STEELERS NOTEBOOK: Snap decision backfires
Giants coach Tom Coughlin argues a personal foul call on a hit against the Steelers' Mewelde Moore yesterday at Heinz Field.
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Don't blame James Harrison for the Steelers' 21-14 loss to the New York Giants yesterday. That was the message from his coach and teammates.
With no true backup long-snapper for punts and place-kicks, the Steelers turned to their Pro Bowl linebacker when Greg Warren was knocked out for the season with a torn ACL in the third quarter.
Harrison snapped it over the head of punter Mitch Berger in the fourth quarter. The ball rolled through the end zone for a 2-point safety that tied the game, 14-14.
"I take my hat off to James Harrison for stepping up and volunteering and being pumped about snapping that football," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We just weren't able to get it done. That was the first game that I have been involved in that we didn't have a snapper."
Tomlin said they will sign one this week.
Harrison never snapped in a game in his football playing days, but he fooled around with it the past few training camps and Tomlin picked him to do it yesterday.
"James does everything for us," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "He should be making $25 million a year. We expect a lot from him defensively, he plays on our special teams, now he's our long snapper."
Harrison said that adrenaline and "just being nervous" caused the ball to take off.
"It's the first time I've had to snap in the game. Plus, my whole feeling was if I shoot it over his head, it's two points, we're tied 14-14, we still have a chance to fight."
Tomlin said the injury to Warren is why he had his offense try a fourth-down play from the Giants' 34 early in the fourth quarter rather than send Jeff Reed in for the field goal try from 52 yards.
"That was on the outer limits of field-goal range," Tomlin said.
"When you have a backup snapper in there, you knew that they were going to come after it. I just didn't feel comfortable kicking with whoever we put out there in that position."
Ben Roethlisberger's pass for Hines Ward on the play was intercepted.
The Steelers came into the game with an NFL-high 25 sacks. They did not add to that total against the Giants' Eli Manning, who has been sacked just six times all season.
"He was getting rid of the ball [quickly] and the few times he did hold it, we didn't get there," Harrison said.
"That was our goal," Manning said, "getting the ball out quick. It's hard to get the ball down the field on these guys."
Tomlin will talk with wide receiver Santonio Holmes today about Holmes' citation Thursday for marijuana possession. Tomlin, who put Holmes on the inactive list yesterday, said his absence had nothing to do with the Steelers' poor performance in the passing game.
Ward took a different approach.
"It makes it tough, because you go out and game-plan and he was a big part of that game plan, and it was too late to change that game plan," Ward said.
"Nate [Washington] did a good job of replacing Santonio, but you definitely need all your guns when you're playing the world champs.
"He definitely would have helped us out there."
On a day when punter Berger injured a hamstring and long snapper Warren sustained a season-ending ACL tear, starting free safety Ryan Clark pulled his arm out of the sling he wore through the fourth quarter and deemed his dislocated right shoulder to be fine.
Of course, he was about to see a doctor for a more medically accurate diagnosis.
""But I'm feeling good right now," Clark said in the locker room afterward.
"Hopefully, I can be back next week," for Washington Monday night.
Clark's injury happened on a collision early in the fourth quarter. "Sometimes, the body just doesn't hold up," said the seven-year veteran, who had to have his spleen and later gall bladder removed a year ago.
Giants receiver Plaxico Burress sat out the opening four New York possessions in a suspension resulting from missing a neck-injury treatment Saturday morning before the team left for Pittsburgh. His first words to a familiar ex-Steelers teammate, cornerback Ike Taylor, when he hit the field at 11:27 of the second quarter: "What's up?"
"I didn't know what was going on, you know?" Taylor said of an absent Burress, replaced in the starting lineup and first 18 1/2 minutes by Dominek Hixon, who finished with one catch for 17 yards. Taylor then blanketed Burress throughout the remainder of the game, limiting the fellow who caught the Super Bowl-winning touchdown pass to three receptions for 15 yards.
"There's no beef between me and him," Taylor continued. "Plex is a great receiver, man. That's my homeboy. Plex, there's a few things you can't coach: You can't coach height, and that's what he's got."
New York running back Brandon Jacobs was stopped for no gain three consecutive times on the 1-yard line in the first quarter. But Jacobs doesn't believe it, although a challenge by the Giants on the final try was rejected.
"I was in," he said.
"I guess they couldn't get the right angle. We were playing against 11 people and -- what? -- 16 people, to be honest with you," he added in an obvious reference to the officiating crew.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin on the game: "I thought it would be a heavyweight championship fight and that's what it was."
Coughlin said he was aware the Steelers were using a backup long snapper, Harrison.
"That's why we brought the pressure," he said. "When the second snapper came in at that vital time in the game with the score 14-12, we went with the rush. I don't know that it disturbed him but the snap was high.
"It was a tough situation for that guy to be in. Let's face it, all the time that the long snapper works with the holders and punters and kickers and then to have something like that come up. You try to keep your backups involved but that's a tough situation."
Head linesman John Schleyer called in sick, so the officiating crew went with one fewer man in stripes. In the reconfigured group, back judge Bob Wagner assumed the bulk of the head linesman's responsibilities on Bill Carollo's crew. And Steelers receiver Ward didn't think that worked out so well.
"Doesn't help when you lack a back judge," Ward said. "It really makes the slot a little harder, 'cause that's a back judge's call.
Yesterday's attendance of 64,991 was the largest in Steelers' regular season history. Only the 2004 AFC Championship Game, played Jan. 23, 2005, drew more at 65,242 ... Pittsburgh's time of possession, 25 minutes, 36 seconds, was its worst of the season and the third time in seven games the Steelers did not win the possession battle.
Steelers: QB Dennis Dixon, WR Santonio Holmes, CB Bryant McFadden, RB Willie Parker, LB Keyaron Fox, OT Tony Hills, OT Marvel Smith, DE Orpheus Roye.
New York Giants: K Lawrence Tynes, CB R.W. McQuarters, RB Danny Ward, CB Sam Madison, LB Gerris Wilkinson, OT Adam Koets, WR Sinorce Moss, DE Jerome McDougle.
First Published October 27, 2008 12:00 am