Festivus for the Rest of Us

Mike Prisuta was surprised by some of the happenings at Heinz Field in the Steelers' 27-0 win over the St. Louis Rams.

It was billed by the coaching staff, unintentionally but unmistakably, as a game against a team so bad the Steelers could be confident of victory even with Charlie Batch at quarterback.

And it delivered as advertised.

But for those who showed up on Christmas Eve at Heinz Field it was nonetheless an early Christmas present. After all, how many times does a crowd at Heinz find itself chanting "Char-lie, Char-lie, Char-lie?"

That was just a part of this Christmas bonus, one that sent everyone home at various points of the second half secure in the knowledge that victory would ultimately be achieved, which it ultimately was, 27-0.

Batch woke everyone up early by ducking under St. Louis Rams defensive ends James Hall and Chris Long the first time the Steelers tried to pass. The subsequent checkdown, catch-and-run 35-yard gain to Rashard Mendenhall started the chanting and served notice that we might be in for a few things we don't normally see.

We were.

* Already at that point we had seen Jonathan Scott start at offensive tackle, in a surprise. Scott hadn't started since opening at right tackle on Oct. 16 against Jacksonville.

* And when Doug Legursky came up lame on the Batch-Mendenhall play, we started seeing an offensive line comprised, in part, of Chris Kemoeatu at left guard, Trai Essex at center and Scott at right tackle. And still they ran the ball, despite the obvious reluctance to pass down the field with Batch at quarterback. And the offensive line wasn't called for any false starts until the fourth quarter (right guard Ramon Foster) or any holding penalties all game.

That's a Festivus miracle we may never see again.

* We saw Mendenhall break a run for 52 yards, his longest jaunt since going 68 yards more than two months ago.

* We saw Antonio Brown make not one but two tackles in the first half, the first a spectacular blast of Donnie Jones on a fake-punt run that wound up 1 yard short of a first down on which Brown initially lined up, in his estimation, 30 to 35 yards off the line of scrimmage.

* We saw the Steelers head to the locker room at halftime leading 10-0 despite not having converted a third down (0-for-3).

* We saw Hines Ward catch a pass that wasn't of the flanker screen or shovel variety. Ward's 19-yard reception in the second quarter might have to stand as the most memorable moment of what might be the Heinz Finale for Hines, depending on how all of this playoff stuff sorts out.

Ward's four receptions overall stood as his first catches since Dec. 8 against Cleveland and his first that didn't end with a fumble since Dec. 4 against Cincinnati.

The fall has been fast and hard for a guy who will forever be remembered as an iconic Steelers player, to the extent that it'll be stunning if Ward plays at Heinz Field next season in anything other than another team's uniform.

* We saw the Rams try to pass for a first down on third-and-1 and try to run for a first down on third-and-16 and fail both times (that must explain the coaching staff's pregame faith that this one could be won with Batch).

* We saw the defense register a second shutout in one season for the first time since 2007 (21-0 over Seattle and 3-0 over Miami).

* We saw John Clay score a touchdown on his first NFL play, and three different running backs rush for touchdowns in the same game.

* We saw Brown account for 8 yards rushing, 34 receiving and 35 on punt and kickoff returns, which set the franchise's single-season record for all-purpose yards at 2,048 (eclipsing Barry Foster's mark of 2,034 in 1992).

* And every time they would show the scores from out of town we saw the Bengals looking as if they'll be more than ready to make life miserable for the Ravens in the regular-season finale.

It all made for an eventful and memorable Christmas Eve after all.

In the words of Tiny Tim (as opposed to Tim Tebow), "God bless us, every one."

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