Points of Light

Monday night was a tough loss, but Mike Prisuta believes there are several inspirational points that fans need to understand about the Steelers.

Somebody in the locker room on Wednesday said Ben Roethlisberger continuing to get up and keep playing despite some of those shots he was taking late in the San Francisco debacle inspired reminders of Paul Newman in "Cool Hand Luke."

Roethlisberger was presumably shooting for John Wayne, but Paul Newman in "Cool Hand Luke" will do (the reference was to the boxing scene against George Kennedy; if you didn't already know that consider yourself reprimanded and go immediately to wherever it is you can rent "Cool Hand Luke").

The point is Roethlisberger's play was inspirational, four turnovers and all, and the Steelers will get juice from that.

Now, if the reference had been to Paul Newman in "Slap Shot" I'd start making plans for Indianapolis.

As it is, there is much to be encouraged about as the Steelers go about the business of shaking off the disappointment that was Monday night's costly, 20-3 loss.

* James Harrison is back from suspension this week, which means we're that much closer, potentially, to seeing Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in the lineup and playing to the full capabilities of Harrison and Woodley at the same time.

Due to Harrison's slow start and the subsequent troubles experienced by both since then we haven't seen that yet.

"Not this year," linebacker James Farrior said.

That could be a difference-maker in the playoffs.

* Harrison's mere return also provided an emotional boost, particularly among members of the defense.

The Steelers felt better about themselves on Wednesday than they had the day before because of it.

* Rashard Mendenhall ran hard into the teeth of a physical defense at San Francisco and had perhaps his second-best game of the season (23-146-6.3 against Jacksonville).

What Mendenhall did against the 49ers (15-64-4.3) will have to be done in the postseason, and Mendenhall looks up to getting it done.

* The continued situational incorporation of Cortez Allen implies the secondary may be better positioned to get done what it will have to get done in the postseason than it has been in quite some time. Allen is playing coverages as well as being used as a man-to-man counter against multi-receiver sets.

If he continues to make progress you'll see even more of him in the weeks to come.

* Running back Mewelde Moore is "very optimistic" about being able to play again this season, not Saturday against St. Louis but "shortly, as fast as I can."

That didn't appear to be the case at Candlestick Park, or on Tuesday when Mike Tomlin classified Moore's injury as an MCL sprain.

Moore remains an underrated but integral part of an offense that still has another gear it can attain and will need to attain in the playoffs.

* Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery had five catches for 93 yards, averaged 18.6 yards per catch and took some shots while doing so against San Francisco.

Cotchery has seven of his 13 catches and 126 of his 209 receiving yards in the last two games. He's starting to look like the guy who was brought here, in part, because of his postseason performances for the Jets last season against New England and against the Steelers.

* The Steelers didn't enter the playoffs with homefield advantage in either 2008 or 2010 and wound up hosting the AFC Championship Game both times.

A lot can and will still happen.

* Still another emotional boost was provided on Wednesday by a visit from members of the Pittsburgh Symphony, whose selections included some traditional Christmas favorites. Ike Taylor conducted. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown helped with percussion. Hines Ward danced.

The players appear to have gotten over San Francisco. It's time you did, too.

Merry Christmas.


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