Steelers Beat Bills in Overtime, Skinny Skippy Is Legit

Got this e-mail from JJ moments after Shaun Suisham (!) converted the game-winning field goal in overtime: “Well, that wasn’t fun.” Pretty much sums up the final 40 minutes or so because at halftime, with the Steelers leading 13-0, I figured Pittsburgh was just getting warmed up and Buffalo was in the process of checking out.

Instead, the Steelers’ defense had trouble getting off the field in the second half, and the Bills finally got some traction out of the Patriots’ blueprint for matriculating the ball down the field. It’s easy to point to the final three periods as proof that the Steelers’ defense is fatally flawed, but here’s the thing: there’s only one Tom Brady. And even though Ryan Fitzpatrick had some success completing short passes, that’s exactly what this defense is designed to do.

It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. And let’s be honest: a lot of weird stuff had to happened for the Bills to even have a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. For the second consecutive week there were some questionable penalties against the Steelers (and I’m not even talking about the Deebo roughing-the-passer call) and a that’ll-never-happen-again freak catch-and-run by Fred Jackson. Pretty sure hot routes to the running back wasn’t Chan Gailey’s recipe to scoring TDs going into this game.

But unlike last year, the Steelers have found ways to overcome penalties and poor play. Eking out an overtime win against a 2-8 outfit isn’t how you’d draw it up, but as Mike Tomlin says all the time, “You don’t get style points.” (And I’ll be honest: the Bills are the best 2-8 team in NFL history.)

Whatever. Pittsburgh’s 8-3 and will play for the division lead next Sunday night. In the meantime, onto the high(low)lights:

* After watching the Steelers offense plod through their opening possessions in recent weeks against the Pats and the Raiders, it was nice to see them march down the field on their first drive against the Bills — mostly on the ground — control the clock, and punch it into the end zone on a Mendenhall touchdown.

That all went out the window in the third quarter, but credit to the offense for regrouping in time to make some big plays down the stretch. None bigger, perhaps, than Big Ben’s 3rd and 17 scramble for 18 yards — on a bad wheel, no less (note: no word on if Ben’s toes are broken — still waiting official word from Bill Cowher) — following an iffy holding call on Chris Kemoeatu that negated a 42-yard Mendenhall run a few plays earlier.

A year ago, Roethlisberger probably gets sacked for a 15-yard loss and Greg Warren snaps the ball over Daniel Sepulveda’s head into the end zone on the next play.

* By the way: Shaun Suisham’s new nickname is Skinny. As in: Skinny Skippy. He was 4 for 4, all beyond 40 yards. The 41-yard game-winner was obviously huge, but you could make an argument that his 48-yarder in the fourth quarter — after Manny Sanders dropped a HUGE pass that would’ve moved the sticks — was even bigger.

It’s amazing how quickly things change: in August, Suisham was a journeyman who struggled with consistency and Jeff Reed had a legit case for a long-term deal that paid him like one of the league’s best kickers. Three months later, Suisham has Jeff’s job. And if Reed were still on the team I’m pretty sure there’s no way he converts four times Sunday.

(Sorta related: we whinge all the time about coaches being way too conservative when it comes to jettisoning dead weight on the roster. There are a lot of things we can accuse Tomlin off — piss-poor clock management tops the list, I think — but it’s not that. Essex has been replaced by Foster, Randle El has given way to Sanders, and Skinny is the new Skippy.)

* I don’t watch the defensive backs on every snap (or, hell, every series), but I feel safe in writing that Ike Taylor is having a Pro Bowl season. And William Gay, who had a 2009 effort against the Pats two weeks ago, was solid Sunday, particularly when he replaced an injured Bryant McFadden opposite Taylor in the second half. In fact, Gay was in tight coverage on the Troy pick near the Steelers’ goal line.

Related: I love Anthony Madison, special teams ace, but I’d prefer to never seen Anthony Madison, sub-package defensive back, on the field.

* It’ll be interesting to see what the NFL Gestapo decides to do with James Harrison. He was flagged for leading with his helmet on a hit to Fitzpatrick (and watching the replay, there’s no way officials don’t call that … at least against Deebo because I saw the Dolphins’ Kendall Langford do virtually the same thing against the Raiders’ Bruce Gradkowski during the four o’clock games).

But here’s the deal: Deebo is a “repeat offender” and the league has threatened to suspend players who repeatedly break the rules. So would they suspend Harrison for the Ravens’ game?

Common sense says no, which means that Harrison is screwed. At this point, nothing surprises me. Upside: the 2010 Steelers are all about overcoming adversity. So we’ll see.

In the interim, I’ll take the W. And before I forget: a very special thanks to Stevie Johnson for extending Thanksgiving through the weekend. I owe you one, dude.

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  • RoB D

    Stevie Johnson stars in “Return to Obscurity” ….hee hee
    Somewhere , Limas Sweed feels a whole lot better..Little Stevie stunk the joint out completely.

    Harrison ..a matter of time until he’s suspended now. The hit was marginal but ..its the new rules and Deebo has to adjust even more. Sucks but its the way of the world ..

    They played a half of football and Dick Lebeau looked to have aged 10 years ..

    • Ted

      Well, Johnson had as many receptions (7) against us yesterday as Sweed has in his entire NFL career, so that is probably an unfair comparison. Plus, Sweed cost us one game dropping a sure TD pass and kept a playoff game close for too long by dropping another. I believe he has 5-7 career drops depending on what you classify as a drop.

      Johnson dropped 3 the other day and does drop passes, but he does have 59 receptions for 746 yards this fall and is a matchup nightmare. Reminds me a lot of Santonio Holmes, who we might actually be a SB contender had we not absurdly given away to the Jets as a PR statement.

  • Cols714

    The OL, Kemo really, was horrible. They are really starting to hold this team back and is the biggest impediment to winning the Super Bowl.

    I think that was the worst game the OL played all year. Mendy was basically doing everything on his own.

    • RoB D

      Pass defense is brutal too. If Brady/Brees/Manning/ is at QB today? Yeesh..same old, same old..

      Well.the legendary Ryan Fitzpatrick basically beat our ass except for an unbelievable drop by Little Stevie. No one should think the Pats game was an aberration. Somehow, Dick Lebeau takes a secondary with Ike Taylor having a legit Pro Bowl year, that Polamalu guy, a competent 2nd banana in Ryan Clark and an admittedly shaky McFadden and we turn into turnstiles against mediocre QB’s? I know the D-line is hurting and that probably explains why the pass rush isn’t getting there but geesus..The 4th quarter is becoming the football equivalent of Sunday, Bloody Sunday.

      With Re: to the Oline..Mendy made a few amazing runs where he basically ran through the forest and trees to emerge at the other end. There was no recognizable blocking scheme to be seen on either. WTH is up with that?

      EVery week another little to large chink in the armor is revealed. I am dreading next week’s game against the Ravens. I really am.

      • Gretz

        Fitzpatrick completed 50 percent of his passes for about 5,8 per attempt and had a 67.4 passer rating. He didn’t have a great day by any objective measure. And considering how many short fields Buffalo had in the second half, I think the defense played quite well. I mean, we can talk about the Stevie Johnson drop all day, but if Manny Sanders doesn’t drop a pass in the fourth quarter this game probably doesn’t even go to overtime.

      • Asf

        Have you looked at the RAVENS recently? Now they’re AWFUL. their defense is putrid. Give it a rest.

        • RoB D

          I have my opinion and you can have yours, Asf.

  • Anonymous

    The OL is putrid. The Steelers can’t win with those guys. I expect the Ravens to have their way against the Steelers OL next week.

  • Randy Steele

    Gee, why do we all feel so bad while sitting here with a record of 8-3?

    • Anonymous

      Because they went into OT against the Bills.

    • David

      Randy, I don’t. I’ll take a 3-0 or 7-6 win every week.

    • David

      Randy, I don’t. I’ll take a 3-0 or 7-6 win every week.

    • David

      Randy, I don’t. I’ll take a 3-0 or 7-6 win every week.

  • Anonymous

    Allowing only 16 points, and getting the stop on the first drive in OT isn’t really a bad outing defensively. It’s not great, considering the opponent, but not bad either.

  • David

    Anyone else get the feeling of some biased officiating?

    I mean, I don’t think they specifically target us, except for Silverback, but when was the last time they called RTP on someone after hitting Ben?
    He got hit, rolled over after the whistle, faskmasked, and no call. Geez.

    • MC

      Yeah, but Roethlisberger is a freak with two brains, one brain thinks about who’s getting open down field, and the other tells him where the rusher is coming from. Tom Brady doesn’t have that and needs the refs to keep him clean when he’s looking for open receivers (…well, on top of the fact he gets reads defenses insanely quick)

  • David

    This is a question for JJ: while you do you O-line analysis, can you take a peek at how Urbik did?

    We drafted him and he didn’t do squat, so I was just wondering how he did yesterday for BUF.

  • drinkingclub

    If Harrison is suspended, he could appeal, and would be available until the appeal is heard, I believe.

    • Randy Steele

      I agree, and I think this is a serious enough issue that Dan Rooney should climb aboard his jet, fly home, and get into Goodell’s face but good.

      And it may be time to call in the lawyers, every one the Steelers can find, to force the NFL to figure out what its policies toward players’ hits and apply fair, equal enforcement. Because that sure ain’t happening now.

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  • AZSteelerfan88

    I just watched the game on NFL Replay. Anybody notice how well Keith Urbik played? Getting his first start against the best defense in the NFL, Urbik was never beaten the entire game. On Jackson’s 65 yard run, it was Urbik’s second level block on Gay (he got low enough to flip him in the air) that sprung him. On Jackson’s 13 yard run in overtime that led to Steven Johnson’s drop, Urbik led Jackson through the second level. When Poulamalu made his interception, Urbik came off his block of Casey Hampton and dropped him from 15 yards away. While the Steelers had 5 holding penalties, Urbik had none, though he did get away with a hook on a downfield block. Given how he played in the last preseason game in which played nearly every down, some at left guard, waiving this obviously talented player may have set the Steelers back 10 years. He is going the Pro Bowl sooner rather than later. The guy is a living wall. A road grader. He is not spectacular, in that he never makes a demonstration and doesn’t pancake his man. What he does is keep them out of the backfield, and he efficiently carries out his assignments, including making several downfield blocks. But, he never seemed to engage in any chatter between plays. He just sauntered back to the huddle. Why is it that the Steelers don’t care to have any Pro Bowl capable players on the offensive line? The opportunities to draft a player like Urbik are rare. If they did not want to pay him, why did they draft him? As a fan of Wisconsin football, I know what the Steelers passed on. How long do they intend to try to protect Ben and run the ball if they have no interest in developing a stellar offensive line? The Steelers made a huge mistake in letting Uribik go. It showed all day long in Buffalo, and the vacancy will continue to haunt the Black & Gold for years to come.