We’ve been saying all week that this was the biggest game of the year; a litmus test for a team trying to find itself and get back on track in the AFC North. With the Ravens winning today against the Browns, and the Bengals losing, Pittsburgh had to keep pace in the division and find a way to win in New York. After fighting through so much adversity on the field and a good Giants team they were able to put on a gut check performance and beat the defending champs in their house, 24-20.
We can complain all we want about how bad NFL Referee Bill Leavy and his crew was on Sunday evening, and we’d be well within our rights but you can’t let that be an excuse to lose games. A win is a win; a loss is a loss when it’s all summed up at the end of the year.
Going on the road is hard enough in the NFL, but the circumstances dealt to the Steelers right from the beginning were substantial. From the changed travel plans; having to fly in Sunday morning, to the horrible calls by the officials, both missed and otherwise, to the missed opportunities, the Steelers found a way to win. To be clear the city of New York has substantially more to deal with in their daily lives than the Steelers did on Sunday; but be that as it may Pittsburgh did enough to win despite everything that went wrong at times.
The stars of the game were plenty but there were a few obvious ones. Isaac Redman limped into the game as the only semi healthy RB with any significant experience and trucked his way on 26 carries for 147 yds and 1 TD. Refusing to go down, always falling forward and pushing the pile, Redman continually kept drives moving and the clock running. Credit the Steelers offensive line as well, as they continue to get better each week, with some amazing run blocking in springing Redman all night long and helping to push the pile when necessary.
Ben Roethlisberger had an efficient, although not stellar night through the air, finishing up with 21 passes for 216 yds, 2 TD’s and 1 INT. This was a game where the big plays were few but oh so important when they did happen. Roethlisberger was able to find Heath Miller and Emmanuel Sanders on key 3rd downs in the 2nd half to extend drives, despite questionable calls going against him in other circumstances.
The soon to be infamous fumble/incomplete pass that cost the Steelers will be debated all year long; and definitely more so had they lost this one. The play was reviewed and upheld by Bill Leavy; later explained by CBS announcer Phil Simms saying that Ben lost control before it left his hands.
On the defensive side of the ball, there were numerous circumstances that allowed the Giants to score and keep the lead until midway through the 4th quarter. Keenan Lewis overall had himself a very good night, but was flagged for 2 pass interference calls. One phantom, one not. Ryan Clark was called for the worst excuse of a helmet to helmet hit that I’ve ever seen. When Victor Cruz got up and walked over to the sidelines holding his ribs, it was clear as day that the flag was thrown based on Clark’s reputation rather than what actually happened.
After all of that, the Steelers had managed to crawl back into the game, down 20-17 after Roethlisberger hit a streaking Mike Wallace on a shallow crossing pattern and he raced to the end zone for 51 yds.
It was all nearly for naught though.
When the defense again rose to the challenge by forcing the Giants to punt, Pittsburgh was able to drive down for what we all assumed was a game tying chip shot field goal by Shaun Suisham. Mike Tomlin though had other ideas as he called a fake, in which punter Drew Butler took the snap, flipped the ball over his back and into Suisham’s hands but the Giants sniffed it out and took over on downs.
Once again the defense held forcing a 3 and out, so Todd Haley’s group took over again and promptly drove 51 yds with the combination of Redman’s running and passes from Ben to Emmanuel Sanders, Heath Miller, and Jerricho Cotchery. The drive was capped off with a 1 yd Redman touchdown run to finish off the scoring.
We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the outstanding kickoff and punt returns this evening by both Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Sanders. They combined for 5 kickoff returns for 173 yds, along with 3 punt returns for 76 yds.
We’ll cover all of this and more in the coming week so stay tuned but for now it was amazing Steelers win in a gut check performance that has them now at 5-3. Firmly in control of 2nd place in the AFC North and the Ravens in their sights.
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