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Thread: Steelers Win the Way They’ve Always Won

      
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    Default Steelers Win the Way They’ve Always Won

    Steelers Win the Way They’ve Always Won



    Barton Silverman/The New York Times

    Jerricho Cotchery, who caught a late touchdown pass, and the rest of the Jets found little room to run through much of the first half in Pittsburgh.

    By JUDY BATTISTA
    Published: January 23, 2011


    PITTSBURGH — Back in September, Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin had just arrived home from a road trip when he contemplated the importance of the quarterback to his team. Ben Roethlisberger had been in league-mandated exile — the reclamation project for his reputation just beginning — and both of his primary backups were injured, yet the Steelers started 3-0 anyway.

    Tomlin said then that he would not disrespect the quarterbacks whom he had cobbled together to take the snaps. But the Steelers had forged the foundation of their season on familiar building blocks — a running game whose importance had diminished last season, and a defense that has been the cornerstone of all six Steelers Super Bowl championships.

    They weathered Roethlisberger’s absence, and in two weeks, the Steelers will play for a seventh title because they beat up the Jets with a style of play as familiar as a Terrible Towel.

    As the Steelers made their way to their locker room, new championship hats on their heads, safety Ryan Clark screamed “Can’t wait to get on that jet!” a jab at the catchphrase Jets linebacker Bart Scott made famous last week.

    “They weren’t pretty respectable until about Friday,” Clark said later. “You can’t talk before you play.”

    Still, the Steelers’ 24-19 victory in Sunday’s A.F.C. championship game was not a vintage Steelers performance. Their defense came dangerously close to becoming an embarrassing historical footnote when they almost blew a 24-point lead, which would have been the biggest deficit a team had recovered from, topping the 18-point hole the Colts recovered from against the Patriots in the A.F.C. title game in the 2006 season.

    The cornerbacks, long Pittsburgh’s weak spot, looked particularly vulnerable when the pass rush could not reach quarterback Mark Sanchez, something Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers surely noted.

    “The way the second half went, I forgot we played good,” Clark said. “We’ve got to get better. We weren’t tired at all. We didn’t execute. They dinked and dunked us down the field.”

    But the Steelers have been nothing if not resourceful this season. They played seven offensive tackles and four quarterbacks, and when they needed it most, it was their quarterback, still trying to live down his personal behavior, who saved them.

    With two minutes remaining, on third-and-6 from the Jets’ 40, Roethlisberger scrambled away from pressure to complete a 14-yard pass to the rookie Antonio Brown, a play originally designed to go to Hines Ward. It was a redemptive moment for Roethlisberger. He thrust his hand to the sky as the final seconds ticked off, giving the N.F.L. a comeback story and the Steelers their third trip to the Super Bowl since 2005.

    “That first 30 minutes was conference-champion worthy,” Tomlin said. “We kind of limped home. It’s kind of been our story this year. All of these journeys are like that. They are adversity filled, collective and personal. We have a lot of components in there that make navigating the waters possible.”

    Last year, the Steelers’ offense had gone out of balance, with a reliance on the passing game (4,148 yards passing to 1,793 yards rushing) that the Steelers wanted to correct. They did this season, out of necessity. And Sunday, they reverted to form, with a powerful running attack and a swarming defense putting the Jets in a hole from which they could not recover.

    The Steelers play the smash-mouth style the Jets want to assume as their own. In the first half, with their brilliant rookie center, Maurkice Pouncey, out with an ankle injury, the Steelers’ offensive line — a liability last year — blew back the Jets, producing 135 rushing, many of them on second efforts by Rashard Mendenhall. The long, clock-chewing drives left Sanchez sitting in the cold with little hope of stanching the damage.

    “They can’t play us the way they played Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in nickel coverage,” Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, said. “We’ll run it down your throats.”

    When he finally had the ball in his hands, Sanchez could do little early against a run defense that allowed few holes. Forced to throw near the end of the first half, Sanchez was sacked and he fumbled. The fumble was returned for a touchdown by William Gay, which put the Steelers up, 24-0.

    Even when their passing defense flagged in the third quarter, and the Jets were able to thread passes into the secondary, that was simply too much for the Jets to overcome.

    The Steelers’ offense struggled in the third quarter, but they were able to run enough to take time off the clock. Two drives that yielded no points still consumed 11 minutes. And when the Jets had three shots from the Steelers’ 1, they could not make it, falling victim to a goal-line stand that thrilled everyone wearing a throwback Jack Lambert jersey.

    That was the kind of stand that has defined the Steelers franchise since the 1970s, and one that propels them now. James Farrior, the linebacker who is one of the team’s leaders, recalled a Tomlin truism that he uncorked in September after a win.

    “The standard is the standard,” Tomlin said then, and Farrior repeated it Sunday night.

    They meant that whoever played — Roethlisberger or Charlie Batch, Pouncey, who left the stadium on crutches with an ankle injury, or Doug Legursky — the expectations of the Steelers would not change. The six Lombardi Trophies already on display here attest to that. So did the subdued celebration in a quickly clearing locker room. The Steelers have been here before, repeatedly, and they have more work to do.

    “You don’t feel close to the 1970s, but you feel a part of that,” Ward said. “Expectations are high in Pittsburgh.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/24/sp...r=2&ref=sports

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    Default Re: Steelers Win the Way They’ve Always Won

    Loudmouthed Jets silenced by Steelers, 24-19

    Posted: Sunday January 23, 2011 11:49 PM


    PITTSBURGH (AP) - The New York Jets were uncharacteristically quiet all week.
    Not much changed once the game started. By the time they made some noise, it was simply too late.

    Rex Ryan's big-mouthed bunch was shut down and shut up in the first half by Pittsburgh on Sunday night. The Jets' defense was dominated by Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall and the Super Bowl-bound Steelers 24-19.

    "It's the toughest loss I've ever been a part of,'' linebacker Jason Taylor said.

    After a loud run through the postseason that had the Jets in the AFC championship game for the second straight year, New York was silenced until a second-half comeback attempt fell short.
    And it was because of a stunningly slow start that lacked the intensity of the Jets' first two playoff victories.

    "We just came out flat,'' cornerback Darrelle Revis said.

    Added defensive end Shaun Ellis: "They came out and out-tempoed us.''

    Ryan's aggressive defense was leaky from the beginning, allowing Pittsburgh gain after big gain as the Steelers jumped out to a 24-0 lead that the Jets couldn't recover from.

    "They made plays when they had to,'' Ryan said, "and that's why they're moving on.''

    Ryan said all season he thought his team was going to win the Super Bowl, even boldly scribbling "Soon To Be Champs'' on an ESPN bus during training camp. On Friday, he reiterated that he wanted to see green and white confetti fall, wanted the celebratory hats and T-shirts and to raise the trophy as AFC champions.

    It wasn't to be. Again.

    "Think about the worst thing that can happen to you,'' center Nick Mangold said. "That's the feeling.''

    Two trips to the AFC championship game, and two disappointing walks off the field by Ryan and the Jets.

    "I would change the outcome of this game and that's the only thing I would change,'' Ryan said. "We don't need to apologize to anybody. We'll be back, you'll see.''

    And, just like that - right to the very end - Ryan ended the season the way he started it. With a bold guarantee.

    But the Jets have a whole offseason to think about what might have been.

    "There's nothing to smile about right now,'' quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "We wanted to be the one out there with the Lamar Hunt Trophy and we just weren't - two years in a row.''

    Things got so frustrating for the Jets, Sanchez said, the headsets to communicate with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer malfunctioned multiple times in the game. That caused the quarterback to have to run back and forth to the sideline to try to get plays.

    "It was just one of those things we had to keep fighting through,'' Sanchez said. "Just another challenge.''

    Ryan called the Jets' first-round playoff game against Indianapolis "personal'' against Peyton Manning, and the defense bottled up the Colts' Pro Bowl quarterback.

    The next week, Ryan said it was between him and the Patriots' Bill Belichick, declaring he needed to outcoach his counterpart. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie fired things up by calling Tom Brady an expletive, and the trash talk escalated from there.

    The Jets backed up all the big talk by stunning the Patriots 28-21. But things took a silent turn last week when Ryan heaped praise on Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, using words such as "respect'' and "like,'' and his players followed suit.

    Turns out, the Jets needed to keep that mean streak going. Maybe they left it all out on the field at Foxborough.

    At least it certainly appeared that way from the start, as the Jets couldn't get the Steelers' offense off the field. Missed tackles, bad decisions and sub-par performances put New York in a 24-3 halftime hole.

    "I have no idea what happened,'' Revis said, echoing several of his defensive teammates.

    Pittsburgh held the ball for more than 21 minutes, outgained New York 231-50 and outrushed the Jets 135-1 in the opening half.

    "It came down the most basic lesson in football, man: tackling,'' defensive tackle Sione Pouha said.

    New York's defense had a solid second half, keeping the Steelers off the scoreboard. But the Jets needed to make one more stand to give themselves a chance at a late comeback. With the Steelers facing third-and-6 with 2 minutes left, the Jets got pressure on Roethlisberger. But the big quarterback rolled out and got a pass off to Antonio Brown, who went down and grabbed the toss for a first down, allowing the Steelers to run out the clock.

    "Ben is Ben,'' said Pouha, who smacked into Roethlisberger as he threw. "I was just hoping it would deter the throw, but that's second nature to him.''

    Ryan then slammed down his headset, knowing his team's season again ended one win short of where he told everyone it would.

    "There's no tomorrow,'' Pouha said, almost whispering. "We're going home.''

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/201...#ixzz1BvXnmurX

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