Couldn't Wait for This One

Dale Lolley with a report on the Steelers' win in Cleveland:

CLEVELAND – Ben Roethlisberger has consistently spoken about wanting to go into the post-season as a hot offense. The Pittsburgh Steelers accomplished that on Sunday by dismantling the Cleveland Browns, 41-9.

The Steelers did whatever they wanted to offensively in this game, at least throwing the football. The running game remained somewhat of an enigma.

Yes, Rashard Mendenhall scored on a pair of goal-line carries, but in a first half in which the Steelers scored their first six possessions before pulling offensive starters, Mendenhall produced 36 yards on 14 carries.

That's 2.6 yards per carry for those of you keeping track at home.

That's not going to get it done in the playoffs.

And without the threat of a running game, that beautiful play-action pass to Mike Wallace on their first offensive play of the game doesn't happen.

"We practiced that all week and we knew that was going to be the first play of the game," said Wallace. "I was nervous and excited because I knew I was the first option. Troy (Polamalu) started us off with a great pick and then Ben made a great throw."

But with Mendenhall averaging just 3.7 yards per carry over the Steelers' past eight games (156 carries for 571 yards), are any possible playoff opponents going to bite on the play-action?

© On the plus side, the Steelers seem to have found something with the quick slants to Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders. Both receivers are great catch-and-run guys for different reasons – Wallace because of his breakaway speed, Sanders because of his elusiveness. They've also made a concerted effort to re-discover Heath Miller in the passing game.

The more weapons you have, the more opposing teams have to worry about.

That's also likely why the Steelers chose to run a pitch play to Antwaan Randle El, who then threw a 3-yard TD pass to Hines Ward, leading 31-3. You have to give possible playoff opponents more to think about.

© The Browns began the game with a no-huddle offense and five wide receivers. That only works against the Steelers if you have an outstanding quarterback or receivers. It doesn't work so well with Colt McCoy throwing the ball to Brian Robiskie, Mohamed Massaquoi and Chansi Stuckey.

By the time the Browns scrapped that attack, the Steelers led 14-0.

"We kind of expected that," said linebacker James Farrior. "We figured they'd come out and try to do something like that. But we shut it down pretty good."

© On one play, the Browns shifted massive defensive tackle Shaun Rogers outside to line up over Steelers right tackle Flozell Adams. It's possible Cleveland just wanted to see a one-on-one matchup that measured 750 pounds of humanity.

Ben Roethlisberger couldn't find an open receiver and scrambled for a 10-yard gain through the massive hole left in Rogers' wake after he plodded upfield.

© Nice to see Anthony Madison come up with a couple of big plays, recording double of an interception and sack in the same game. It's the kind of performance that could merit Madison an AFC Defensive Player of the Week award.

"Man, that would be sweet," said the five-year veteran.

© Bryant McFadden suffered what was originally called a groin injury, but what coach Mike Tomlin said was an abdominal injury.

That was the most serious injury for the Steelers in this one. The Steelers are concerned that it could be a sports hernia, though that might be something McFadden could play through if he had to.

Rookie Maurkice Pouncey came out of the game in the third quarter with what was called a stinger. He told me, though, that he banged his head on the turf and was a little woozy and the training staff would not permit him to return to the game.

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)


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