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Week 11 Recap: ‘Cause He’s Dick LeBeau

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Does that answer your question?

The Pittsburgh Steelers romped to a 37-27 victory over the Detroit Lions yesterday at Heinz Field. The near miraculous nature of their win is underscored by the fact their defense pulled out of a tailspin that threatened to send the game in the same direction as the Patriots debacle. Detroit finished with 451 total yards of offense, nearly 300 of which came in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the other three quarters saw the Black and Gold play perhaps their finest football of the season.

All season, the Steelers offense has played remarkably better when they’ve gone no-huddle. All season, the Steelers have refused go to the no-huddle until they’ve fallen a score or two behind. Head coach Mike Tomlin called it “a gimmick.” Todd Haley hates it because he’s not the one calling plays.

For the first time this year, the Steelers started the game going no-huddle. Naturally, they would score touchdowns on their first two possessions. With Ben Roethlisberger calling the plays, the Lions had no answers. Well, they did manage to force a three and out on our third drive.

Maybe if Ben studied his playbook a little more, we’d score on EVERY SINGLE POSSESSION.

In my game preview, I mentioned that Detroit only has 15 total sacks despite featuring a host of high draft picks on their defensive line. Well, that proved prophetic as Ben was only sacked once yesterday. Not only wasn’t he sacked, he was barely even pressured. LG Guy Whimper – starting in place of Ramon Foster – got manhandled several times during that disastrous second quarter and the running game was practically non-existent so it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Future Hall of Famer Le’Veon Bell (18 carries for a piddling 36 yards, 1 cookie from Tomlin) would take a hand-off and run straight into a wall of Lions defenders.

But who needs a running game when you have Tajh Boyd Ben Roethlisberger? Ben would finish 29/45 for 397 yards and 4 TDs. He also avoided the bonehead mistakes that have plagued him in some of the team’s losses. His favorite target was Antonio Brown, who caught 7 balls for 147 yards and 2 TDs. AB followed up his brilliant effort last week with another stellar performance yesterday. He scored our first two touchdowns on fantastic catch-and-runs where he eluded a host of would-be tacklers.

I have to give big-time kudos to AB. People, myself included, weren’t sold on him being a #1 receiver and wondered how much of his success was owed to having the $60 million decoy Mike Wallace. Well, it’s clear now that AB is the real deal. And not only is he having a fantastic season, his obnoxious celebrating has even been cut way back since everybody mocked him.

Of course, he did drop a wide-open TD in the end zone. To add insult to injury, FB Will Johnson would successfully make the TD catch on the exact same play a few snaps later. The Steelers wouldn’t be so lucky on their other miscues. Bell couldn’t handle a pass in the flat where he could’ve walked into the end zone. Heath Miller, who had his best game since returning (a team high 8 catches for 67 yards), dropped a ball after initially coming down with it in the back of end zone. On 1st and goal from the 1, the Steelers couldn’t punch it on four attempts, lowlighted by Ben airmailing a throw to TE David Paulson, who was all alone when Detroit sold out to stop the run.

All three of those miscues led to the Steelers settling for field goals. As we’ve seen time and time again, kicking 3s instead of scoring 7s is the surest recipe for disaster. Although, as it turned out, the Steelers defense had everything well under control.

The D played well in the first quarter with Ike Taylor making a couple nice plays on Calvin Johnson. Safety Will Allen, who had a career game with a forced fumble and interception, knocked the ball away from Reggie Bush and Lawrence Timmons recovered early in the 2nd. The Steelers could only muster a field goal after Bell dropped that pass at the goal line. That’s when everything fell apart.

Detroit’s very first snap after the kickoff resulted in a 79 yard touchdown from Stafford to Johnson where Megatron was inexplicably left wide open. The Steelers answered with a field goal but the Lions came roaring back with another TD where they went 75 yards on only 5 plays, finishing with Megatron’s second TD. After a three and out by the Steelers, the Lions scored yet another TD, this time going 60 yards on 5 plays in a drive that took all of 49 seconds. Words cannot describe the huge chunks of yardage Detroit was chewing up as they repeatedly gashed our secondary.

Then just before halftime, two holding calls on Whimper forced Mat McBriar to punt from his own end zone. He uncorked a dud, setting Detroit up at mid-field where they worked the ball down to the Steelers 1 thanks to a pass interference call on Ike. Now it was the Steelers’ turn to make a goal line stand, which they did despite Stonehands Ike dropping an INT that hit him between the numbers. He’d drop another easy INT later in the game, too. As you may have surmised, this was easily Ike’s worst performance since the infamous Tebow Fiasco.

Turns out, that goal line stand swung the momentum back to our side. I don’t know what adjustments Dick LeBeau made at halftime but they worked beautifully. Megatron, who ran wild in the 2nd quarter, wouldn’t catch another ball THE ENTIRE GAME. Cam Heyward, Ziggy Hood, and Jason Worilds would all play outstanding games, making tackles, batting passes, and generally harassing Stafford. The Football Gods even gave us something of a break as the rainy conditions and sloppy field hampered Detroit’s attempts to establish a running game.

The teams traded punts in the third quarter until Detroit put together a nice little drive that stalled at the Pittsburgh 10. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz went insane, calling for a fake that wound up being fumbled away instead of just taking the points and going up 7. That was the break the Steelers needed as they went back to the no-huddle and put together an epic 16 play, eight minute 93 yard drive that ended in the go-ahead TD. Allen picked Stafford on the subsequent drive and Ben stuck the dagger with a 20 yard TD to Jerricho Cotchery.

Despite the AFC playoff picture being a sea of mediocrity, I’m not prepared to declare us back in the race. But there were a lot of positives to take from this game. Chief among them, isn’t it amazing how competent the Steelers offense looks when the O-line protects Ben and Ben calls the plays? Who da Thunk It?