Just My Opinion

Good day to you, sir! says Jim Wexell in the SCI publisher's recap of a thrilling Steelers win.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who learned the previous week just how big one yard can be:

* This time it was cause for celebration.

* Did anyone go to bed in the third quarter thinking the season was over?

* Well, a most excellent morning to you, sir!

* And ma'am.

* One yard no doubt turned around some thinking about the Steelers this morning. A loss would've crushed their chances. It would've put them three games out of first place and a game and big, fat tiebreaker behind the Chargers in any wild-card race.

* Now the Steelers are legitimate playoff contenders, not just because they are 3-2, 1-2 against the AFC and 1-0 against the Chargers, but they're getting people -- key people -- healthy at the right time.

* Ben Roethlisberger, of course, will be the central returnee. He's said to be looking at returning this week for the Arizona game, but now he doesn't have to rush -- even though I'm sure the team wouldn't have rushed him even at 0-5.

* Anyone catch Ben on the sideline mouthing the words "no dancing" to Le'Veon Bell before his game-winning touchdown run?

* Michael Vick also credited Roethlisberger with drawing up the 72-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton that seemed to turn Vick's game around in the middle of the fourth quarter.

* Game? How about career?

* Before Vick threw that bomb to Wheaton, he had completed eight of 17 passes for 63 yards and an interception in three-and-a-half quarters. In the last eighth of the game, Vick completed five of nine for 140 and a touchdown.

* So that's a 32.3 passer rating for seventh-eighths of the game -- or the amount of time during which fans were calling for Landry Jones -- and a 137.5 rating (and a key third-down run for 24 yards) in the final eighth.

* Perhaps Vick won't turn around the thinking of all Steelers fans. Nor are some of those fans going to turn around their thinking of Mike Tomlin. But Tomlin's patience with Vick and his decision to go for broke on the final play went a long way in turning this season around.

* I agree with what ESPN analyst Steve Young said after the game: "I think it gives credit to the Pittsburgh Steelers' institutional support system. The third coach in 40 (actually 46) years, that security, to me, says, Mike Tomlin 'I'm going for the win on the road. I'm going to go for it right now.'"

* It's a bit fractured, but I get and believe Young's his point. So do the Rooneys. Tomlin wasn't fearing for his job, even if he might've been fearful of the season being in the balance.

* But they're still complaining about Tomlin and his clock management. I had to deal with a professional basketball writer who was incensed about Tomlin calling timeout with 1:47 left in the first half and the Steelers facing second-and-7 from the San Diego 38. The timeout didn't lead to anything either way, except to waste too many valuable characters on Twitter.

* Tomlin also took heat on Twitter because he didn't know that the San Diego clock operator ran off 18 seconds during the touchback preceding the final drive.

* Didn't we used to blast the clock operator for that kind of incompetence?

* Or Roger Goodell?

* To tell the truth, I didn't know about the lost 18 seconds until I looked back at my Twitter feed. The game announcers didn't know, either.

* The Steelers defense is also turning around fan opinion. After giving up 84 yards and a touchdown on the game's first five plays, the Steelers allowed 322 yards and one touchdown on the final 64 plays. Those averages are 16.8 yards per play on the opening drive and 5.0 yards per play on the final 64.

* Not that the Chargers are going to threaten many people in the run game with that banged-up offensive line and those pass-catching tight ends, but they averaged only 2.7 per carry Monday night. That's worth a helmet sticker for the front seven.

* Jarvis Jones certainly changed some thinking with his play. He had been showing signs of effectiveness, but it was only last week that I criticized Jones' lack of splash plays. Well, Monday night he caused a fumble on the Chargers' first drive of the second half. He also hit Philip Rivers in the first half to force a third-down incompletion. And then Jones sacked Rivers to bring up a third-and-15 play for the Chargers.

* On that third-and-15, Cameron Heyward looked like a larger James Harrison in rag-dolling the left guard back into Rivers' face during a ridiculous bull rush to force an incompletion and a punt.

* Heyward didn't change any opinions. He's been a stud with an Energizer battery for a few years now. The TV announcers kept saying he was -- or at least had to be -- tired, but I didn't see it.

* Defensive coordinator Keith Butler may want to get there with four -- and I love that philosophy -- but he's certainly not afraid to bring his defensive backs from all spots and angles when the game is on the line. Reminds me of the Dick LeBeau blitzes in the days of Rod Woodson and Carnell Lake.

* Anyone change their opinion about Antwon Blake? OK, maybe not so much. He did look really bad in missing an open-field tackle on Keenan Allen. But three plays later he used a trail technique with a safety over the top to undercut Malcom Floyd, intercept the ball and return it 70 yards for the Steelers' first touchdown and a 10-7 lead late in the third quarter.

* And if you weren't screaming at Blake to put the ball away during the return, you were taking a bathroom break.

* Butler's conversation with Blake after the play probably went like this: "Son, thanks for turning the game, and our season, around, but if you ever carry the ball like that again I'm going to cut you on the spot."

* Darrius Heyward-Bey has slowly been changing opinions ever since he stepped out of bounds in the opener to cost the team a touchdown. Last night he sky-ed to haul in a high Vick pass on the final drive that gained 15 yards on third-and-1.

* Yes, Tomlin's taking credit for putting the ball in Bell's hands on the final play, but he's rolling Vick out and throwing to Heyward-Bey when they needed one yard seven plays earlier.

* Not to get picky.

* I'm changing my opinion of Roosevelt Nix, for sure. The rookie fullback made some great lead blocks early in the game and then made a tremendous open-field tackle on a punt return early in the fourth quarter. But the coup de grace was his lead block that buried Jahleel Addae at the point of attack on Bell's final carry.

* You may know Addae's name because one play earlier he put a vicious helmet-to-helmet blast on Heath Miller. The penalty allowed the Steelers to keep their final timeout and theoretically run Bell twice at the goal line.

* Time ran out during Bell's first run, but it would've been interesting to see what the officials would've done with the clock had Bell been stopped, because there were two seconds left -- definitely one full second -- when he hit the ground.

* Bell has such great awareness, though. He spared Steelers fans, reporters, players and coaches a week of rage at the clock operator (and Goodell) because he knew his knee was going down as he thrust the ball over the plane.

* I just love when Bell does his Walter Payton high-stepping imitation in the open field.

* And I love that Miller held on to the ball after being drilled in the helmet. Think he even remembered the final play? He was the tip of the spear on the biggest play of the season so far.

* Enjoy your week, because things have certainly turned around.


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