey.

Now that he has, the Steelers need to cut him as of yesterday, and those 10 people need to be stoned in front of the ‘Terrible Tree’ down at the court house."

Well said, my Steeler-loving friend. Well said. I try not to be overly-critical of the rookies, but...wow. I'll leave it at that. For his sake, I hope Limas has the best offseason of all-time.

--So are people going to jump off the Darren Sproles bandwagon after a line that reads "11 carries, 15 yards"? So much for him hiding behind the Chargers line and sneaking through for chunks of yards, like some suggested might happen.

--How about this aspect of the game that went by the wayside: the vaunted Mike Scifres was outkicked by Mitch Berger. That's right, by a 48.0-47.2 margin, Berger came out on top, and to make his day even better, not one opponent spit in his mouth. Now that's a good day by anyone's account.

--For a guy who was supposed to be distracted by a DUI arrest, Vincent Jackson made more plays than I thought he was capable of.

--There was just some part of me that prayed the name "Legedu Naanee" didn't become a part of the Pittsburgh sports lexicon for all the wrong reasons. He fit the profile, with an eight-catch regular season and the extra bonus that no one's ever heard of him at any level of football. Luckily, his fourth-quarter TD turned out to be nothing more than a garbage-time score, and not the second coming of Alfred Pupunu or Francisco Cabrera.

--If I may take umbrage with one aspect of Sunday's gameplan: four touches for Carey Davis in such a game is waaaaaaaay too many. He reponded with seven yards, featuring a long of six. I think that sort of makes my point.

--And another beef: sorry guys, but you've gotta convert on fourth and an inch. But I can live with the fact that nobody's perfect after an overall performance like that.

--Is there a rule that holding is never called on the guy blocking James Harrison, or is it OK to grab his jersey?

--The biggest change from this game as opposed to past Steeler playoff games was the fact that the other team made the biggest mistakes. Special teams touchdown allowed? Check. Fumbled punt return? Check. Back-breaking interception? Check. That's the only area of the game where the Chargers went three-for-three.

--The playoff formula has become incredibly simple: don't turn the ball over and don't screw up on special teams. Look at the teams who've lost. They've been atrocious at protecting the ball. Miami...Tennessee...Atlanta...Carolina....should I go on?

It's why a guy like Joe Flacco (who's no longer a rookie, according to Dan Dierdorf), is able to complete 20 passes at a putrid 44% rate in two games and somehow get to the AFC Championship. He's not doing anything spectacular. He's simply taking care of the football. And they may qualify as spectacular, given the failures of other quarterbacks who will be watching the games on TV next weekend.

--People really seemed to enjoy the "Get Fiiiired Up" video gallery on Saturday, and the clips keep coming in. But rather than destroy everyone's bandwidth yet again, let me pick one out of the crowd, sent in by John M. from Florida: it's some Steeler fans from the Bahamas driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and seeing Heinz Field for the first time. Sometimes, we take that view for granted, but on the occasions when I am in the city, it still manages to "wow" me.


--Tons more coverage of "World War III" throughout the week. Check back often for the latest updates. And please, feel free to add to the discussion.

Send your news, tips, and links to Mondesishouse@gmail.com.

15 comments:

BurressWithButterflyWings said...

I agree, WAY TOO MUCH CAREY DAVIS.... other than that can't complain much.

Any1 else notice Philip Rivers' fangs?

Brian said...

I am damn near ready to choke Phil Simms every time they show a replay of James Harrison being blatantly held and him responding, "They're really blocking Harrison today." WHAT?! But yeah, can't complain other than that. Great day, and hopefully they can put another win together against Baltimore.

D. C. said...

Did anyone else see Holmes and Ward on the bench covering their noses and laughing as if you someone farted? I saw that and couldn't stop laughing.

Overall awesome game. I can't remember the last time I got as excited as I did during Holmes punt return. Probably Parker's SB TD run.

Baltimore will be another good close game. I'm sure this won't be a a real novel game prediction, but if Roethlisberger doesn't turn the ball over again, I think it is a win for the Steelers.

Sean said...

anyone know why wasn't troy polamalu introduced with the rest of the defense?

Koz said...

That video coming from the tunnel is awesome. Good for those folks to be able to experience Pittsburgh!

I also saw the "fart scene" on the sidelines and that's exactly what I thought they were doing too.

Good game - headline says it all. One down, two to go. What an agonizing anticipation until Sunday.

Broke But Still Drinking said...

Let's see if the family shows the same enthusiasm driving through the tunnel on Monday morning, but a good video nonetheless.

BurressWithButterflyWings said...

Polamalu was supposedly sick, according to Craig Wolffley last night on the post game show. He came from the underground entrance just before the game started.

P.O. said...

dont look now... but james harrison was just held again

Jan said...

that is so frustrating watching Harrison being held so much and it never being called. I hope Parker has another great game on Sunday. Sweed makes me want to throw something at the tv.

Jules said...

Is there a rule that holding is never called on the guy blocking James Harrison, or is it OK to grab his jersey?

You said it...and it's nearly every play...outrageous. And how about that bogus roughing the passer call? Although Hines stole 15 yards with his acting job so I guess I'm ok with it.

bohica said...

harrison literally gets tackled on about 95 percent of the plays per game, it's uncanny. his center of gravity is so low that no o-lineman can get any leverage.

The gods of football kept that ball out of sweed's mitts. But damn, that ball was right on the money. They will give us one back on Sunday, hopefully, when we will need it more.

Just be patient!

Kyle said...

Farrior, Foote and the D-line deserve a game ball for the way they stopped the run.

Timmons...is...fast

how was Troy's hit a penalty, if Woodley's nasty sack wasn't?

Is there a chance Colon can go one game without a penalty?

If the Ravens' O play against us like they did against the Titans, Flacco's new theme song will be that "had a bad day" -- it won't fly in Pittsburgh, Joey!

Mav said...

I'd like to defend Tomlin's fake punt call (which, as you'll see, agreed with):

1.) There was something like 4 or 5 minutes left before the half, and I'm assuming Tomlin wanted to get some momentum going before going into halftime (which they did anyway! No. 7 is good people, maybe not all-the-time-awesome-Brady-esque, but clutch good. It's why he wears No. 7)
2.) You are kicking the ball to their only hope at generating offense - tiny Sprolesy. By calling the fake, you are denying him another opportunity to touch the rock
3.) You have one of the most dominate defenses in the league in recent memory! That punt-fake was a testament to Tomlin's faith in LeBeau's unit. We don't get it, Tomlin's betting his D can stuff them.

Now I'm a very pessimistic, conservative Stiller fan (aka, I would've taken the 3 points instead of going for it on 4th and goal - always always always put points on the board), but I'm surprised everyone is calling the fake punt so 'questionable'

In other news, the two best comments I've heard so far have been the Tomlin 'It'd be a huge game if it were a scrimmage' and I think Max Starks 'We have a big, dirty, ugly bird between us and Tampa'

Keep up the good work Mondesi's House!

Chip said...

Polamalu was sick? That explains his rather poor play yesterday. I couldn't figure out why he was looking so sluggish yesterday.

Carey Davis must have pictures of Tomlin at a Furry Convention or something. He's useless. He can't run with it, when he catches a screen a stiff breeze knocks him down, and he can't block (McHugh is the blocking fullback). I have no idea why they even suit him up.

But yeah, that's Steeler Fan nit picking. Great great game and if we play anywhere near this good next week it'll be the Battle Of PA in two weeks.

kmitch218 said...

It's great to be able to nitpick after a huge win.

From what we've seen so far, the 2008 draft is looking pretty weak. Maybe the Giants would like another Steelers receiver.

Can't wait for Sunday, don't know how I'll stay sane until 6:30 and then having to listen to Phil Simms again.