One Down, One to Go: Steelers Eke Out Win Over Panthers

It was far from flawless, but the Steelers are a win a way from the No. 2 seed and homefield advantage. And while there was a month’s worth of sloppiness crammed into 60 minutes, the Panthers were so god awful that the game was over midway through the second quarter.

Some quick random thoughts before I go chug some egg nog…

* Like everybody else (and especially Ted), I couldn’t comprehend why the Steelers shipped Santonio Holmes to New York for what amounted to a couple free dinners at Eat and Park. But Mike Wallace’s emergence, along with what Manny Sanders and Antonio Brown have been able to do as rookies, takes the sting out of the Holmes trade.

Wallace’s touchdown was another jaw-dropper, primarily because we’ve all seen how unbelievably fast he his and we’re still shocked when he hits top end in three steps.

Sanders and Brown continue to get better every week, and I’m still not convinced that Manny didn’t catch that touchdown pass on the Steelers’ first possession that was eventually overturned.

* Welcome back, Heath Miller. Matt Spaeth might be a better blocker than Heath, but it was clear early that Miller’s a huge part of this offense.

* The best part about Rashard Mendenhall’s 35-yard run on his first touch? That he tried the Spindenhall on the sideline, 35 yards past the line of scrimmage. That’s a man who takes pirouetting seriously.

* A couple thoughts about Jonathan Scott’s first series: I think a lot of us were happy to see Sean Kugler go bonkers on Scott because so many of us have wanted to do that to the offensive line at some point during the season. I was also glad to see Tomlin seek out Scott on the bench and talk to him after he was yanked (and subsequently threw his helmet) before sending him back in. I think Tomlin would call that a coaching opportunity (take notes, Tom Coughlin).

* Two words: B – MAC. I’ve defended McFadden for most of the season, although it was becoming increasingly difficult with each passing week. Apparently, Jimmy Clausen is the cure to any defensive ailment. Of course, McFadden got hurt on the interception, but, hey, that’s the price of greatness. (/ducks)

* I joked on the last podcast that the Steelers are probably the best team in the NFL in long-yardage situations. With all the holding penalties and sacks, Big Ben regularly faces 1st, 2nd, and 3rd and 20, and with uncanny regularity, Pittsburgh’s offense converts. If you’re a glass-half-full type, that should come in handy the rest of the season. On the other hand, it would be nice to cut down on the penalties. (I would add that Ben should take fewer sacks, but we’ve already made that deal with the devil.)

* Could have done without the two dumb turnovers — both avoidable, obviously — but B-Mac’s pick and Keyaron Fox’s strip on special teams more than made up for it.

* In case you’re wondering, I’m pretty sure Po-Sweezy’s first miss of the year was on the holder, Jason Kapinos. It looked like Kapinos took the snap cleanly, but missed Suisham’s spot when he placed the ball on the turf. It resulted in a push wide right.

* The Steelers’ red zone offense again sputtered. Last week, Bruce Arians and Ben claimed that they had worked out the problems, which primarily had to do with trying to throw the ball in the end zone on every play. I saw a lot of just that against the Panthers … and it led to a lot of incompletions. Just an observation.

But, hey, despite the penalties, fumbles, missed blocks, missed kick and sacks, the Steelers eked out a 24-point win. Do it again next week and Pittsburgh will have a couple weeks off to get Troy and Aaron healthy.

And, really, that’s all I want for Christmas.

Happy holidays, peeps, and thanks again for supporting Steelers Lounge.

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  • Brinson

    That was so unbelievably brutal. I’m trying to summon the strength to write something about why Jimmy Clausen is terrible and I’m dulled into absolute misery.

    What a terrible football team.

  • RoB D

    They got the win. They were sloppy. Ben was stupid at times (handoffs and clock management) But with his broken (more like shattered into a million pieces) nose and his (either) aggravated foot or broken foot (with Ben ya get a new story every week) etc. he had a nice night, especially in the first half when the game was in kinda, sorta doubt. It was not in doubt but I’ll go with that little white lie.

    Wallace and Sanders and Brown..oh my!!….Brown fielded that hot grounder and didn’t fire it over to first, thank goodness. Those 3 are going to terrorize people for years to come. And they are all OURS..mooohaaahaaaaaaa.

    I hope the Ravens lose a game so that Cleveland is a meaningless exhibition but I somehow doubt they will. We’ll need to win it and then we can all relax some.

    I know there must be worse years for injuries but this is ridiculous. Every other play features someone else limping off and tell me you weren’t holding your breath when Ben took forever to get up in this one? WE NEED THE BYE..that is all.

    Merry Christmas…and a prosperous New Year to all my fellow Steeler fans. It just wouldn’t be as much fun without you and HSS and SteelersLounge.

    • steeler fan in cowboy country

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you as well……Go Steelers!

  • Anonymous

    Ben in two games against Carolina lifetime is 33 for 50, 460 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions. Passer rating of 108.75. Six sacks for 49 yards.

  • Carl Natale

    This game was like therapy after the Jets loss. I’m so glad I didn’t have a full week to stew over that one.

    If there’s a good time to miss a field goal, Suisham picked it. You know sooner or later he has to miss. Glad he missed against Carolina just before half time.

    Do the refs practice using their hats as backup flags?

    God help me but my memory isn’t what it used to be. Was that Sanders who needed just about an extra inch on his arms to turn that catch into a touchdown? Nice second effort.

    I’m no different than anyone else who wonders what happened to that new (not shooting for the end zone) red zone strategy. Kind of would like to see the pistol again too.

    Yeah, I missed Heath too.

    I love Hines Ward. And I enjoy watching him play. But. After he dropped a catch, the announcer said that was rare for Hines. I don’t know. Dropped passes don’t seem so rare for Hines this season. You guys have any stats that show otherwise. Would love to be proven wrong.

    I said this during the Jets game but it seems to me that complaining about Mendenhall’s spin moves is kind of like complaining that Ben holds the ball too long.

    Lastly, you see the promo for the Top 10 Steelers show tonight on the NFL Network? How do you make such a list? How many spots do you have after you get out of the ’70s? It would be a great thread to ask readers their top 10.

    • StillerFan

      I agree with the missed field goal being in this game.

      What I don’t agree with is the refs. You seriously give us a passing interference call and a personal foul in this game? In THIS GAME!!?!?! You bastards.

      Won’t see those for the rest of the year now, thanks guys.

      • ryan

        Haha, great point on the penalties. Thing is, when the ref threw the flag (hat), I just figured it was on Hines. It never, ever, ever occurred to me that it might be on the Panthers, much less pass interference.

        • RoB D

          Ain’t it the truth! I figured Hines would get nailed for excessive grinning or something. Then I watched the replay and the guy basically pushes Hines OOB’s way before the ball is even in the picture. Yep, PI…and we got the call!

          Harrison got a call in his favour as well. Wonders never cease. Next you’ll be telling me that you CAN’T hit BB in the head and get away with it…As if !!

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    In terms of top 10 Steelers, Bill James talks about both career and peak value. It is harder to be high in both for the Steelers in the free agency era (see: Woodson, Bettis, Kevin Greene, Tommy Maddox… Just kidding).

    My top 10 from the 70s would include Mean Joe, Blount, Ham, Lambert, Webster, Swann, Stallworth, Franco and Bradshaw. The tenth guy would be debatable, with lots of good options.

    After the 70s, I’d include Ben, Hines, the Bus, Woodson, Silverback, Peezy, Lloyd, Dawson, Faneca and Lipps.

    These are off the top of my head, so I might be missing a few obvious ones.

    • Anonymous

      The Steelers have a great pedigree, but Troy Polamalu has to be on the list.

      • drinkingclub

        Yancey Thigpen? Maybe he doesn’t make a top list of all time, but I would put him in the 90′s, and Kordell!

  • steelerjunky

    Good to see the Steelers get the win.
    But like many I worry about the Steelers offense and wonder why it is not better? We all see the problems in hind sight after each play , series or game. Part of it is like you stated. Going for the bigger plays too often , holding the ball too long, not using screens enough, Ben and not throwing enough passes to the underneath routes. Ben is getting better I think at the timing play passes ,But I still think it is one of his biggest weaknesses. He uses arm strength to try and make up for his slightly late releases and it sometimes makes it harder for receiversto hang onto the ball cleanly.
    Teams are doing what ever the can to stop the run from run blitzes to stacking the box. So Ben ha to improve as a pocket passer.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I guess the Panthers were in a bad mood after the game or something because the PPG headline writer wrote, “Steelers upset Panthers, 27-3.”

  • Cols714

    I think the Sanders catch was a TD. Is it me or do the refs seem to overturn TD catches too easily? I starting to think that Ward is sort of done being a starting receiver. He just can’t create the separation anymore against anyone in man coverage.

    Sanders looks good, kind of like Holmes is Holmes’ rookie year. Great draft pick. Next year the starting WRs could be Sanders and Wallace.

    • Bob Costas

      Ward certainly isn’t having a great year by his standards. At his age it is hard not to think that he is going to keep declining. However, I don’t want to write him off too quickly. Ward seems to be at his best when he is doubted. I was thinking about this last night during the game and I bet Ward is going to have one of his offseason fits about not being respected, etc and will show up in great shape. Will that be enough to stave off Father Time?

      The other thing to consider is that Ward was having a lot of success in the slot that past couple of years. If Sanders (or Brown (oh hell, maybe even Sweed?)) is able to start across from Wallace next year, Ward could move primarily into the slot. Fewer snaps might benefit him too.

      • Anonymous

        Hmmm, if Ward seems to be at his best when doubted, maybe writing him off quickly is exactly what you do want!

        I think some of the perception of Ward is relative. He’s not done being a starting receiver. He’s just not playing like the superstar he has been most of his career. On Ward, average looks bad. That is, Cols714, unless you mean putting him in the slot like Bob suggests. He does seem very well suited to that role these days.

        • Cols714

          That’s what I’m thinking. He doesn’t seem to be great anymore as a starter. But as a 3rd WR in the slot he’d be pretty fantastic I think.

          Of course maybe he’s just injured a bit.

          • Anonymous

            That makes sense. I sometimes forget that the slot receiver and nickleback aren’t considered starters. I’m not sure that distinction makes as much sense with the current state of the game.

  • josh

    On the TV coverage – why can’t we see a replay of the overturned TD after the controversial call? It seemed like it wasn’t even close to a drop…then the call, then let’s never look at it again. Sorry, but the NFL Network will go a long way towards looking unbiased (regarding their own ref’s questionable calls) if they just let us decide for ourselves.

    • Stephen

      I think the problem on that call is that officials take any movement of the ball as a receiver goes to the ground as evidence that they lack control. Obviously, movement does not equate to lacking control, but that’s what I think the problem is.

      On the Sanders TD, it was (I think) pretty clear that he had the ball in hand through the entire catch from the replays shown.

  • Casey Adams

    Merry Christmas fellas. Not to put any undue pressure on you, but I picked up the podcast when Stan & Guy got yanked from the air. You have proven to be a quality replacement.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    We’re probably going to have only one game in the next 22-23 days. Time to get healthy.

  • Randy Steele

    There was nothing in that replay that justified overturning Manny’s touchdown.

    This game reminded me a little bit of the blowout of the Raiders earlier this season. Sure, it was slopfest, but so what? Good teams overcome their clumsiness and win those games.

    Plus, it’s time that we got used to not being able to score a touchdown inside the red zone. We simply don’t have a o-line that can maul an opponent on a short field. And we will be lamenting that weakness many times during the play-offs.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Intropy, nice catch on Troy. Funny that I forgot the best player after he missed one game. Get healthy, Troy!

  • Ecummins82

    Steelers ‘eked’ out a win?!? How in the hell is a 27-3 final score ‘ekeing’ out a win?!? Yes, the team wasn’t perfect, but if they had ‘eked’ out a win the score would have been like 17-14 and NOT 27-3. I also agree with EasyLikeSundayMorning’s comment in the sense that how exactly was our win over Carolina an “upset”? The only way it’d have been an upset would have been if Carolina had been the one to win.