The Steelers of 2011 are looking much like the Steelers of 2010. Once again the defense had to save them as the offense died in the second half, turning the ball over, only come to life at the end of the fourth quarter, in their come from behind 23-20 victory over the winless, Manningless, Indianapolis Colts Sunday night. Now they face a far superior team in the Houston Texans who are coming off one of the most exciting games of the year, a 40-33 defeat to the New Orleans Saints.
|GETTING OUT OF DODGE—Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward (86) and cornerback Ike Taylor (24) react after Pittsburgh defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 23-20, in Indianapolis, Sept. 25. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
The Steelers offense, just like 2010, started off like a house on fire. Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace was an unstoppable combination as the Steelers jumped off to a 13-0 lead and it looked like it was going to be a blowout. No one could cover Wallace, just air it out. He finished the game with an impressive 5 catches for 144 yards, but just about all were in the first half.
Shaun Suisham, who missed a shorter attempt earlier, kicked a 38-yard field goal with 4 seconds left, to clinch the win.
It was a wild game that turned three times in the final 5½ minutes and was far closer than most expected. The Steelers (2-1) struggled as Roethlisberger lost two fumbles and threw an interception during an 11-minute first-half span. They also rushed for just 67 yards as the Colts shut the run down.
After James Harrison forced Curtis Painter, who replaced concussed starter Kerry Collins, to fumble the football and Troy Polamalu returned it 16 yards for a 20-13 lead with 5:13 left, Painter led Indy on an 80-yard drive. It was capped by Joseph Addai’s tying 6-yard TD run with 2:09 to go. Addai finished the game with a respectable 86 yards on 17 carries.
But Roethlisberger came back with a 60-yard march to set up the winning score.
Ike Taylor once again had an outstanding game holding Reggie Wayne to just three catches for 24 yards. Pierre Garcon was their top receiver with 6 catches for 82 yards.
The offense had impressive numbers with Roethlisberger connecting on 25 of 37 passes for 364 yards and a touchdown. Antonio Brown was impressive in kickoff and punt returns giving the Steelers good field position every time he touched the ball. He has 4 catches for 75 yards. Heath Miller had 5 catches for 71 yards, but Rashard Mendenhall was held to just 37 yards on 18 carries.
Coach Mike Tomlin’s assessment of the team performance; “It was nice to get a road win. We weren’t able to do that until tonight. We’re thankful for that. It wasn’t easy by any stretch, but we didn’t anticipate it being. They have quality people of course. They have great fans in a hostile environment. Fortunately for us we were able to make enough plays to get out. We tip our caps to the Indianapolis Colts. They fought us tooth and nail, we expected them to. It’s good to get a win.”
In regards to the Colts defense Tomlin said “It’s difficult, don’t get me wrong. It’s doubly difficult when he’s (Dwight Freeney) got another quality man on the other side in (Robert) Mathis. When there are two, you have big problems. I am sure people have been going through that the last nine or 10 years versus that tandem. One guy is tough when you are talking about the caliber of guys that they are. Two guys are extremely difficult.”
As for the victory and the play of James Harrison, Coach Tomlin said “Obviously the big play was pivotal for us. I thought he was solid all night. I thought he was tough against the run. We had a lot of guys put forth quality efforts.
“We probably made one or two more plays than they did. That is usually always the case in games such as that, close games. We made the necessary plays on offense, defense and special teams.”
Now the Steelers will face the much improved Texans team who gave the Saints all they could handle last week before going down in defeat. They have an outstanding offense led by Quarterback Matt Schaub, who was 22 of 39 for 373 yards and 3 touchdowns in a losing cause.
He has one of the best receivers in the game in Andre Johnson who’s big, strong and fast. He had 7 catches for 128 yards, and James Casey, out of the backfield, had 5 receptions for 126 yards. The running game is decent with Ben Tate picking up 82 yards on 19 carries.
And despite giving up 40 points they also have a pretty good defense. But no defense has been able to stop the Saints this year.
Mark Ingram’s first career touchdown on a 13-yard run gave the Saints (2-1) the lead for good with under three minutes left. Brees was intercepted twice, but redeemed himself with three touchdown passes in the second half, including a 27-yarder to tight end Jimmy Graham and a 16-yarder to Lance Moore.
Schaub passed for 373 yards and three touchdowns, and the Texans’ prolific offense moved the ball well for most of the game. Houston (2-1) was doomed in the end by four drives inside the 20 that resulted in only field goals, along with Schaub’s lone interception that Jabari Greer snagged near midfield in the fourth quarter, setting up Moore’s touchdown.
In other division games the Baltimore Ravens got back on the winning track as they killed the St. Louis Rams 37-7, the Cleveland Browns kept pace with the Ravens and Steelers with a 17-16 victory over the winless Miami Dolphins, and the Cincinnati Bengals dropped out of the four way tie by losing to the San Francisco 49ers 13-8.