It has become the norm. The Steelers play to their opponent. They jump off to big leads, playing like Super Bowl champs in the first half then, to make the game more exciting I guess, let their opponent back into the game in the second half, particular the fourth quarter. Now the question is, how will they keep the game against the 1-4 Cleveland Browns close or exciting?
This was again the case Sunday as they played the lowly Detroit Lions who were winless last season and 1-4 this season. After jumping off to a 21-13 halftime lead, and a 28-13 lead going into the fourth quarter, it appeared they would more than make up the 10 point margin they were picked to win by. But instead went scoreless in the fourth while veteran quarterback Duante Culpepper led the Lions to one score in the fourth quarter and was moving them in for a second score before the defense decided they had enough and began to play Steelers football. During the final minutes of the drive the defense sacked Culpepper three times for huge loses thus killing the comeback and preserving the victory for the Steelers.
Culpepper, replacing injured rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, was 23 of 37 for 282 yards and 1 touchdown along with 44 yards rushing on 3 carries as he kept the Lions in the game despite being sacked seven times. Running back Kevin Smith was held in check gaining only 54 yards on 20 carries.
Ben Roethlisberger had another brilliant game as he was 23 of 30 for 277 yards 3 touchdowns and 1 interception that went for a touchdown. He engineered a great drive after the interception was run back for a touchdown that culminated with a brilliant catch and dive over the end zone by Hines Ward for his first touchdown of the season. One thing the Steelers have reversed is their effectiveness in the red zone; they were three for three against the Lions moving their record up to a brilliant 8 of 8 so far this season.
Rashard Mendenhall had another outstanding game on the ground with 77 yards on just 15 carries and one touchdown. The low number of carries was primarily because the Lions were able to keep the ball on offense far longer than the Steelers, 32 plus minutes to 26 plus minutes. Ward, despite not getting the ball thrown to him after being wide open several times, finished with 7 catches for 85 yards and his first touchdown. Rookie Mike Wallace again was impressive with 54 yards on just 2 catches, even though he dropped a sure touchdown and Roethlisberger missed him on another sure touchdown. Heath Miller continued his outstanding play with 54 yards and a touchdown on 5 catches, and Santonio Holmes had 50 yards on 4 receptions. One impressive part of the passing game was the 5 receptions from the backfield which is an indication the Steelers have quietly changed their offensive philosophy of not passing to the backs and tight ends to including them in the fun. This diversifies the offense a lot more, making it even tougher for the defense to defend. Mewelde Moore had 3 receptions for 20 yards and Mendenhall had 2 for 16 yards.
Now they face a team that is actually worse than the Lions, Cleveland at Heinz Field, Oct. 16. The Browns ,in a game between have nots last Sunday picked up their first win 6-3 over the Buffalo Bills. They did it primarily on the ground as Jamal Lewis rushed for 117 yards on 31 carries, while quarterback Derek Anderson had one of the worst passing performances in NFL history. He was 2 of 17 for 23 yards and one interception, but for some strange reason he played the entire game. There was absolutely nothing exciting about this game as the Browns pulled it out in the fourth quarter sparing the fans the punishment of an overtime period.
The most exciting game of the day was between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens. The Bengals took sole possession of first place in the AFC North with a 17-14 victory pulling their record to 4-1 while dropping the Ravens into a second place tie with the Steelers at 4-2. Once again the Bengals had a very balanced attack offensively while holding the Ravens offense in check. Carson Palmer was 18 of 31 for 271 yards and one touchdown, while Cedric Benson became the first runner to gain over 100 yards against the Ravens in 40 games with 120 yards on 27 carries with one touchdown. The wide receivers were also impressive as Chad Ochocinco had 7 catches for 94 yards and Chris Henry had 92 yards with only 2 catches.
Some surprising stats; the end of week 5 shows Roethlisberger leading the NFL in passing percentage at 74 percent, second to Peyton Manning, 1645, in yards with 1470. And with all the hoopla over the great wide receivers in the league in which Ward is rarely mentioned, he is fourth in yards with 440 behind Steve Smith from the New York Giants, 481, Reggie Wayne, 459, and Dallas Clark, 441. In receptions he’s third behind Smith, 37, and Clark, 34, with 33.