Wednesday, October 28, 2009

STEELERS DEFENSE CHECKMATES FAVRE, VIKINGS 27-17

That was some chess match that we saw at Heinz Field last Sunday. In much the same fashion that you would see a SuperBowl game be played, the Vikings and Steelers went toe-to-toe, each team trying their best to hold down the many weapons that each offense possessed, but in the end there was just too much Steeler defense for the Vikings in this 27-17 loss. But who would have ever thought that the hero would be someone as unlikely as backup linebacker and special teams demon Keyaron Fox?

But Fox it was and you certainly had to be happy for the young man's day in the sun as he grabbed a deflected screen pass and galloped 82 yards for the second long score by the defense on this day. Earlier in that wild fourth quarter, Lamarr Woodley picked up a Brett Favre fumble and fought his way with some excellent downfield blocks to score on a 77 yard "rumblin', stumblin'" type of return. Fox was in the game because of an earlier injury to starting linebacker, Lawrence Timmons.


ABOVE: Lamarr Woodley smiles before sucking air after a massive 77 yard fumble return that saw him weaving through half of the Vikings offense. Brett Keisel originally knocked the ball loose from Brett Favre which Woodley had the good fortune of being able to pick up without breaking stride.

Sandwiched in between these two massive plays for the Steelers was a balloon-deflating 88 yard kickoff return by Percy Harvin for the Vikings. Harvin got past the last possible tackler, kicker Jeff Reed, when Reed made a feeble attempt at a tackle and barely even slowed Harvin down.

These two teams played a game that was as close as Pittsburgh's ever going to get to hosting a SuperBowl. With idyllic game conditions and a record 65,597 in attendance, Steeler fans were treated to as exciting a game as has ever been played at Heinz Field.

Of course there are those who will say that the offense did not perform well (they were outscored by their own defense 14-13). While Minnesota dominated the offensive categories and time of possession, the category that really counted most, points scored, showed Favre and Company holding the short straw and gripping a tough-to-swallow 27-17 loss, their first of the season.

For the Steelers, their victory comes just before a much-needed bye week seven weeks into the season. The Steelers now own a 5-2 record having won four consecutive games. Coming out of that bye week, the Steelers will face currently undefeated Denver at Mile High Stadium. However, they will be a well-rested team and the Steelers own an impressive record playing on Monday Nights and always bring out their best playing in front of a national television audience.

Most importantly, the Steelers once again seem to be the team that will dig down deep whenever there is a major challenge in front of them. With games coming up against Denver followed by 5-2 Cincinnati, it will take two more superlative efforts to take over sole possession of the AFC North. The Bengals are a classic example of a genie that's been let out of the bottle. Ever since they beat the Steelers in week three, they've been steadily improving, except for a loss to Houston. Now they are 5-2 and stand atop the AFC North with the Black & Gold.

Personally, the bigger these challenges are for the Steelers, the more confident I am that they will come away with the "W". I'm more concerned with them playing the Raiders, Chiefs and Browns. Those type of "letdown" games can easily happen when teams have gone through a string of difficult games.

But I like where the Steelers are at this point in the season. The team has lost only one starter for the balance of the year, defensive end Aaron Smith, although they have had Willie Parker and Troy Polamalu miss a significant number of games. Polamalu seems to now be rounding back into shape, but Parker is still nursing a "turf toe" which is a slow injury from which to recover. To his credit, Mike Tomlin has given the Steeler players the entire week off. For a team that has not been lacking in focus during 2009, the SuperBowl champs deserve this break. This week of "R & R" should do wonders for all of the banged-up Steelers, not to mention have them come back refreshed and ready to throw themselves into the remainder of the 2009-2010 season.

For the fans, they get to rake leaves this weekend, something they'll certainly enjoy. But it was fun hosting a SuperBowl at Heinz Field under idyllic conditions and winning it in dramatic fashion before the biggest football crowd in Pittsburgh history, too!