They Are Who They Thought They Were

The Steelers didn't need the win as much as they needed to win. Mike Prisuta shares his insights from the Steelers' locker room in Baltimore.

BALTIMORE -- It was an emotional visitor's locker room at M&T Bank Stadium in the wake of Steelers 13, Ravens 10. One of the overriding emotions was relief.

"We needed this one," Brett Keisel admitted late Sunday night/early Monday morning. "We needed it."

The game's implications on the AFC North Division championship are obvious. But beyond that the events of Sunday made winning in Baltimore almost a moot point as far as the Steelers' potentially securing a wild-card entry into the postseason is concerned, should it eventually come to that.

San Diego lost, as did Indianapolis. And suddenly there's a lot of 6-6 lining up behind the top six in the conference.

But the Steelers being the Steelers, the idea, as always, is not merely to make the playoffs but to do some significant damage once there. And could the argument still be made that the Steelers were capable of such a run had they lost to the Ravens?

I'm guessing not.

Yes, they have a win over Atlanta on their resume, but that was in a regular-season opener, which is never the most definitive of tests.

They've also beaten Tampa Bay, which is somehow 7-4 against everyone else. Still, as far as a statement-making, signature win was concerned, Tampa Bay didn't quite cut it.

The Steelers knew as much. And they remembered what had happened at New Orleans and against New England. That's why this was as much about playoff readiness and playoff worthiness as it was postseason positioning.

"We beat a good team," Keisel said. "We're in the hunt."

That about sums it up.

* Mike Tomlin's usual post-game greeting of the players outside the locker room following the game was boisterous and celebratory, as you might expect.

Except in Isaac Redman's case.

After scoring what turned out to be the winning touchdown on a phenomenal individual effort on a catch-and-run that provided a lead late in the fourth quarter and spared Tomlin what could have been a much-dissected decision on fourth down, Redman had the audacity to linger on the field almost as long as James Harrison. Tomlin let Redman know he's not yet worthy of such a perk.

"You gotta make a few more plays," Tomlin said.

Upon shaking Redman's hand, Tomlin reminded Redman that he had gotten "crushed on short yardage tonight."

Tomlin's jabs were delivered with a smile, but at the same time he was making a point. Redman expected nothing less.

"It feels great," he said. "Coach Tomlin is always going to be on me. Me and him have a nice, close relationship."

I'm starting to suspect that's the case with a lot of the players.

* So they're in the playoffs. But has the division really been all but clinched?

"The only thing we proved is that we won the game," Harrison cautioned. "This game counts for nothing if we don't go out here and do what we need to do the next few weeks. If we go out here and piss the bed and lose these games, then all this is for nothing and (the Ravens) could be right back in the position that they were before we played this game."

Sounds as if James intends to stay in the hunt

* It wouldn't be a Steelers discussion without bringing up the officiating.

The latest gripe is that referee Terry McAulay missed not one but two blows to Ben Roethlisberger's head.

On the bright side the Ravens were called for offensive holding.


That's progress.

So was the non-call on Harrison tackling Joe Flacco while Flacco was in the process of throwing incomplete.

"I was actually kind of surprised," Harrison said. "I thought they might have wanted to flag me, but they didn't."

More progress.

* The officials and the subsequent conspiracy they've been facilitating against the Steelers can't be blamed for David Johnson not getting onto the field for a field goal (that cost the Steelers a timeout) and for Keenan Ivory Lewis not getting back on the field while covering a punt that was initially tackled at the Baltimore 4.

The special teams were responsible for three other penalties (a Will Allen hold on a punt return, a Jason Worilds hold on a punt, and an Antonio Brown offsides on a kickoff).

Gotta clean that stuff up before the playoffs.

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