- The question remained – would the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room follow him?
New Faces in New Places on the Steelers Defense Set the Tone
The 2013 season has taken the Pittsburgh Steelers on a series of hairpin turns.
3 starters were lost during the season opener. Players such as Troy Polamalu have been forced out of position. Its been feast and famine when its come to sacks and turnovers. Players, such as Jason Worilds, who many had essentially given up on, have marginalized 8 figure contract veterans. Triumphant returns have either been delayed (Matt Spaeth) or aborted all together (Sean Spence).
Such ups and downs have made it difficult to get a firm sense for which tendencies define this group of Pittsburgh Steelers. There simply haven’t been enough people in enough of the same spots for long enough to draw meaningful data points. With one exception:
- The once vaunted Steelers defense has slipped.
- The defense embraced Tomlin’s challenge to fight to the end, and they did it with vigor.
After the Steelers first drive went 38 yards and then was followed by a punt, Andy Dalton and company went to work from the Steelers 7. A quick pass to A.J. Green was aptly defended by Cortez Allen, but not after Green had gotten 9 yards. Polamalu defended the next pass to Marvin Jones. Ominously, that brought up 3rd and 1.
- “Ominous is the operative word” because opposing offenses have imposed their will on the Steelers all season long.
Rookie Vince Williams, oft singled out as one of the defense’s weak links in 2013, not only plugged the hole, he met Bernard behind the line of scrimmage and knocked him back.
- No forward progress. No measurement. No 4th and inches. Williams stopped him cold for no gain.
- Ironically enough, it would go down hill for Huber from there.
The Steelers defense however, was only getting warmed up. Cincinnati got the ball back and, while they weren’t exactly establishing momentum, they did make a first down, and were looking at a third and 11, when Ziggy Hood, another player many had given up on, brought Dalton down for an eight yard loss.
Cincinnati of course punted and it only took Ben Roethlisberger 8 plays to find Antonio Brown, on a play where he had an eternity to throw, in the end zone.
- The score was 14-0, Steelers and the first quarter had not ended.
Garvin’s contact with the helmet probably will an should draw a fine for the NFL, but the ferociousness of the hit, combined with several other blocks from the punt return team added a resounding bang to the Steelers already explosive 1st quarter, as the Antonio Brown burned through the center of the field for a touchdown.
The score was now Pittsburgh 21, Cincinnati 0, and the first quarter had yet to end.
3 Quarters in the Rear View Mirror
It would be both pretty and poetic to say that the Steelers finished the game in the same dominating fashion in which they started it. Except they didn’t.
- And ironically, that made the game all the more fitting.
- Their formula has been to start slow, get behind by a few scores, rally, and then fall short.
- But, holding the cards that a 10 point lead gives you, the Steelers turned the tables and made the game a mirror image of 2013 thus far.
- Jarvis Jones deflected a 2 point conversion attempt
- Emmanuel Sanders made just enough effort to convert a third down , burning clock and forcing the Bengals to burn time outs
- Polamalu, Worilds, Will and Cortez Allen shut AJ Green out on Cincinnati’s last possession
Their collective beauty lies in the larger lesson they represented – for one night at least the Steelers veterans had not only succeed in teaching the younger players never to quit, they had also succeded in teaching him to make the plays necessary for victory.