If I weren’t a Steelers fan, I’m not sure who I would hate more: Ben Roethlisberger or Troy Polamalu. Both players, each in their own special way, have an infuriating knack for making huge plays. I suspect the feelings opposing fans have for those two rivals my abhorrence for JJ Redick during his days at Duke.
Whatever, not my problem. I love that Ben and Troy are Steelers (obvious bar bathroom-related issues aside), especially after what they did against a Bengals team that appears to have given up some two and a half months ago.
Polamalu had two picks, LaMarr Woodley added another, Roethlisberger took his requisite beating and — like every other game — the officials pretended they didn’t see anything.
As has been the case in recent weeks, the Steelers have overcome questionable calls and won convincingly. I’ll take it.
* A reader mentioned it after the Raiders game and it certainly appears to be the case: those early-season screens that went to Hines Ward (and I speculated that they were solely for the purpose of extending Hines’ executive catches streak)? They’re now going to Mike Wallace with spectacularly different results. You see it every week, but every week Wallace’s speed just takes your breath away.
I think we can all agree that Wallace will never be as shifty as Santonio Holmes, but he’s shifty enough. And when you run the 40 in 4.3, “enough” is all you need.
* A month ago, I questioned Troy’s game. He struggled against the Saints — and for the subsequent few games — and I wondered whether he was injured, offenses had found a way to neutralize him, or if he had just hit a rough patch. No idea, but here’s the lesson: never doubt Polamalu. Huge game against the Bills, bigger effort against the Ravens, and a Player of the Week performance versus the Bengals. Although, to be fair, Carson Palmer probably deserves half that award. He was that bad.
(I mentioned on the last podcast that now-Ravens wideout T.J. Houshyomamma told a Baltimore reporter that much of the Bengals’ offensive woes aren’t Carson’s fault. I wanted to believe TJ, but lord have mercy, Palmer is dreadful. And as Mike Mayock pointed out during NFL Network’s AFC Playbook, Palmer can’t read defenses. Pretty sure Troy and LaMarr would confirm as much.)
* Another week, another yeoman’s effort from Rashard Mendenhall. The big plays aren’t coming as frequently as they did early in the season, but sure hands, positive gains, solid blocking, and pass-catching ability have been staples of Mendenhall’s game all year long. And, really, that’s all you can ask for.
* Hines has had an up and down season, and I’m sure I’m not the only guy wondering if he finally is on his last legs. Much like me questioning Troy, Hines isn’t afraid to prove me wrong. Big day against the Bengals. And even though the Steelers didn’t score an offensive touchdown, Ward had a lot to do with Po-Sweezy (yep, that’s what I’m calling Shaun Suisham — thanks, Mike D) going 3 for 3 on field-goal attempts.
(One more thought before getting to special teams: I have to point out Antwaan Randle El’s “DID YOU SEE THAT?” catch deep in Cincy territory. Fantastic grab. ARE personifies “can’t make the easy catch but never drops the impossible one.” It’s irksome, for sure, but certainly a nice surprise Sunday. Oh, and the only more unlikely than the catch? The Randle El option to Wallace for a first down.)
* Jason Kapinos is left-footed. I had no idea. He had a swell day, both punting and holding. That is all.
* Bryant McFadden, everybody! Okay, he didn’t really do much, but at this stage of the proceedings, I’ll take it. Also: hat tip to William Gay for picking up his game after missing an early tackle on Cedric Benson (or maybe it was Bernhard Scott) catching a pass out of the backfield.
* This is how awesome Dick LeBeau is. After Troy’s game-deciding pick in the end zone (that also included a “Really? You’re really going to lateral that at your 20-yard line, Troy?”), I could only chuckle after LeBeau grabbed Polamalu by the shoulder pads and sternly explained that stupid plays aren’t part of the game plan. It was obvious to everybody, clearly, but the last time I saw LeBeau that fired up was when Anthony Smith high-stepped it down the sidelines following an interception against the Panthers during the 2006 season.
But if that’s my biggest gripe against the Steelers then, well, it was a pretty good day.
Pittsburgh’s 10-3 and … let’s go Texans.
PS. Yes, I know, the Steelers’ offense has sputtered a bit recently. I don’t dispute that, but I’d point to a ton of injuries along the offensive line, a Frankenfooted, broke-nosed QB who can’t get one call, and some bad luck. Still, through it all, Pittsburgh keeps winning. And even if Troy and LaMarr hadn’t accounted for 14 points, the Steelers still outscored the Bengals, 9-7. Just saying.