Report Card: Steelers earn a A- against the Giants
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Ben Roethlisberger had two costly turnovers that resulted in 10 points -- a debatable strip sack that was returned 70 yards for a touchdown and an interception that led to a Giants field goal. But, he brought the team back from a 20-10 deficit in the fourth quarter by completing seven of his final nine passes for 114 yards, including a 51-yard catch-and-run TD by Mike Wallace. He also converted a third-and-9 with a 16-yard completion to run out the clock on the final possession.
With Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer out with injuries, Isaac Redman returned after a two-game absence and set career highs with 147 yards rushing on 26 carries. He also scored the winning TD on a 1-yard run. Redman had 87 yards on 14 carries in the first half, including four runs of 11 yards or longer. His long run of 28 yards came on the final possession and allowed the Steelers to run out the final two minutes.
Emmanuel Sanders made a number of big plays, starting with a nice catch in the back of the end zone on the first TD and a 16-yard catch on a big third-down conversion on the final possession. But it was Mike Wallace who made the biggest play of all, catching a short pass on a hot read and outracing three defenders for a 51-yard TD. The Steelers played the final three quarters without Antonio Brown (ankle), allowing Jerricho Cotchery to catch four passes for 50 yards.
Sure, the Steelers allowed four sacks -- their most since the season opener in Denver -- and RT Mike Adams continued to struggle in protection, allowing two sacks in the first half. But it might have been their most impressive run-blocking performance of the season and continued the line's astounding turnaround. The Steelers finished with 158 yards on the ground and had a 100-yard rusher for the third game in a row.
The defense did a good job controlling the Giants rushing game, holding them to 68 yards on 22 carries (3.1 average) -- their second-lowest total of the season. Ahmad Bradshaw had just 17 of his 48 yards in the second half and did not have a run longer than 9 yards. Backup NT Steve McLendon had the pressure on Eli Manning that resulted in Ike Taylor's first-quarter interception.
It was easily the best defensive performance of the season because the Giants, who averaged 33.3 points in their six victories, were held to 13 offensive points and 182 yards. Manning was sacked only twice, but they were big ones by LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons. Woodley's sack was huge because it came on third down of the Giants' final possession. Timmons' pressure forced a big incompletion a play earlier. ILB Larry Foote had six solo tackles (seven total).
Manning was second in the NFC in passing yards, but was held to his lowest total of the season (125) and lowest since the final game of the 2008 season, a span of 57 games. CB Keenan Lewis had three pass breakups on the first two series alone and Ike Taylor's interception, his first of the season, led to the first touchdown. Lewis, though, had two pass interference calls for a combined 87 yards in the first half. Ryan Clark, who had a team-high eight tackles, was strong against the run.
The Steelers had several big returns, including a 68-yard kick return by Chris Rainey and a 63-yard punt return by Emmanuel Sanders, who was filling in because of injuries. But the offense never took advantage of either of the returns because they failed to score points both times. Rainey also had returns of 50 and 32 yards. Shaun Suisham's 30-yard field goal at the end of the first half was a nice momentum boost -- bigger than his failed run on a fake field-goal attempt.
Considering all they had to overcome -- traveling on the day of the game, a few debated calls by the officials and overcoming a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter on the road -- the victory was one of the best of Mike Tomlin's tenure. Dick LeBeau has worked his magic in the secondary and the sudden emergence of the offensive line has been amazing. But, there is no excusing a fake 20-yard FG attempt in the fourth quarter while trailing by three points against the defending Super Bowl champs.
First Published November 5, 2012 12:00 am