Steelers Notebook: Play calls after half debated by coach
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DETROIT -- Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said he "got a little greedy" with the play-calling in the second half and probably had quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throw the ball more than he should have with the Steelers protecting a 15-point lead.
The sudden failure of the offense, coupled with the decision to not give running back Rashard Mendenhall more carries in the second half, nearly cost the Steelers in a 28-20 victory against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
"We scored so quick in the third quarter when we had the ball and then we hit a lull," Arians said. "We sat there for a while on the bench and I think we lost our rhythm. I got a little greedy there trying to hit the home run ball."
The reference was to the third quarter when the Lions had the ball for 27 plays, compared to five for the Steelers. Nonetheless, the Lions were outscored in that quarter, 7-0, because of Roethlisberger's 47-yard touchdown to rookie Mike Wallace.
The Steelers ran only 12 offensive plays after that, seven of which were pass attempts by Roethlisberger. At one point, he attempted five consecutive passes, getting sacked three times.
Mendenhall, who had 65 yards rushing on nine carries in the first half, had six carries for 12 yards in the second half, despite the lead.
"It was real frustrating" Arians said. "I got too greedy."
Lions linebacker Larry Foote was credited for seven tackles but largely was not a factor in the game. Still, the Steelers had nothing but kind words for him afterward. He was their teammate for seven seasons and shared in their Super Bowl successes in the 2005 and '08 seasons before signing with Detroit as a free agent in the offseason.
"He's always a Steeler," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "He's welcome whenever. ... Last night, a couple of guys went to his house and ate dinner with his family and kids. We still love Foote. It's unfortunate things couldn't work out so he could be with this organization."
Steelers linebacker James Harrison remembered Foote in a different way. He did the Foote stomp after sacking Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper in the second quarter. When Foote would get a sack with the Steelers, he would stomp the ground and grind his foot as if he were squashing a bug.
"Yep, that was for Foote," Harrison said.
Foote has been something of an iron man during his career, making his 85th consecutive start yesterday. That ranks fourth among active linebackers in that category.
Former Penn State star Derrick Williams had a nice game for the Lions in his first significant playing time after being inactive for three of the first four games. Taking advantage of an early injury to star wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Williams, drafted in the third round in April, drew a 27-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Ike Taylor on a Lions' touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, then had catches for 18 and 19 yards on consecutive plays on their final possession as they moved to the Steelers' 21 before running out of downs. He also returned five kickoffs for 109 yards with a long return of 34 yards.
"Derrick stepped up and made some plays," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.
Detroit and Ford Field took on the look of Super Bowl XL yesterday.
Steelers fans swarmed over downtown Detroit and took over the indoor stadium, just as they did more than 3 1/2 years ago when the Steelers defeated Seattle in Super Bowl XL.
It even prompted coach Mike Tomlin to thank them.
"I appreciated the support of Steeler Nation and they traveled awesome today," he said. "It's spectacular to stand on the visiting sideline and see the fan support we had in this building.''
The Lions drew only 40,000 fans to their previous game in 64,500-seat Ford Field, a victory against Washington two weeks earlier. That game was blacked out on local TV but Detroit got to watch the game yesterday because Steelers fans helped make it a sellout.
They waved their Terrible Towels and booed lustily when the Lions mascot stomped on a couple of them during the game. The stadium was filled with at least half Steelers fans, maybe more.
"We're Steeler Nation," Ward said. "Wherever we travel, we travel well. Playing in the Super Bowl here brought back a lot of memories. We had just as many fans as we did back then, so that's what we love about playing for this organization. They're the best fans in all of football and wherever we go, they show their support."
• Detroit's two first-quarter field goals represented the first points allowed in the opening quarter by the Steelers this season. The Steelers hadn't been scored on in the first 15 minutes since January 11, when San Diego's Vincent Jackson caught Philip Rivers' 41-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead after only 2:01 in the divisional playoff at Heinz Field.
• The 27 minutes, 25 seconds of possession time yesterday by the Steelers offense was the first time this season they failed to have the ball at least 30 minutes, and ended a streak of 11 games that the Steelers had the ball half the game or more. The previous team to outpossess them was the Dallas Cowboys Dec. 7.
• The Steelers allowed a staggering 11 third-down conversions yesterday after not allowing more than seven in any of the first four games.
• The Steelers' defense saw its string of games in which it has not allowed a 100-yard rushing performance reach 23.
You don't expect a 260-pound quarterback to run much, much less run 32 yards through the Steelers' defense, but that's what Culpepper did yesterday on the Lions' first possession. On that play, Culpepper not only converted one of two third-and-11s on Detroit's field-goal drive, he had just run for twice as many yards as the Steelers had allowed against San Diego last week.
Troy Polamalu took the field for the Steelers but it was only to stretch before the game with his teammates. He was inactive and missed his fourth consecutive game since his MCL in his left knee was sprained in the opener.
He could return next week against Cleveland at Heinz Field, but Tomlin said he'll wait to answer that question.
"I'll tell you on Tuesday. I'll be glad when he plays just so you guys can stop asking me about him."
Limas Sweed, though, did dress, somewhat of a comeback for him. He was inactive last week after he dropped that touchdown pass in Cincinnati two weeks ago. Veteran receiver Shaun McDonald, who dressed last week, was inactive.
Sweed, though, did little. He dropped the only pass thrown to him and stayed on the sideline most of the game.
The other inactives for the Steelers were: QB Dennis Dixon, CB Keenan Lewis, RB Willie Parker, G Kraig Urbik, OT Tony Hills and DE Nick Eason.
For Detroit, rookie QB Mathew Stafford (knee) did not play. The Lions made another change to their starting lineup at the last minute. Jon Jansen started in place of Gosder Cherilus at right offensive tackle.
Detroit's other inactives: CB Kevin Hobbs, S Ko Simpson, FB Terrell Smith, C Dylan Gandy, T Gosder Cherilus, DT Sammie Hill, DE Dewayne White.
First Published October 12, 2009 12:00 am