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Thread: Super again? Not yet, but Steelers are surging

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    Default Super again? Not yet, but Steelers are surging

    Super again? Not yet, but Steelers are surging

    By ALAN ROBINSON AP Sports Writer

    PITTSBURGH(AP)—The early season slide is over. Troy Polamalu is back from a four-week injury layoff. The edginess and self-assurance appear to be restored to the NFL’s best defense over the last five seasons.

    Ben Roethlisberger is second in the NFL in yards passing. James Harrison is threatening to break the team record for sacks again. Hines Ward is playing as if he’s 23, not 33. Teams still can’t run the ball effectively against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    In September, the rest of the NFL kept looking for the faults and fallacies in the defending Super Bowl champion. They were visible, too: an overtime win over still-winless Tennessee; a flurry of fourth-quarter points allowed; last-minute losses to the Bears and the Bengals in successive weeks.

    So much for a first impression being a lasting one. Right now, the Steelers (5-2) own the look of a team no opponent would willingly choose to play in January. They’re hauling a four-game winning streak and growing confidence into their bye week, plus the mindset they’re still the NFL’s best team until somebody proves differently.

    “We’re stacking wins,” Ward said. “(Going into) the month of November, we’re heading in the right direction.”

    They don’t own the NFL’s best record, or even the undisputed lead in the AFC North - that might get decided when they play the Bengals (5-2) on Nov. 15. But the Steelers never were a team that needed the standings, outside experts, statistical breakdowns or fancy graphics to tell them where they rank or what they can be.

    Their own state-of-the-Steelers analysis: not there yet, but getting there.

    “We’ve put ourselves in a good position to go into this bye, but November, December, that’s where the real teams start to separate themselves,” defensive end Brett Keisel said. “Hopefully, if we’re a real team around here, we can continue this win streak.”

    The Steelers’ attitude, demeanor and confidence all looked to change during the last 1 1/2 quarters of their 27-17 victory over previously unbeaten Minnesota last Sunday.

    First, they refused to allow a touchdown after Minnesota had a first down at their half-yard line during the third quarter. One failed run by Adrian Peterson and two incompletions by Brett Favre thrown into a tightly packed end zone made Minnesota settle for a field goal that kept the Steelers in the lead.

    The Vikings blinked, and it potentially changed a pivotal game. The Vikings have arguably the NFL’s best running back, yet they apparently had so little confidence Peterson could gain 18 inches against Pittsburgh’s defense that they ran him only once.

    Maybe there’s a reason: Peterson, Cedric Benson and Chris Johnson are three of the NFL’s top five rushers, yet each was controlled by a Steelers defense that hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in its last 25 regular-season games. The challenge will be keeping that up without run-stuffing defensive end Aaron Smith, who is out for the season with a torn rotator cuff.

    Following the goal line stand, the Steelers’ defense outscored Minnesota’s offense 14-0 as LaMarr Woodley scored on a 77-yard fumble return and Keyaron Fox returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown. So much for the Steelers’ inability to close out teams in the fourth quarter, where they were outscored 55-13 in their first five games.

    “We don’t do shootouts around here,” safety Ryan Clark said. “It’s been awesome how fast people forget this defense can actually play. We have pride. It’s not ego, it’s pride. And these guys have character.”

    What the Steelers really need is to keep Polamalu healthy. Their defense wasn’t as aggressive or effective after he injured his left knee Sept. 10 against Tennessee, and they were only 2-2 without him. They’re 3-0 when he plays, and 12-1 since mid-November a year ago, counting the postseason.

    While the Steelers’ defense isn’t quite back yet - it’s No. 8 overall after being No. 1 the last two seasons - the offense is unlike any other the Steelers have had during the Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin eras.

    Rather than being in the bottom third in passing and the top five in rushing, it’s the other way around. The Steelers continue to evolve from being one of the NFL’s most run-heavy offenses to one of its more unpredictable ones. Roethlisberger has thrown for 2,062 yards, or only about 600 yards fewer than during his rookie season in 2004. No Steelers QB has led the NFL in passing, but he could do it.

    Roethlisberger already has three 300-yard games, only one fewer than four-time Super Bowl winner Terry Bradshaw had during his career. Ward is second in the league in yards receiving.

    “I guess if you go back to the ’70s, we’ve been a grind-it, pound-it team,” Roethlisberger said. “We’re not that ’70s team. We’re our own identity. We’re our own team.”

    A team that, as midseason approaches, apparently believes it can do something those teams of the ’70s did by winning three Super Bowls in five seasons, during a run of four Super Bowl wins in six seasons.

    “We know what we’re capable of doing,” Roethlisberger said.

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    Default Re: Super again? Not yet, but Steelers are surging

    So far the best team we have faced is the vikes, and we won, which is a good sign. The Defense came up huge in the 4th quarter for really the first time this year.
    THE Steelers are showing signs of life. With Mendy leading the league in yards after contact the running game is stablizing nicely. On defense, the key imo, is for Woodley to get going. If he can start taking down some QB's again, that would be a tremendous help to the secondary.Add to that a healthy Troy, and once again, our Defense is head and shoulders above the rest.
    I ALMOST feel sorry for denver and the rest of the teams on the schedule, because the Steelers are heating up. With the way Ben has been slinging the ball plus a revived defense, I don't see very many teams that will be able to stop this gathering storm that is, The Pittsburgh Steelers.
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