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Defense helping Steelers avoid losses to bad teams

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ ability to protect their home turf and defeat the Cleveland Browns 30-9 Sunday is significant in more ways than one.

Week 10 of the 2015 NFL season was not an easy one for home teams. Visitors won 10 of the 13 Sunday games. Perhaps the most shocking was the Lions’ 18-16 win over the Packers, their first victory at Lambeau Field since 1991.

That makes the Steelers’ 12-game home winning streak over the Browns the NFL’s second-longest. The Colts have beaten the Texans 13 straight times at Indianapolis.

Seven days earlier, Ben Roethlisberger was supposed to be out “at least a few weeks” with a midfoot sprain. On Sunday Roethlisberger replaced an injured Landry Jones and threw for 379 yards, the most in NFL history by a quarterback who didn’t start, and three touchdowns.

The Steelers (6-4) would be the No. 5 seed in the playoffs if the season ended after 10 weeks. They’re in this spot despite Roethlisberger missing four games and Le’Veon Bell’s season ending after just five and a half games.

While the Steelers’ ability to overcome injuries to Roethlisberger, Bell, Maurkice Pouncey and Kelvin Beachum is commendable, it’s obscuring another feather in their cap.

It seems the Steelers have finally kicked the habit of losing to inferior competition.

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Steelers can survive Ben Roethlisberger’s latest injury

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ high-powered offense was going to take us on a thrill ride this year

There have been a few unfortunate cart rides mixed in, but if nothing else the 2015 season has been an emotional roller coaster.

Ben Roethlisberger rode his second cart of the season in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 38-35 win over the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field.

Usually the terminus of that transportation line is an early offseason. It was for Maurkice Pouncey, Kelvin Beachum and Le’Veon Bell.

Roethlisberger, though, appears to once again be showing how fitting it is that his “Big Ben” moniker is inspired by a timepiece.

Throughout his career, he’s taken a lickin’ and kept on tickin’.

Roethlisberger’s season survived Mark Barron’s dive at his knees at St. Louis in Week 3, and it looks like it will survive an Aldon Smith sack that crunched his left foot on Sunday.

The Steelers’ franchise quarterback has a mid-foot sprain, according to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It wasn’t clear how long he would be out, but he could miss as little as two weeks.

The news could have been worse, and it was just one more hairpin turn in Sunday’s wild emotional ride.

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Steelers lose Le’Veon Bell, but defense provides glimmer of hope

There was only so much the Pittsburgh Steelers defense could do.

Who would have thought back in August that any scribe would type a sentence implying that the Steelers defense did anything positive?

The unit has come a long way from the liability it looked like it would be in August, but it couldn’t bail out Ben Roethlisberger in Sunday’s 16-10 loss to the Bengals.

In his first game back after missing four weeks with an MCL sprain and bone bruise, Roethlisberger threw three interceptions. Two came in the final six minutes to set up the Bengals’ go-ahead touchdown and a crucial field goal.

Not everything the defense did registered on the stat sheet. In intercepting Andy Dalton twice, sacking him three times and protecting a one-score lead for 57 minutes, the defense infused some spirit into a Heinz Field crowd that was muted by Le’Veon Bell’s ugly knee injury in the second quarter.

According to Jason LaCanfora of, the Steelers expect to put Bell on season-ending injured reserve Monday with what looks like an MCL tear.

That would be a huge blow to the Steelers’ playoff hopes, but it was almost possible to forget the image of Bell being carted into the locker room as a secondary that was salvaged from the junkyard confounded Dalton in the fourth quarter.

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How can the Steelers stop Tyler Eifert?

How fitting it is that in late October the Pittsburgh Steelers are being taken for a haunted hayride by tight ends.

Tyler Eifert and the Cincinnati Bengals, clad in the black and orange of Halloween, bring their 6-0 record to Heinz Field just a week after the Steelers’ ghoulish performance against Travis Kelce.

The Steelers had narrowed a 16-3 deficit to 16-13 and had momentum on their side in the fourth quarter on Sunday when Alex Smith threw a 26-yard pass to Kelce on third down, keeping alive a touchdown drive that secured the win for the Chiefs.

It was Kelce’s sixth reception of the day for a total of 73 yards.The Steelers have allowed 44 receptions to tight ends this season. Only the Giants (48) have allowed more. The Steelers have yielded six touchdowns to tight ends this season. Only the Raiders (seven) have allowed more.

The Steelers (4-3) have to put an end to this horror show on Sunday. They can pretty much forget about winning the AFC North if they fall at home to the Bengals. If they don’t conjure up some tricks to stop Eifert, the game won’t be a treat for Steelers fans.

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Landry Jones should be Steelers’ starting QB until Roethlisberger returns

It seemed awfully cold for Landry Jones to be playing quarterback, Alejandro Villanueva to be at left tackle and a guy named Chris Boswell to be kicking field goals at Heinz Field.

But this was no preseason game. It was the real deal, and the Pittsburgh Steelers MacGyvered their way to another win without Ben Roethlisberger Sunday.

And in the spirit of this Halloween season, the Steelers are now a little less haunted by The Night of the Living Tebow.

Roethlisberger was 29 when the Steelers went down in Denver to end their 2011 season. For the first time since then, a quarterback younger than 30 called the signals for the Steelers.

That might seem like trivia on the surface, but what this means is that the Steelers don’t necessarily have to rely on a journeyman when Roethlisberger is injured. They could have a viable backup with upside for the life of Roethlisberger’s five-year contract.

That’s assuming Jones gets a promotion on the depth chart. Roethlisberger likely will hit the practice field again this week with hopes of playing at Kansas City Sunday. But if he can’t go, Jones should start.

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Le’Veon Bell earns place in Steelers history with game-winning TD

Le’Veon Bell has little to prove.

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back already is the team’s reigning Most Valuable Player and a First Team All-Pro. He owns the franchise’s single-season record for yards from scrimmage.

But on Monday night, he became an immortal part of the Steelers’ storied history.

Bell lifted the Steelers to a dramatic 24-20 road win over the San Diego Chargers with a 1-yard touchdown run out of the wildcat as time ran out.

So far, this is the showpiece of the Le’Veon Collection of dazzling plays Bell has made in his three-year career.

This play could even get a name. Maybe The Wildcat. Or THE wildcat. Not only might the play save the Steelers’ season, it also breathed new life into this languishing gadget play.

And America has a new goal-line play to talk about.

Move over, Malcolm Butler.

Ben Roethlisberger has The Tackle and his game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLIII. Troy Polamalu had his pick-six against the Ravens in the 2008 AFC championship game and his strip-sack of Joe Flacco in a 2010 victory at Baltimore that ultimately won the AFC North.

It remains to be seen if Bell’s touchdown will be that historic. It could depend on how the Steelers’ 2015 season turns out. But at the very least Bell has contributed to the Steelers’ list of legendary plays.

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Steelers face uphill climb without Ben Roethlisberger

Sunday was not a good day for the Pittsburgh Steelers despite their 12-6 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Hard-core Steelers historians might have felt a sense of trepidation about the day, even with the return of Le’Veon Bell.

The last time the Steelers played at St. Louis, Willie Parker broke his leg in Week 16 of the 2007 season. The Steelers won that night, but were one-and-done in the playoffs without their star running back.

Unlike Parker eight years ago, Bell left the Edward Jones Dome unscathed. He was indispensable, scoring the game’s only touchdown.

Another indispensable Steeler wasn’t so fortunate.

Ben Roethlisberger left the stadium on crutches, suffering a left knee injury after Rams safety Mark Barron sacked him late in the third quarter.

Roethlisberger went down in a manner similar to Tom Brady in 2008. Brady also was taken down by a safety who went at him low. After Bernard Pollard ended Brady’s season, that type of hit was made illegal. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, however, said he didn’t have a problem with it according to Ed Bouchette of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

This wasn’t one of those times when Roethlisberger gets up, makes a face and limps around a little bit. That barely even fazes anyone anymore. This time, Roethlisberger went down and he stayed down.

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Steelers don’t need Bell, Bryant to rout 49ers

When an NFL team wins as emphatically as the Pittsburgh Steelers did on Sunday, pundits often trot out an old sports cliche and say that the team is “sending a message.”

The Steelers sure did send a message by torching the San Francisco 49ers 43-18 at Heinz Field.

The recipients of this message aren’t necessarily the rest of the teams on the Steelers’ schedule. Rather, the Steelers served this notice to two of their own teammates.

At least it seemed that way.

Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant now know that their replacements can help this offense light up the scoreboard. The lesson here should be that if they let the team down again, life can go on without them.

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Steelers lose opener to Patriots, have only themselves to blame

So are we supposed to be encouraged by the fact that the Steelers only lost to the Patriots by seven points in Thursday night’s season opener?

Tom Brady is 4-0 against the Steelers at Gillette Stadium. The first three victories came by an average margin of 20 points.

Thursday’s 28-21 final score was deceptively close. Ben Roethlisberger threw a garbage-time touchdown pass to Antonio Brown with two seconds left.

Still, this was the most winnable of the Steelers’ four encounters against Brady in Foxboro.

Are the Patriots better than the Steelers? Yes. Not only can the Steelers not cover Rob Gronkowski, they couldn’t cover any of the Rob Gronkowski cardboard cutouts that adorn every Dunkin’ Donuts from New London to Bar Harbor.

But the Steelers could have overcome Gronkowski’s three touchdowns and Tom Brady’s 25-for-32 passing if it weren’t for their own incompetence.

The Patriots couldn’t stop the Steelers on the game’s opening drive.

But the Steelers sure could.

After Pittsburgh moved the ball 76 yards to the New England 24 on five plays, Todd Haley called a momentum-killing gadget play in which Brown was going to throw the ball. Brown couldn’t find a receiver and the Steelers lost eight yards on the play. Then came a holding penalty on Marcus Gilbert, and the Steelers eventually had to settle for a 44-yard field goal attempt that Josh Scobee missed.

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5 ways Steelers can beat Patriots in 2015 season opener

Don’t count the Pittsburgh Steelers among those who were disappointed at Judge Richard M. Berman’s decision to lift Tom Brady’s suspension.

The Steelers wanted Brady all along in the 2015 season opener, even though they’ve never beaten Brady at Gillette Stadium.

“Our best against their best,” Cameron Heyward, one of the few Steelers defenders with a discernible pulse, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “So let’s join the party.”

Heyward’s idea of a party must be a root canal or a rectal exam, because the Steelers’ last visit to Gillette Stadium felt like one of those prodecures.

The Patriots pounded the Steelers 55-31, gashing the Steelers defense for 610 yards. It was a Steelers record for yards allowed and points allowed in a single game.

The Steelers defense might be even worse this season. So how do the Steelers beat the defending champions, with Brady amped up to prove that he can win with properly inflated footballs?

They’ll have to check off at least one of the boxes on the following list.

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