Week 15 Report Card, Steelers - By Mike Marino
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning were playing on Saturday for the first time since their days at Miami (Ohio) and Ole Miss. Despite the turnovers, you could say that they both had their best games of their careers since playing on Sundays.
Big Ben completed 18 of 28 passes for a career-high 316 yards. He threw for a touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions. Roethlisberger was efficient throwing downfield as well, as he completed five passes of 34 or more yards. Big Ben decided to play with gloves on both hands at the Meadowlands because of the weather, a decision that worried many. Especially after his early struggles, the gloves became an issue. But he went on to make his biggest plays when the game was on the line, and a win is a win, no matter what the score. So chalk up another W for Big Ben.
You cannot say enough about the Bus, Jerome Bettis. He ran the ball 36 times, the most carries he's had in a game since 1998. With the 36 carries he ran for 140 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came at a crucial time, with 4:57 left on the clock and it put the Steelers up for good. Duce Staley sat out with a hamstring injury, but with Bettis playing like he has while Staley's been out, maybe he should be the starter. Bettis set a Steelers' record on Saturday, with his 48th 100-yard rushing game. He went ahead of Franco Harris, and is now fifth best in NFL history.
Antwaan Randle El led the team with 5 receptions for 149 yards and a score. Hines Ward was effective as well with 9 catches for 134 yards. Verron Haynes scored on a shovel pass, plus 2 other catches totaling in 28 yards for him. The receivers played well, Big Ben didn't spread the ball out all that much, but they didn't need it. They didn't drop too many passes, and they were effective blocking and catching the ball downfield.
The O-Line allowed 3 sacks for a total loss of 17 yards, but they made up for them with the tough run blocking that they did all game allowing Bettis to have a great game. The Steelers running backs averaged 4.1 yards per carry, and much of it was due to the offensive line.
They weren't able to get to Eli Manning once, and the leader in tackles for the line was Chris Hoke, with only two. They allowed Tiki Barber to average 4.2 yards per carry, and they let the immobile Eli Manning run for 18 yards on two carries. Barber wound up with 76 yards on 18 carries. But the main focus, they didn't put any pressure on Eli Manning, no sacks.
Again, no pressure on Manning, but they did a decent job of containing Barber. Larry Foote had 11 tackles, while Joey Porter added 3 more. A weak spot of the linebackers this week, was when Manning dropped back, they allowed the middle of the field to become wide open. That allowed Manning to scramble and then run, and as stated before, he picked up 18 yards on 2 carries. The linebackers did a decent job of covering Jeremy Shockey, but they did allow him to find the endzone.
Eli Manning completed 16 of 23 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns. The secondary allowed him to have his best game as a pro, and they only intercepted one of his throws. Willie Williams had that interception, while also getting 5 tackles. Chris Hope had 9 tackles, Troy Polamalu had 5, and Deshea Townsend added 2. The Steelers secondary was vulnerable downfield as well, allowing completions of 49, 17, 17, 15, and 13. David Tyree had 49 yards receiving, Barber 38, Hilliard 34, and Toomer 34.
Jeff Reed connected on four field goals, including a long of 36. They didn't have to punt the ball the entire game, while the Giants only had to punt it once. Randle El had negative two yards on that one return. On kickoff returns, Ricardo Colclough returned it 3 times for 67 yards, an average of 22.3 and a long of 30. Ike Taylor had 3 chances as well, for 60 yards, an average of 20 and a long of 22. However, the Steelers kickoff return coverage was terrible. Willie Ponder of the Giants had 8 returns for 259 yards, an average of 32.4 and a long of 91. Ponder returned one for a touchdown on the opening kickoff and throughout the game he was giving the Giants excellent field position on every kick.
Excellent play calling throughout the game, and a total of only two penalties for 14 yards helped the Steelers get the win this weekend. They controlled the ball and the time of possession by almost 11 minutes and they were efficient on third down (50%). They weren't too strong in the Red Zone, only a 33% TD percentage, but Bill Cowher led the team to the victory, which is the most important stat of them all.
It was another ugly, close win for the Steelers, but in the end, their record improved to 13-1. Throughout the week, the game was described as a trap game, and throughout most of the game it looked like the Steelers were vulnerable, but in the end Big Ben made plays when it counted, and the Bus came up big.