Pittsburgh Steelers: Top 10 Moments of the 2010 Regular Season
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, it's been a roller coaster season. There have been highs and lows, good moments and bad, and a few surprises as well.
It's hard to take 15 games and narrow all of the plays and performances down to the top 10 moments, and I'm sure there will be some disagreement about what belongs on this list and what doesn't quite make the cut.
Here's my look at the top 10 moments of the 2010 regular season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
10. Charlie Batch Routs the Bucs
In the third game of the season and without suspended star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, longtime backup Charlie Batch's star once again shone bright.
Spurned in the preseason as a potential replacement, Batch ascended to the starting job only after Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich went down with injuries.
Batch proved he still has some magic left in workmanlike performances, but none was better than his game against Tampa Bay, where he passed for three touchdowns and led the Steelers to a 38-13 rout of the previously unbeaten Buccaneers.
9. Ben Roethlisberger Returns
Suspended for four games and crestfallen after offseason allegations of sexual misconduct, Ben Roethlisberger returned against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6 and led the Steelers to a 28-10 thrashing of the Browns.
Big Ben struck three with three scoring passes and 257 yards in the victory.
When it comes to rebuilding the respect and trust of teammates and Steelers fans, nothing is more effective than returning from a long layoff in mid-season form to rip apart a rival at home. Roethlisberger, who will make a couple more appearances on this list, will have another chance at Cleveland this weekend as he looks to help Pittsburgh clinch the AFC North title.
8. Rashard Mendenhall Overruns the Falcons
Rashard Mendenhall has had some memorable runs this season, but none was more essential than his 50-yard romp in overtime to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1.
The Falcons have only lost three times this season and, if not for Mendenhall, would likely be pushing for a 14-2 record instead of 13-3.
On the first offensive play of overtime for the Steelers, Mendenhall took the ball at the 50-yard line and burst between David Johnson and Flozell Adams. Mendenhall then ran through the Falcons' defense all the way to the goal line for his first touchdown of the season, the Steelers' only touchdown in the game, and a game-winning score.
7. Maurkice Pouncey Has a Rookie of the Year Season
At times, it's hard to remember that Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh's first selection in this year's NFL draft, is still just a rookie. He's that good.
In training camp, coach Mike Tomlin said that Pouncey was the most NFL-ready player he'd seen in a long time. Pouncey has backed up every bit of that hype.
Playing on and anchoring an offensive line that struggles to pass or run block, Pouncey has been nearly unbeatable and is well on his way to taking his place alongside former standout Steelers Mike Webster, Jeff Hartings and Dermontti Dawson.
Center is the hardest position on the line to play as a rookie. Pouncey makes all of the line's blocking calls and assists in audible calls. He has to know the offense cold and he does. For a rookie, he's astounding.
6. Mike Wallace Has a Breakout Season
Pouncey isn't the only young Steeler making an impact on offense.
Second-year wide receiver Mike Wallace, stepping into the shoes of departed Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes, has provided a consistent spark for the Pittsburgh offense and has quickly become a favorite of strong-armed Ben Roethlisberger.
Wallace combines excellent routes and some of the best speed in the NFL into a dangerous package. He can go deep, escape on reverses, or be an effective decoy to open up other receivers or running lanes. He's one of the NFL's most dangerous weapons.
Wallace garnered his first 1,000-yard NFL season on the way to what could be a Pro Bowl season.
5. Suisham Steadies Steelers Kicking Game
Cold, rainy Tuesdays in November are the perfect days to find diamonds in the rough evidently. In 2002, on a similar day, Pittsburgh unearthed Jeff Reed, who became one of the most accurate kickers in team history before falling apart in 2010.
On a more recent Tuesday in November, Shaun Suisham braved the unseemly conditions and won the audition to replace the departed Reed as Pittsburgh's kicker.
Maligned in previous stops for his accuracy and leg strength, Suisham has been steady and spectacular for Pittsburgh, missing only once in 13 field goal attempts. He's excelled in poor weather both at home and on the road and has been a true weapon down the stretch for the Steelers.
4. Rookie Receivers Romp
When Pittsburgh drafted two wide receivers, many people said they had wasted their draft picks. Now, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown have people wondering if they can eventually replace the aging Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle El.
Brown has been great on returns, showing moxie and a desire to make a play even if it means sacrificing himself by taking a hit. He had a stellar 89 yard romp for a touchdown early in the season and has also made a few splashes on offense.
Sanders has been the offensive weapon, averaging 13.3 yards per catch and scoring twice in a slot/fourth wide receiver role. He's got blazing speed and good hands. He, like Brown, has a lot of room to grow, but the early signs are encouraging.
These two young receivers make the list not because of sheer numbers but because they have helped to fill a huge void in the Steelers' offense left by the departure of Santonio Holmes and the largely ineffective return of receiver Antwaan Randle El.
3. Steelers Thrash Raiders, 35-3
Against a surprising Oakland Raiders squad in Week 11 and coming off of a terrible loss to the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers turned in their best performance of the season.
Ben Roethlisberger had his best statistical game, throwing for 275 yards and three scores, running for another score and being impossible to corral all day long.
The defense forced three Oakland turnovers and recorded six sacks and three forced fumbles.
The Steelers stopped the Raiders and brought them back to the pack in the AFC, where they had been emerging as a possible contender. As the Raiders spiraled, the Steelers rose by running off three more victories in a row to place them near the top of the AFC and among the conference's elite members.
2. Defense Forces 7 Turnovers in Rout of Titans
In Week 2, the Steelers needed the defense to step up big to defeat the rival Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
The defense answered the call, forcing seven turnovers (three interceptions, four lost fumbles) and sacking Titans quarterbacks four times.
James Harrison notched two sacks and two forced fumbles and was the player of the game for the Steelers, who won, 19-11. Lamarr Woodley, Bryant McFadden and Troy Polamalu had interceptions for Pittsburgh, as well.
Needing a win without their starting quarterback, this defensive effort is the best defensive moment of 2010. The Steel Curtain was back and impervious to the Titans' best efforts. It was truly a classic, 1970s-style performance.
1. Big Ben Shows Guts Against Ravens
Sometimes, statistics tell none of the story.
The records will show that, against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13, Ben Roethlisberger completed 22 of 38 passes for 253 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
What the numbers won't tell you is that he put the team on his shoulders despite suffering a broken foot the previous week in Buffalo and a broken nose in the first quarter against Baltimore.
With blood smeared over his white jersey and a nose that was noticeably curved to one side, Big Ben loomed large and willed the Steelers over the rival Ravens in a game that will likely determine the winner of the always-tough AFC North division.
It may not have been the prettiest game, but it was likely the most memorable game of the star quarterback's highlight-filled career.