Pittsburgh Steelers: 2008 Super Bowl Champions

It is done.

Is it really, really done?

First…a few thoughts on the season.

Back in October, Mike Tomlin was my front runner for Coach of the Year.  I picked the Cardinals to be a powerhouse in 2007.  It didn’t happen.  I looked to the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys this season.  This season, I knew the Cardinals were rough in the desert, but didn’t see them coming until they beat the Carolina Panthers.  I remember telling a friend, “What the hell is wrong with the Cardinals?  If I can name 10 guys on your defense, you should be KILLING people!!”  If you love Seminole football and watch as much college football as I have (and you’re a Michigan grad), names like Dockett, Watson, Dansby, Rolle, Cromartie (even Rodgers-Cromartie) are familiar.  As familiar as I was with those names (I had also seen the blizzard debacle in New England.), I had no idea the Cardinals had turned the corner.  Back in my world I thought the difficulty of the Steeler’s schedule would catch up with them.  With the twins, I don’t watch as many games as I used to.  I saw the Marijuana Bowl when Santonio Holmes was suspended vs. the New York Giants.  I saw Tip Gate when Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu dropped interceptions vs. Peyton Manning and the Colts.  I saw Jason Campbell throw his first two interceptions of the season vs. the Steelers on a Monday night.  I saw bits and pieces of a team that always seemed to be on national television.  I was used to the Steelers playing at 1:00 on Sunday afternoon.  It happened four times all season.  In three of those games, the Steelers scored 38, 38 and 31 points.  The other was game was that lost Sunday in Tennessee when everyone showed up except for the QB.

Every week was the Game of the Year.  In Week 2, every one wanted to know if the 2007 Cleveland Browns (winners of 10 games) were the real deal.  Would Derek Anderson continue his rise?  The Browns were blown out in Week 1 vs. the Cowboys, but gave a hint of what they could do in losing a nailbiter to the Steelers, 10-6.  In Week 3, the Steelers played the big national TV game vs. the Eagles and Donovan McNabb.  That game was a disaster.  The 15-6 loss was punctuated by the line surrendering nine sacks.  In Week 4, it was the Ravens.  Brutal game on Monday night.  Jacksonville – the team that beat the Steelers twice at the end of last season was up next in Week 5.  That came went down to the wire…tough, physical game for both teams.  Week 6 provided a brief reprieve.  After that, the schedule went to another level — Cincinnati (the same Bengals that took the Giants to overtime, beat the Eagles and scared the Cowboys), Giants, Redskins, Colts, Chargers, Bengals, Patriots, Cowboys, Ravens, and Titans.  Most of those games were national games of the week played at 4:00 on Sunday afternoon or Monday night or Sunday night or Thursday night.  There was a surreal intensity to the Pittsburgh Steelers schedule this season.

It seems like they caught up with their schedule.

The Steelers had a strange year with the officials.  Earlier this season, the NFL sent representatives to Pittsburgh to discuss the physicality of their play.  The team had been involved in a number of big hits and the league had already issued fines.  Troy Polamalu expressed his concern that the his craft had become a “pansy league.”  Hines Ward was in the spotlight for his jarring hit on Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers, and on several of the Baltimore Ravens.  James Harrison and free safety Ryan Clark also drew scrutiny for hits.  Clark’s hit on Wes Welker in New England and later on Willis McGahee in the AFC Championship Game would define this physical season.  When the league made the trip out to Pittsburgh, none of the Steelers were of the mind that they were receiving favorable treatment from the NFL.  That feeling would emerge later.  There may have been something to it.  The Steelers might argue, however, that if all the holding calls on James Harrison were called that should have been, games might never conclude on time.  They might put forth the same argument on behalf of Casey Hampton.  As it is, the team paid some fines and some calls went their way and some did not.  (Al Michaels was definitely of the mind that Super Bowl XLIII looked a great deal like Super Bowl XL with the number of whistles favoring the Black and Gold.)

Teams that win more games tend to make just a few more plays in each game to win.  Winning teams have players that get to the critical spot.  They are just a little quicker or stronger.  They have slightly better leverage.  They make that critical tackle or catch that elusive pass.  It’s a game of inches — and that is often the difference between an 8 or 9 win team and a 12 or 13 win team.  Inches, fractions, finger tips and toe taps.  During the season, there were times when this team wasn’t getting those inches.  They didn’t make the interceptions vs. the Colts.  They let the balls hit the ground and Peyton Manning got his bearings.  He passed for three touchdowns and escaped with a win.  They didn’t make the tackles vs. the Giants.  James Farrior missed Kevin Boss on 3rd and 8.  Boss converted the downs, preserved a drive and the Giants escaped with a win.  They didn’t have too many easy wins.  Houston, Cincinnati, New England, the finale vs. the lame duck Browns.  Most of the games were close.  As close as a razor’s edge…

All throughout this season, the Steelers struggled to get those inches and fingertips and toe taps.  Maybe things changed in the San Diego Charger game when Troy Polamalu got his hands underneath an errant pass from Phil Rivers.  Maybe it was this play?

Back in August, I remember setting my Auto-Draft for my Fantasy Football League.  I took Santonio Holmes in the 5th round or something like that.  I wanted to hate him (something about Ohio State and having UM defensive backs for lunch), but I saw that gaudy yards per catch average.  I thought he’d have a better regular season than he did, but his post-season made up for it.  I’d never autodrafted before, but I figured my strategy could pay dividends with a little luck.  I finished in 2nd place and had a sub-par showing in our semi-final.  I lost that matchup because I violated a fundamental rule.  I went away from my power players late in the season.  One thing that I did well was play Santonio Holmes against the Ravens.  He always scores against the Ravens…not usually…always.  Ray Lewis talked about the Ravens inability to stop him during an NFL.com interview before the Super Bowl.   Holmes is a big play receiver.  He gets open.  He catches the ball.  He gets yards after the catch.  Holmes may not be Larry Fitzgerald, but on Sunday night, he didn’t need to be.  He just needed to be himself, and that was more than enough.

Baltimore Raven defensive end Travor Pryce offered free advice to the Arizona Cardinals which they apparently decided not to take.  Much was made of the fact that Cardinal coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm coached the Steelers and were possessed of inside knowledge that might decide the game.  Pryce, a former Denver Bronco and two-time Super Bowl champion, has amassed 83.5 sacks in his career.  He advised the Cardinals not to rush Roethlisberger.  It was the same advice that most experts gave to the Steelers concerning the savvy Kurt Warner.  If and when someone reviews game tape for the Cardinals, they may wish they’d taken Trevor Pryce’s advice.  It was free.  Ben Roethlisberger completed 10 of 10 passes for 181 yards and no picks when the Cardinals sent five or more rushers.    (It occurred to me that the Ravens may also be the reason why Karlos Dansby was flagged for Roughing the Passer in the 3rd quarter.  It wasn’t much of a penalty, but it probably had higher visibility because of Jim Leonhard’s hit on Roethlisberger in the AFC Championship Game that was not whistled.)

The Steelers defensive approach to Kurt Warner was fundamentally sound.  They rarely blitzed.  They used a base defense on early downs and precluded the Cardinals from being balanced.  (It is amazing to me how many people continue to compare the Eagles and Steelers approaches to defense by labeling both teams as heavy blitz teams.  The Eagles are.  The Steelers are not.  This season, the Steelers typically did not send more than four or five defenders after the QB.   The issue was that offensives seldom knew which four or five were coming.  To the extent that a “blitz” refers to sending unconventional attackers it is fine, but the use of the word can obscure the facts.)  Clearly, there were one or two plays the team did not perform as intended, but the strategy was effective.  At halftime, Larry Fitzgerald had only one catch.  Bill Belichick used a similar approach in his Super Bowl victory over the Warner-led St. Louis Rams.  The Patriots priority was to make sure tackles after passes and limit yards after the catch.  The Steelers struggled with limiting yards after the catch on several 3rd and 4th quarter plays: for Boldin, Breaston, Urban, Arrington and Fitzgerald.  The Cardinals made solid adjustments at half time.  Belichick and LeBeau know that when a veteran QB has receivers as accomplished as Fitzgerald and Boldin, you cannot realistically expect to shut them down for an entire game.  The Steelers did it for 3 quarters.   Had the Steelers run game been more effective (2.8 ypc), the Cardinals might never have come off the mat.  The Cardinals entered the 4th quarter with less than 200 total yards and a mere 7 points.  There is no shame in not being able to hold down this team for 60 minutes.  Or this one:

LaMarr Woodley played a tremendous game.  He used speed and power and tenacity against Cardinals right tackle Levi Brown.  He pressured Kurt Warner, he put his hands on the ball and he was solid against the run.  I thought he was the third most dominant defensive player on the field behind James Harrison and Darnell Dockett.  LaMarr Woodley also blocked Tim Hightower on two separate occasions during Harrison’s 100-yard run back.  He was not the only blocker on that play (Lawrence Timmons was special on that play as well.), but Woodley’s block was critical in allowing Harrison to score.   Harrison gave Mike Gandy fits all night long.  He drew holding penalties — and the refs missed a few more.  Dockett beat double teams.  He pressured and sacked Roethlisberger.  He was grabbed and held, but he persevered.    He was the best Cardinal on the field other than Fitzgerald (late).

The Cardinals got back in the game because they were able to keep the Steelers offense from scoring touchdowns in the Red Zone.  Teams that fail to get 7 usually live to regret it.  I remember being concerned that Willie Parker had only 8 carries at halftime.  Bruce Arians, Steelers offensive coordinator, made an effort to get Parker more touches.  Parker had 7 carries on the first drive of the 2nd half.  The drive consumed more than 8 minutes, but yielded only 3 points.  I thought and hoped the Steelers would pull some pages from their win over San Diego.  I hoped they would simply double down on Darnell Dockett and run right at him.  That was the approach against the Chargers enormous tackle Jamal Williams.  That was not the approach tonite.  I thought the Steelers tried to be too cute in running the ball.  They made run plays that required quickness and finesse – a strong suit of the Cardinals.  Roethlisberger was tackled around the ankles by Gabe Watson on a draw.  Gary Russell was stuffed by Dockett on a counter run out of the pro set.  The Steelers even pulled Chris Kemoatu on the play that Willie Parker almost surrendered a safety.

Once the Cardinals were able to stop the run, the finally got their passing game untracked.  They stormed back with 16 points in the fourth quarter.  But…

What if I had more than 9 carries?What if I had more than 9 carries?

In a post-game locker room conversation, Kurt Warner said he felt as if his team might have scored to soon.  Mike Tomlin said that if the Cardinals had to score, that a big quick strike was ideal.  If you watched the Steelers this season vs. San Diego or Dallas or Baltimore, you probably were not surprised by the Steelers’ final drive.  If you’d been watching the team since 2004,  you could have remembered games at Jacksonville, at San Diego, vs. Cincinnati or Cleveland or at the Giants.  Surely you’d seen it before.  If not 17 times (the most in the league over the past few years), you’d probably seen it once.  I remember thinking to myself, “If these guys can drive 92 yards against the Ravens in Baltimore, they damn well better score a touchdown here.”  On the game’s final drive, Roethlisberger’s ability to outrun Darnell Dockett and make a play to Santonio Holmes was pure magic.  The other plays were just what we’ve seen all year long.  The offense did just enough to win the game.  They did what they do.  The defense did what they do for 3 quarters and when they faltered for one of the few times all season, the rest of the team was there to carry the load.  The defense regained its form in time to shut the door on a wonderful Arizona team that we can only hope will return as strong as they were this season.

It’s done.

Is it really?

Congrats to the 2008 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers.  It’s been a wonderfully bumpy ride!

19 comments

  1. Outstanding post T3. Your thoughts mirror mine on every aspect. This season has been a bizarre one for many reasons. I can’t think of a SuperBowl champion in all my years of watching Pro Football that has went through a season like this year’s Steelers have. They had the hardest schedule. Statistically they weren’t a great running team like in year’s past. The Offensive Coordinator called questionable plays in critical times. Their offensive line struggled all throughout the regular season but played good in the playoffs. But yet, they weathered all those storms and won it all. I’m more proud of this team than I am of the 2005 team.

    This was an incredible game. I must admit that in the final 3 mins, the Cards had me worried. It wasn’t until Big Ben got that first 1st down on the final drive that I reflected back to what they were able to do all season — come from behind when it mattered most. Then I became at ease and knew they would somehow pull it out.

    The strategy they used on Fitz was what I expected LeBeau to do. Take away the deep pass with help over the top but give up the underneath stuff in the flats. You made a great point regarding how surprising the Steelers’ tackling was during this game. They are one of the better (or best) tackling teams in the league. I was very disappointed on so many missed and broken tackles.

  2. I know that you love that the Steelers won as much as I did T3, but after the game, you also feel the same way. We have to nit pick and find ways to make the team better!

    This was just a crazy year for the Steelers. Being called dirty one minute, and getting screwed on big calls the next. To be fair, though, that kind of sums up the entire NFL season. Goodell should definitely look into making the refs go to boot camp this summer to improve the quality of the calls. Otherwise, the whispers of the NFL fixing games are going to get louder.

    Hopefully, Marvel Smith will be back next year. The O-Line did a good job against the Cardinals with the exception of Dockett. It would certainly help to have their #1 tackle back for next year. Also, with the game experience, the line should be better prepared for next year.

    This is the biggest thing that I think the Steelers have to do on offense. Draft a friggin’ stud fullback!! It pains me to no end to see the Pittsburgh Steelers not be able to get a first down on fourth and one! This was a staple during the Jerome Bettis days, but since Jerome left, and now Arians has taken over, there are more one back sets, and plays where receivers or tight ends are supposed to keep D-linemen off of Willie Parker.

    Defensively, just keep drafting good defensive players. The corners are still suspect, but they have definitely gotten better since Tomlin took over. If the Steelers can find a stud man-to-man corner with a pick in the draft, they should take them. (Also, would it kill the Steelers to play a bit more bump & run coverage??!!) The safeties are excellent, as long as they don’t have to cover for long stretches on good receivers.

    For the schedule that the Steelers had, Tomlin did a better job than Bill Cowher would have. Cowher was just not a very big game coach. It’s very telling that the only Super Bowl that he won was when the Steelers had to claw for everything they got. This year’s team also had to claw for everything, but to paraphrase Tomlin, it’s not always pretty, it’s Steelers football, it’s winning football!

  3. kos,

    Yeah, I think the Offensive Line started to gel at the right time and they came through huge on the last drive of the game. I definitely think that line will be much better next year.

    I’m not sure if they need to draft a FB or not. They have Carey Davis but Arian’s offense is based on a one-back set with 2 TEs and 2 WRs. So i’m almost certain that he’s not playing Davis in his offense because he can’t block. But that’s not the Steeler way historically. They lived and died w/ the I-Form 2 back formation and just pounded you w/ big physical backs, setting up the PA pass. But I agree…..they need to incorporate the FB in their run scheme.

    I mentioned in another thread that I think the corners for the Steelers played their best football this year. For years, the weakness of that defense was the secondary (minus Polamalu). But w/ Tomlin being a DB coach, i’m sure he added some things to LeBeau’s defense to get those corners playing better. I also have to agree with you on their safeties. Ryan Clark really played well during the second half of the season and in the playoffs.

    Next year looks rather promising. No big name FAs and they always draft well. Their defensive line is getting up there in age so I figure that’s where they’ll focus on come draft day. Teams will now have to respect Santonio Holmes AND Ward, which could lead to big things for Washington & Sweed. Timmons might replace Foote in the lineup and Woodley could be a Pro-Bowler. The defense will be in the top 3 again, no question about it.

  4. GN –

    One good thing about next year, the schedule won’t be anywhere near as murderous as it was this past year. The Steelers get the NFC North and the AFC West to play. That in itself should lead to an easier time next year.

    Bryant McFadden, Marvel Smith, Trai Essex, Max Starks, Chris Kemoeatu, Willie Colon, and Nate Washington are all free agents. And of course, Byron Leftwich wants to be a starter. Expect a couple of those offensive linemen to be gone, as well as Leftwich. McFadden will probably be re-signed. Nate will be re-signed as long as no one offers him a huge contract that the Rooney’s aren’t willing top pay. So offensive linemen could be a draft need, and Sweed may have to learn to be a better receiver.

    I forgot all about the aging defensive line. Aaron Smith has been there forever (yet, still no Pro Bowls!), and with all that weight, Casey Hampton isn’t going to have a long career.

    One thing that I think endures the Steelers to alot of people, is that they scout well, and will take chances on small college players. I don’t see this changing. They’re just better at finding the gems than other teams. While all the haters are saying the Steelers win too much, I say that the Steelers are just better at what they do, and know who they are better than any other team! Although, note to Steelers staff: draft a blocking fullback and go back to power football! 🙂

  5. Great post. I’m getting tired already of hearing how the refs gave this superbowl to the Steelers. But I can understand I guess, Arizona was a cinderella team with a lot to like and Pitt’s had a lot of success already. People were rooting hard for the Cards as they were for Seattle. But to say the calls in this one favored the Steelers is just not seeing reality when you consider the overturns, safety holding and even Fitzgerald’s 1st td. Replay that and see if you can find a shot that shows the nose of the football hitting the ground in a catch that was more similar to Tyree’s than you’d think.
    In the end Ben proved how great a player he has become and instead of the OL problems taking this team down, they actually made him and the team stronger. The schedule helped strengthen them too. Whats amazing is this was a flawed team and they are in the process of building something here. While they were at it they grabbed another SB. How great is that?

  6. As a fan whose primary team (really, player [Donnie Mac]) fell short in the NFC title game, I think that folk alleging that the refs erred in favor of the Steelers is total crap. I saw several holds that could have gone on either side not called. Since I usually root for underdogs, I very fleetingly felt bad that Wilson’s penalty that put the Steelers (my childhood team that N. O’Donnell and “the chin” eventually broke me out of) that much closer to scoring, but seeing Warner and other QBs being allowed to basically follow through with a throw without worrying that it’ll be a fumble and basically be allowed to say, “I was throwing that! (as Warner mouthed)”, is complete and utter crap! Warner got away with the first one (that looked like he simply lost the grip on an aborted/pump faked pass {not a tuck} due to the hit) and I think the last one was that was ruled a fumble was poetic justice. He was perfectly hit on the wind-up and his strength did allow him to still follow through, but it was definitely the right call.

    Lastly, as a purist, it was great to see a team consistently, week after week, play at a high level as the aforementioned post attests, come though at the end, as the Steelers had. While the Cards played exceptionally well and at times great during the playoffs, the Steelers set a better example to other players and anyone else seeing the bigger metaphorical picture that excellence requires great consistency over time (like the Giants D last year that led me to inform T3 after their dismantling of the Eagles in ’07 that they were indeed SB-bound) and that it simply and truly wins out when all other things may be on par. Thus, Super congrats to the “Sixburg” Steelers as well as, and most especially the Rooneys for being the epitome of how ownership should work (which is very important to this Detroiter-in-Exile), not to mention their stupefying role in making it the year(s?) of the brotha man, lol!

  7. Thanks folks. Much appreciated.

    FYI — I added an update about the Steelers schedule this season. We know the team usually plays on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. This season, the NFL showcased the team like no other that I’ve ever seen. I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d say they were destined to win this championship because of their high profile. They were on national television 12 times during the regular season. That’s unheard of. What I found most revealing was how well the offense produced in its traditional time slot: 38, 38 and 31 vs. Houston, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Those aren’t the toughest squads in the league, but each of them had great defensive games against elite competition this season — the Bengals and Browns vs. the Giants; the Texans vs. the Titans.

    I was waiting for that tremendous offensive explosion in the post-season but it never happened. The team was always one step, one beat off. In the Super Bowl, Nate Washington should have had a touchdown when he got behind Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. The ball was late and underthrown. Against the Ravens, there were 3 dropped TD passes.

    I’m wondering about this team’s future and the law of averages. This team had many, many injuries. Roethlisberger, Parker, Casey Hampton, Hines Ward, Marvel Smith, Kendall Simmons, Bryant McFadden, DeShea Townsend and many others were beat up during the season. Still they won the Super Bowl. (You can count on 1 hand teams that have won the Super Bowl without their starting left tackle and right guard.) The offense was ranked 20th in the league (down from 9th the year before) — but they won the Super Bowl. The defense was ranked first — again — and they will get better if they can get reinforcements along the defensive front.

    ——————————

    GN:

    I’m glad you reflected back on the season. I did the same thing. The offense really had a knack for scoring in pressure moments. I had to tell Burundi (Roethlisberger makes him nervous!!) that Ben is as clutch as they come. He doesn’t do it in a conventional way, but once you’ve him play enough, you know that it usually works out in the end.

    One of those Idiots DuJour at ESPN said the Steelers would lose if Ben threw more than 25 passes. I guess that was their “research.” Those dumb bastards don’t any more about football than my 20-month old twins. 25 isn’t Ben’s “uh-oh” number. It’s much higher than that.

    By the way, Bruce Arians or Tomlin or whomever deserves a great deal of credit for taking the air out of the ball in the 3rd quarter. That 8 minute drive allowed Parker to get 7 carries and slow down the pace of the game. At the time, I felt the team was losing momentum by playing too conservatively, but I knew Parker had to tote the rock — if for no other reason than to slow down the rush. Dockett was starting to take over the game.
    —————————————————–

    kos:

    I don’t feel like we’re nit picking. After all, we’re not trying to tear down the team. I definitely appreciate the growth that players made over the year. I have come into a new respect for many of those cats. I even have a little love for Bruce Arians (that’s big.) We’re just always looking to improve the team because that’s what Rooney and Colbert are doing. I’m just trying to keep up.

    If we don’t want to keep up, we can always start rooting for the Jets or Lions. It comes with the territory.

    ——————————————-

    Bob:

    You are right on it. Thanks for stopping by. Great comments.

    ————————————————-

    Burundi:

    So are you a believer now in the Late Game Power of the Ben?

  8. I’m just hearing Colin on the “‘Herd” defending Ben and saying he’s the 3rd best QB in the game. Ben’s game is inextricably bound to that defense (with his passer rating in his 1st SB, being exhibit A) and, that under-thrown pass to Nate is a prime example. Without that defense there were too many times this year where Ben holding that ball was a liability and, if he didn’t have that defense, he would have cost them some games (and, he very well may have cost them some of those four losses, too, like at Tennessee, if I’m recalling correctly). Do I think that the team has won in spite of him at times, no question. With that said, I have to agree with what I just heard Colin say: Ben is more elusive than either Manning or Brady and is much harder to bring down, which means he has a better all-around skillset than the aforementioned two. While he’s not the most accurate QB during the 1st three quarters, when it counts, he does come through in the clutch (with his two passes—including the one that hit Holmes smack on the hands—to Holmes being two of the best I’ve ever seen). Of course the only QB that I’d rather interchange him with in that squad would be McNabb. Bottom line: Ben gets the job done with the help of that defense that consistently keeps him in games; without that D, I don’t know. However, Ben’s detractors, including this author, will have to concede that the final drive and passes to Holmes catapults Ben into that rarefied, Montana-esque air of elite status.

  9. Slow down there doctor.

    No one said anything about Joe Montana.

    I don’t know if he’s 3rd best or not. I think he’s perfect for Pittsburgh and wouldn’t trade him for Manning or Brady. He might only be the 8th or 9th best QB in the league — who knows…who cares. He wins games by imposing his will on the opposition when it matters. Ask Trevor Pryce. Ask Darnell Dockett.

    It should be noted, however, that for all of their considerable success, neither Brady nor Manning has ever led his team down the field to a game winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. Brady has led his team to game-winning field goals, but never a touchdown. Manning, as you know, performed only moderately well in the Super Bowl and stole an MVP award that should have gone to Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai.

    Let me put this another way — Ben’s lost 2 playoff games in his life. He threw 3 picks in both games. The first was a game against a very savvy Patriots team in which you yourself argued the game was lost by Cowher daring the Patriots with a predictable 4th and 1 dive play to Jerome Bettis. That’s to say nothing of the gambles taken by a secondary that was routinely burned over the top by Deion Branch.

    I know that you don’t routinely watch Steeler games. If you did, you’d recall that Roethlisberger was instrumental in the 34-20 domination of the Patriots earlier that same season. 18-24, 196 yards and 2 TDs as a rookie. You might even know that since 2004, no QB has had more game-winning drives in the 4th quarter and OT. You might have seen long drives over the past few years against great defenses in San Diego, Jacksonville and Baltimore. I did.

    Back in ’05, the Pats made better adjustments in the second game. That the team made it that far is commendable. They had a great defense — but they gave up a lot of points. Kurt Warner, McNabb and Manning couldn’t beat the Patriots during their Super Bowl run. That Roethlisberger lost to them as well isn’t indicative of his capacity.

    The other loss was last year against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He didn’t play well in that game. Everyone has bad games. The team was unable to run the ball because Willie Parker had a broken leg. One dimensional teams rarely win playoff games. And they still would have won if the refs called that holding penalty on 4th and 2 against the Jags…but that’s done with.

    As for the Super Bowl back in ’05…I’m not exactly sure how nervousness by a 23 year-old kid in the biggest game of his life qualifies as Exhibit A. But, if that’s the BEST you can come up with — okay fine. Go with that.

    As for his replacement — please tell me that you recall his replacement did the exact same thing (an underthrow vs. AZ) in the NFC championship game — he underthrew a wide open receiver BEHIND Rogers-Cromartie. DeSean Jackson got a different BOUNCE and scored. If that’s Exhibit B and that’s all you’ve got, okay fine. Go with that.

    Please tell me that you remember Limas Sweed, Willie Parker and Santonio Holmes ALL dropped TD passes in the game vs. Baltimore. You do remember that — don’t you? Each ball was perfectly thrown and hit each guy in the hands.

    I’ll be here. Holler back if you can come up with something else. From where I’m sitting, that’s just not compelling in any way shape or form.

    Two years ago, this offense was 7th overall in yards. Last year, they were 9th overall in points. During that time, they’ve lost Alan Faneca at left guard. This season they played without Marvel Smith at left tackle and Kendall Simmons at right guard. They lost Willie Parker to a broken leg during last season’s playoff run. This Super Bowl, Hines Ward played with an MCL sprain and only caught 2 passes.

    Amid all this transition, the team has won 2 Super Bowls. Brady and Manning play behind the same line and throw to the same elite receivers every single week.

    Coincidentally, Tom Brady is the POSTER BOY for winning because of his defense. He’s 4-0 in his worst career playoff games because his DEFENSE shut down the opposition. Don’t you remember his first Super Bowl? Do you remember Ty Law going 47 yards to pay dirt and that D holding “The Greatest Show on Turf” to 17 points? 16 for 27, 145 yards. Not usually enough to WIN a Super Bowl…sounds like a dude being carried by his defense.

    Brady’s career playoff rating is 88.0. Ben’s is 87.9. Manning’s rating is 84.9 and that includes SIX LOSSES in his FIRST playoff game of that particular season.

    Say what you will, but tell it to the rings.

  10. Actually, some of the Steelers players (and, perhaps it was Ward, himself) and commentators/columnists like Colin Cowherd [ESPN] & Adam Schein [FoxSports], compared their last 78 yard drive, the Ben-to-Holmes final TD, to the Montana-to-Clark TD. I can’t claim originality to it.

    The same two journalists list 1-2-3 and draw the line after Brady (whom you very well know I think is a glorified system QB), Manning & Roethlisberger (I’d actually put Ben ahead of Peyton, statistics be damned, because I think Ben wouldn’t have taken a sack on the last drive of that game as Peyton did to lose to SD). I wouldn’t argue with it because you’re right – the rings say it all.

    You said: I know that you don’t routinely watch Steeler games. If you did, you’d recall that Roethlisberger was instrumental in the 34-20 domination of the Patriots earlier that same season. 18-24, 196 yards and 2 TDs as a rookie.

    Actually, I watch a great deal of their games, but obviously not to the extent that you do—and, I did happen to catch that glorious beatdown of the Pats (wherein Ben was on his game) with a rabid, raucous bunch of Steeler nation folk, many clad in yellow hard hats, at the very same sports bar in Coral Gables.

    Colin also cited Ben and McNabb (who’s uncharacteristically errant passes I saw before I gave up on that game at halftime in disgust) as being the most elusive QBs of note and that elusiveness was why invoked my interchangeability notion, as I was fully aware of the Steelers O-line challenges this year.

    My lone contention or thing that I felt that detracted from his game this year was that he held the ball too long and left himself open to sacks and fumbles (which, I must concede, he probably wouldn’t do if he didn’t think he could trust the defense). However, the thing that I totally lost track of (when I wrote the previous entry) was that he’s not yet 27, which is ridiculous and means that he has an amazing upside, yet and still. In other words, it’s totally crazy to think that he’s only going to get better and better.

    Finally, his comebacks (and the hardware), I think, do put him ahead of the class in this era and, upon further reflection, I think that, because of his elusiveness, he could still flourish, even if he didn’t have the tenacious D backing him up. He might play the game a little differently, but his youth and progression, as evidenced by his heady playing in this SB (the jawdropping pass to the TE after scrambling and spinning around and just knowing he was there defies explanation) says to me that he very well may go down as one of the games very best and that’s rare air, indeed..

  11. That’s all I’ve been trying to convey to you. I’m glad he had the big game performance to demonstrate my cause of confidence. There’s nothing like doing it on the big stage.

    That reminds me…1 more ring for the mobile guys. The hardware is really starting to pile up.

  12. B:

    As you know, I had twin duty during the Colts-Chargers wildcard game this year. I just watched the sack of Manning on NFL Rewind.

    He didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting away from that guy. The Chargers were moving around before the snap — the linebacker who made the sack came around the corner and no one on the Colts touched him. He had a free run. Peyton should have seen the guy — but I think the Chargers baited him the same way the Steelers baited Warner. He was trying to convert a 3rd and 2 by slowing a slant to Reggie Wayne. The corner was playing off so the slant looked like it was there. Once the ball was snapped, a linebacker and a safety stepped into the area he intended to throw the ball. He double clutched — and BAM!!! Blindside blast from the unimpeded linebacker.

    I think you all are right — we’ve all seen McNabb and Roethlisberger get away from guys they didn’t see coming. I can’t say they’d have gotten away from that dude. McNabb’s only fumble against AZ was a similar situation. The Cards blitzed from his blindside and the tackle just whiffed on the block. Then…BAM!!! Fumble!

    At the end of the day, you’re blessed if you have any of these guys playing for you — and you’ve got at least one ring, unless you live in Philly.

  13. The key with what you stated is that Manning should have seen him.

    My point is that Manning seems to me (and not just on that one play that could have allowed them to possibly run out the clock in regulation), most times, to be too dialed in to making plays solely with his arm rather than having the presence of mind to having to possibly make plays with his feet. Brady is a little better at this.

    Perhaps a QB gives up some accuracy by “seeing” that defender, as you’ve stated, but I would rather have a QB whose accuracy isn’t super great, provided he could “see” that defender coming and take off when he needs.

  14. That’s a choice. I guess the larger question is, “How much inaccuracy can you live with?”

    Less than 60%? 58% What’s that magic number?

  15. BTW…..Bruce Arians said that he called a lot of runs during the course of the game but Ben audibled out of them when he read the defense sending overloads to the side where the run was coming.

  16. I watched the game on NFL Game Rewind the same night — and I’ve watched a few pieces here and there.

    I thought Arians did a very good job in the Super Bowl. After watching that 3rd quarter drive, I came away impressed – except for what transpired near the goal line. The face mask penalty was blatant and the rules don’t preclude offensive players (as far as I know) from doing the same thing. Dansby took a step, left his feet and extended his arms after the ball was gone to knock over Roethlisberger.

    One thing I noticed on the replay was that the Steelers had numerous opportunities to hit Warner as he was releasing or just after releasing the ball. They never blasted him late. Many times, guys just went around him after arriving late. Ryan Clark had him lined up on that over the top pass to Fitzgerald in the corner…never touched him.

    I had to correct Dwil about Adrian Wilson being blocked into Mitch Berger. Wilson flies off the line, runs over Aaron Smith and bowls over Berger. It was a great demonstration of his speed and power. Still, the Cardinals brought that all on themselves. In principle, as I’ve said, I personally wouldn’t have called those 3 — but I see why the referees did it. I know when calls like that aren’t made, games get very chippy. I would love to play a Super Bowl without refs. I’d take my chances with the Steelers against any team in the league. I don’t think the Cardinals would’ve liked a game without refs — where anything goes. Warner wouldn’t have survived that first 3 and out drive.

    I still think Warner fumbled on that first play. Quite a few other folks do as well. I thought the fumbles were very similar in that he appeared to lose control of the ball, but was still in contact with the ball and able to direct its path (generally, but not specifically).

    Arians deserves a lot of credit.

    GN — you and kos and I have been thinking all season about the flaws in this team. On a certain level, I’m shocked that they won. Usually Super Bowl teams are stocked with guys who had career years. Only James Harrison and Polamalu had a career year on this team. Polamalu is only 27.

    With all the injuries they had (Mendenhall missed 12 games; McFadden missed 6 games; Parker missed 5 games; Sepulveda missed the entire season; etc.) If the offensive guys come back next season and have career years (especially against an inferior schedule), it could be crazy. I don’t expect the defense to be #1 overall again (3 years in a row?!?!).

  17. T3,

    I was watching the game and texting my old college buddy. We both were saying (and couldn’t believe) that Arians was calling a excellent game. Arizona didn’t know what hit them. Now before I heard his comment about Ben audibling out of his run plays, we were both frustrated that he wasn’t sticking to the run. But i’m glad I saw his comments because now I have a new found respect for him. I just hope that he incorporates a FB into his run plays.

    I agree w/ you about Warner’s 1st fumble. In viewing that play, he was looking down field and hadn’t made a decision to throw the ball. Once contact was made, I think his instinct took over to try and secure the ball but it was too late.

    Also, Adrian Wilson (as you alluded to) ran over Aaron Smith, (who was already off balance) and plowed over Berger. It was way too obvious. I had no idea what Dwil was looking at but that call was correct.

    I pretty much agreed w/ Al Michaels regarding the three penalties on that drive. Two of them were without question…but the one on Ben I thought could’ve gone either way. But when I looked at the replay, it’s just as you described Dansby’s actions.

    I even now have second thoughts on the safety in the endzone. In looking at the replay, it looks like Hartzwig’s left arm was not holding on to the defender as they fell to the ground. I think he let go as they started to fall to the ground. Deion Sanders said the same thing and i’m starting to think that maybe he was right.

  18. With NFL Rewind, you have a controller — so you can watch plays as often as you like. These guys are moving so fast that sometimes you have to look at a play 10 times just to figure out what’s going on.

    I’m watching the Steelers-Patriots game. One of the bigger early plays in the game was made by Holmes. He fielded a punt at the 6 and returned it to the 36. Great run and he picked up a CRUSHING block from someone. I still have no idea who that was. Wow! Ka-boooooom!

    Anyway, during the broadcast, Dierdorf and Gumble were talking about how Ben has more play-calling responsibilities. It’s a qualified statement though. Ben said that sometimes Arians lets him go 4 or 5 plays without suggesting a call…that he calls 40-50% of the plays on his own (from a menu of plays they’re going to use — not from the entire playbook)…sometimes that number goes to 75%.

    Ben had a lot of underthrows this season. It seems like everyone was to Nate Washington. He’s gotta get that shoulder together OR forget about pump faking when Nate goes deep. On those deep passes to Nate, he’s usually back there 1-on-1, but has to wait for the rock. Next year, I say LET IT RIP!!

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