Unshakeable Faith in Offense

At least Mike Prisuta found reasons to be optimistic about the Steelers' offense.

CLEVELAND – The state of the scoreboard-watching drama on Sunday afternoon was such that the Bengals' Mike Nugent and the Steelers' Shaun Suisham missed field goals within seconds of one another in opposite ends of Ohio.

It was more fascinating as it actually happened than it sounds now, trust me.

The state of the Steelers' offense on Sunday afternoon was that it apparently became too caught up in all of that scoreboard-watching drama to finish in the first 30 minutes of the regular-season finale.

Only a field goal from Suisham on the last play of the second quarter – this, too, was a disappointment given that the Steelers had two shots at the end zone from the Cleveland 1-yard line before the kick – saved the Steelers from being blanked in a first half for the second time in three games and for the third time this season.

That's no way to enter the playoffs.

But the response to all of that is what might prove significant in the postseason.

On their first drive of the third quarter, the Steelers covered 66 yards in 13 plays and tied the game.

On their second third-quarter possession, the Steelers covered 43 yards in six plays, finally found the end zone and grabbed a lead they'd never relinquish.

In between, there was an interception by Troy Polamalu.

It would be the stuff of Steeler lore if not Steeler legend had the Bengals only held up their end.

Alas, they did not.

So the Steelers will have to take the long road to Indy, beginning next weekend in Denver.

Still, we saw just enough from the offense from what should be the signature stuff in January— three- and four-wide receivers formations, empty sets and the no-huddle – to foster some optimism heading into Denver.

The no-huddle was particularly effective in helping the Steelers dominate in time of possession (39:11-20:49) if not on the scoreboard.

And Polamalu chimed in once again following the Steelers' 13-9 triumph about what a big deal it is for the Steelers' defense when the Steelers' offense can control the ball.

* What a big day it almost was for Isaac Redman. He came in as one of only six players in the NFL who had been perfect all season converting third-and-1s (5-for-5). And it took just two possessions for Redman to improve to 7-for-7 in that department. He bolted for 13 yards with a nice cutback on his first third-and-1 and converted the second by moving the pile for a 2-yard gain.

Redman also converted a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter, turning a couple of spin moves out of a three-TEs formation into a 3-yard gain.

That's something to remember entering the playoffs.

The forgettable part of Redman's day involved finally getting stuffed on a third-and-1 on the final play of the third quarter, and then losing a couple of fumbles in the fourth quarter.

The Steelers turned to John Clay at running back thereafter, but Mike Tomlin said Redman hadn't been demoted.

With Tomlin also advising the media to anticipate that Rashard Mendenhall (knee) "won't be participating" against Denver, it's important to remember the best of what Redman has had to offer this season and then hope for the best in Denver.

* Ben Roethlisberger settled for a checkdown to Mendenhall on the first snap of the Steelers' second possession and was rewarded with a 7-yard gain.

Roethlisberger checked down again five snaps later, this time to Redman, and picked up a third-and-3 via a 9-yard gain.

That's something to remember entering the playoffs, too.

* Three words from Roethlisberger ought to foster all the optimism anyone should need heading into the postseason:

"I feel awesome."

Remember what he can do when he feels like that?

Happy New Year.

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