A football team is greater than the sum of its parts, though certain players' names seem to stand out more than others.
The New England Patriots are more than just Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski; the Houston Texans are more than Arian Foster and J.J. Watt; and the Pittsburgh Steelers are more than Troy Polamalu and James Harrison.
The Steelers proved on Sunday against the New York Jets that they can win games no matter who is or is not on the field. Yes, they were without Harrison, but that's nothing new and while Polamalu's absence required Pittsburgh's defense to take a different approach when confounding Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, there seemed to be little drop in the quality of their play.
But the Steelers pulled out the ever-important home win, 27-10, because every player on the field performed at a high level. The hallmark of a good football team is that they can win, and do so convincingly, even with key starters off the field.
On Sunday, against the Jets, one could hardly tell Polamalu and Harrison were out.
The Steelers defense allowed just 219 total yards on 51 New York plays, while their own offense put up 331 yards on 62 tries. Sanchez, who was 19-of-27 for 266 yards, three scores and an interception last week against the Buffalo Bills, completed just 10 of his 27 attempts against the Steelers; he netted only 138 yards and one early score and was sacked twice.
The Jets again struggled with bringing pressure. They had no sacks on the Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick last week and had to rely heavily on the blitz. As such, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked just twice, for a loss of only 10 yards.
New York was stiffer when it came to the Steelers run game; Pittsburgh had just 66 rushing yards on 28 attempts, but Roethlisberger managed to carry the team via the pass.
On 31 attempts, Roethlisberger had 24 completions for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Ten Steelers had at least one reception, with Antonio Brown leading the way, catching seven of 10 passes thrown his way for a total of 79 yards.
Not to be outdone, Mike Wallace caught all five passes Roethlisberger threw him, netting 74 yards and a touchdown. Ben's other score was to tight end Heath Miller, who further cemented his reputation as a premier end-zone threat.
Tellingly, the biggest plays by the Jets offense came from generally marginal players. Backup running back Bilal Powell was their leading rusher, with 33 yards on nine carries; everything-back Tim Tebow tore off a single, 22-yard carry; receiver Jeremy Kerley was their top receiver, with two catches for 67 yards (he also fumbled the ball away once).
It was a series of simultaneous offensive and defensive misfires by the Jets as the Steelers found a rhythm of their own in both phases of the game that resulted in Pittsburgh's win. Every unit worked together harmoniously and there weren't many errors—well, beyond the 10 penalties for 107 yards, though the Steelers certainly saw their fair share of questionable calls.
No one man makes a team; no two defenders, no matter how decorated, make the Steelers who they are, as a whole. This was a team win, one the Steelers needed and one that they earned. No matter how long they may be without Harrison or Polamalu, and no matter who may miss a game here and there down the stretch, the Steelers have proven yet again they can still pull off a convincing win.
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