The Rocky Mountains are not kind to the Pittsburgh Steelers, where they have gone 1-4 (including playoffs) since 2006. They weren’t given any favors with defensive standouts James Harrison and Ryan Clark not suiting up for the premier of Peyton Manning in his new Denver Broncos uniform.
The end result was a 31-19 win and the questions surrounding the Steelers began to materialize. Isn’t it ironic that the Broncos have scored 31, 31, 29 and 31 in their last four wins against the Steelers?
In the aftermath of the loss, the Steelers took on a barrage of critics who brought up the topics of an obviously aging defense and the deadline on when the offense would by in sync under new and sometimes truculent offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
With both James Harrison and Troy Polamalu out for Week 2, those questions were held in the barrel of the gun and waiting to be fired at the conclusion of the game. In the end, no shots where fired, as the Steelers played one of their best games dating back to the 2011 season.
When you are a Super Bowl favorite, the thought of being 0-2 at the onset of the season is nightmarish, and that was the reality facing Pittsburgh with the 1-0 New York Jets on deck for their home opener at Heinz Field.
This has been a very competitive series between both teams, with the previous four games (including AFC Championship) being decided by an average margin of four points—two of the last five heading into overtime. At the half, it appeared that another close to the vest contest was going to unfold at Heinz Field with the score 13-10.
“Redemption week.” Those were the first words spoken by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin during his post-game press conference, and I would wonder if it was spoken during halftime. Tomlin, in his rapid fire responses, said “that’s would good football teams in the National Football League do,” adding “they might not always be perfect but they respond.”
Pittsburgh responded in the second half, holding the Jets to 10 points in 60 minutes of football, and the 38-yard field goal by Nick Folk with 5:21 left in the second quarter would be the final time they applied points to scoreboard.
Offensively, Ben Roethlisberger surgically dissected the Jets defense, going 24-of-34 for 275 yards and two touchdowns. “Line did a good job of giving me time,” said Roethlisberger post game.
“We’ve come to expect that from him,” Tomlin said, “when you’re facing the kind of adversity we were faced with, redemption week if you will, we expect the “A” players to step up and lead the charge and he did just that.” Well said coach, well said.
Roethlisberger opened the second half connecting with receiver Mike Wallace for a 37-yard touchdown pass, his second of the season, erasing any issues of picking up the offense after his extended summer holdout.
The touchdown pass put Roethlisberger over 27,000 career passing yards and passing legend George Blanda for 52nd all time. Currently, Roethlisberger has 27,099 yards passing; next on the list is Jeff George with 27,602.
After struggling in the opener versus the Denver Broncos, Roethlisberger responded with one of his finest performances, finishing with a 125.5 passer rating (his second best over his last 17 games played).
“We’re committing to moving the football,” Tomlin said, referring to the absence of the Steelers' running game that showed life during the fourth quarter with a two-yard touchdown run by Isaac Redman.
That drive ate 10:13 off the clock, leaving the Jets little time to mount a comeback. “The offensive lineman just love it,” said Roethlisberger commenting on the Steelers' ability on their final scoring drive to pound the ball on the ground. “Our lineman were able to open up holes for the running backs.” The Steelers finished with 66 yards rushing in the game, and 45 of those rushing yards came during that fourth quarter drive.
With all the questions surrounding this team, this was a very solid win against a fine football team from New York, leaving the Steelers a lot to be happy about heading into their Week 3 game on the west coast against the Oakland Raiders.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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