Point is, the defense was outstanding
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So you think you were swearing at the Steelers' offense when it did next to nothing for three quarters yesterday?
You should have heard the Steelers' defensive players on the sideline.
"Sure, we get frustrated," linebacker Larry Foote said. "We're like the fans. We're yelling at 'em, too."
But it's not what you think.
"I can honestly say it's never personal on this team," Foote said. "It's been like that since I got here and I just follow suit. In college and high school, there's a lot of finger-pointing and trash-talking and arguments on the sideline. I see that on TV, but not here.
"We all want to win for each other. We're all in this together."
Who knows? Maybe Foote would have been singing a different song if the offense had wasted what might have been the defense's finest 3 1/2 hours in a season filled with brilliant performances. But the offense did just enough against the Dallas Cowboys -- it put together an 8-play, 67-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter -- to give the defense a chance to win the game. Of course, the defense did, getting the winning touchdown in a 20-13 victory on a 25-yard interception return by cornerback Deshea Townsend with 1:40 left.
"We don't need much," linebacker James Farrior said afterward. "We don't need 30 points a game. We just need the offense to hold the ball.
"Actually, I'm proud of those guys. That was a very good defense they were playing against, but they hung in there all the way. We knew they were going to come on sooner or later. They came on today at just the right time."
The Steelers' defense showed up at the start. As usual.
Safety Troy Polamalu had an interception on the third play, giving him one in each of the past four games and an NFL-best seven for the season. Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison stopped fullback Deon Anderson on fourth-and-1 at the Steelers 33. Quarterback Tony Romo was rushed into incompletions on third-and-2 and fourth-and-2 at the Steelers' 34. NFL Defensive Player of the Year Harrison -- he gets the vote here, anyway -- had another strip-sack, forcing a Romo fumble. Cornerback Ike Taylor had an interception. (Honest to goodness). Polamalu forced a punt with two tackles of running back Tashard Choice for 0 and -1 yards on the same series. Defensive end Travis Kirschke forced punt another with a big sack.
Then, there was Townsend's interception and return.
That makes eight turnovers for the Steelers' defense in the past two games, going back to the 33-10 win at New England.
"I'm just glad we finally scored on one," Foote said. "That's the one thing we've been putting pressure on ourselves for. We see other defenses scoring touchdowns. That's something we haven't done much of this season. It was good to get one right there."
Romo came in with an NFL-leading 103.2 passer rating but threw the three interceptions and was sacked three times. His rating on this frigid day: 44.9.
And you probably thought Roethlisberger (80.9) was bad.
"[Romo] had a rough day," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said.
As great as Harrison and Polamalu were, Taylor might have had the best game. Check out the numbers of one Terrell Owens, the Cowboys' terrific wide receiver: three catches for 32 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown on a play when Romo magically escaped the Steelers' rush.
"That's two weeks in a row Ike has shut down two of the best receivers in the league," Farrior said. "I don't know what [New England's Randy] Moss had, but I don't think it was much."
Four catches for 45 yards.
This was Taylor's first interception of the season. He almost always does a great job in coverage, but he usually drops the pass or tips it to the receiver.
Not this time.
His leaping interception in the second quarter on an underthrown ball for Owens dripped with athleticism.
"He told us last week in our meeting that he was going to get one and surprise all of us," Farrior said. "I'm so happy for him. He's had a great year. If he starts catching the ball like that, he'll be All-Pro."
Taylor, Harrison and Polamalu can continue to make their cases for All-Pro status when the Steelers play the Baltimore Ravens for first place in the AFC North Division Sunday in Baltimore. They will go into the game with the No. 1 defense against the run and the pass and in total defense. But the Ravens will tell you their defense is pretty good, too.
It should be some show.
"We'll see who bends first," Farrior said.
The man is just like you.
He can't wait to find out.
First Published December 8, 2008 12:00 am