|King Of The North, Baby!|
|Written by Cotter|
|January 03, 2011 16:55|
You'd think after a game like yesterday's - wherein the Steelers dropped 41 points and finally clinched the division - writing a recap would be simple.
But, where do I even begin?
Well, for one thing - I'd say the Steelers raped the Browns, but from where I was sitting, it looked an awful lot like the Browns were consenting.
How about - remember back to last offseason, if it doesn't pain you too much. All the bullshit with Ben, the Ravens and Bengals loading up with offensive talent, Willie Colon going down for the year...so many people were crying about the Steelers prospects in 2010.
And yet, after 17 weeks, the Steelers ended up 12-4 in spite of all of it.
The defense was absolutely cuthroat this year, though I'm sure you didn't need me to remind you of that.
When the regular season was all said and done, they were second in total defense giving up 276.8 yards per game, and tops in points allowed - giving up a disgustingly low 14.9 per game.
They allowed the least rushing yards of any defense in STEELER HISTORY (1004 - and they did it having to play four more games than the previous top performers), and the least yards per game in the league this season (64.1).
They allowed only ONE run of longer than 20 yards, and only two teams to rush for over 100 total yards against them on the season.
All while missing Aaron Smith for the last 10 games, and Brett Keisel for five here and there.
They had 21 INTs on the year - with every starting defensive back having at least two - which is the most since they had 23 during the '96 season, AND, they forced 28 fumbles (24 if you believe NFL.com over ESPN.com...but I prefer 28, so).
They had the most sacks in the league as a team (48), and those sacks came from 15 different guys - including backup CB Anthony Madison, yesterday.
And, of course, THREE out of their four starting linebackers ended up with 100 tackles or more...Lawrence Timmons leading the way with 135, captain James Farrior behind him with 109, and James Harrison - who also had 10.5 sacks - third with exactly 100.
Basically, they were one of the most dominant defenses the league has EVER seen, and as far as I'm concerned, with rule changes to "protect" the offense, and guys getting bigger and stronger with every new draft class, it gets harder and harder to play that kind of suffocating defense year after year.
But the offense wasn't exactly useless this season either.
We'll get into some of the details in the "Things That Were Awesome" below, but how about...
Rashard Mendenhall finished seventh overall in rushing yards with 1273 (topping his 2009 self's 1108 yard season), and second in rushing TDs with 13 (almost doubling his total from 2009).
Hines Ward - whose contributions might be somewhat overlooked in the season of Mike Wallace - had 59 catches for 755 yards and five TDs, and somehow managed 14 catches of 20 yards or more.
ROOKIES Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown had 28 and 16 catches for 376 and 167 yards respectively.
And Heath Miller still managed to get 42 catches for 512 yards and two TDs despite the fact that just about everyone else who was eligible to catch a pass this season did.
Even more importantly, though, over the last three games, since the stretch of however many quarters they had without an offensive TD (from inside the red zone, that is), they've put up 85 points (granted, 80% of those were against the Panthers and Browns), including 10 touchdowns.
What I think I'm trying to say is what I'm sure you've all been thinking - the Steelers have roared their way into the playoffs, winning six out of their last seven (and it should've been seven out of seven if not for Matt Spaeth), and generally looking the best they've looked all year.
So, hey, we don't know who we're going to play, and we don't know what's going to happen in the coming weeks, but to enjoy all of this success a year after missing the playoffs despite a 9-7 record, how good does it feel to be a Steeler fan?
Last January, I'd guess that about 85% of Steeler nation was in mutiny mode.
Now, I'll bet it's as strong as ever.
And we wouldn't have it any other way.
So, with that all said, let's get right down to it.
Below are this week's "Things That Were Awesome," "Things That Were NOT Awesome," and "Things That Were Slightly Less Awesome Than The Things That Were Not Awesome."
As usual, I invite you to peruse them at your leisure and dammit, add your own in the comments!
After all, we're talking about the King of the North, 2 seed Steelers here!
Now, turn the recap up!
Things That Were Awesome:
First, allow me to explain. Since Mike Wallace exploded onto the Steelers' scene last season, I've been searching for a nickname for him. There's been a lot of obvious suggestions - like 60 minutes (after the show the other Mike Wallace hosts) - but nothing I felt was right. And then yesterday it hit me...Maverick, as in the character from Top Gun.
Three reasons - 1) He's got an obvious need for speed, 2) He flies, and 3) He too is dangerous.
So, I guess that makes Ben, "Goose?"
Anyway, with three catches for 105 yards and a score yesterday, Maverick here closed out the regular season 5th in the league in receiving yards with 1,257, and 10 TDs. Not only is he 5th in receiving yards, but none of his company in the top 5 has any less than 76 catches - while he had 60. AND, he has the most receptions of 40+ yards out of any receiver in the league.
Plus, like I mentioned in the preliminary recap - with that 56 yard magic trick of a TD he and Ben pulled yesterday, the combo set a new Steelers record for number of 40+ yard TD hookups with eight - and they did it in only Wallace's second season, in which he caught SIX of the eight. Oh yeah, and yesterday was his 7th 100+ yard day on the year, which also ties John Stallworth's record for 100+ yard receiving games in a season, set almost 30 years ago (in 1984).
Some people - and I'm guilty of this - have been using Santonio's stats as a measuring stick for Wallace over the last maybe 10 weeks or so.
That comparison is no longer relevant, unless it's the other way around.
2. The Big Man
This man has had a broken foot and a broken nose over the last month, and as usual, has continued to take hits from abnormally large human beings, yet he's been better than ever.
15/22 yesterday for 280 yards and two TDs.
Dude hasn't thrown a pick in 158 throws - basically the last four games.
But during that time, he HAS thrown for 1,122 yards and four TDs, AND, he's carried the ball 16 times for 74 yards and a score.
And, did I mention he had a broken foot and a broken nose?
True grit, ladies and gentlemen.
3. Anthony Madison
When was the last time you can remember a special teams ace contributing a sack and a pick?
So what if the starters didn't play almost half the game?
That's still hardass.
Like I always say - speak softly and carry a deep bench.
That, and when all else fails - use an animated GIF.
But I guess that one is pretty obvious.
This guy wasn't even going to play yesterday.
Then, he starts, and on the 2nd play of the game, picks off Colt McCoy.
And as for this...
Well, Clark Kent owes Troy Polamalu one red cape with an S on it.
5. ZERO Sacks on Ben
You're God damn right!
5a. Remember This Play, Holmgren?
If I had to pinpoint the exact moment Eric Mangini lost his job, I'm pretty sure this might have been it.
I just imagine Mike Holmgren up in his box looking something like this...
Things That Were NOT Awesome:
1. McFadden Down...AGAIN!
How many games is that in a row that McFadden has left with that hip pointer injury?
Gotta be at least three.
So much Simpsons right now...no idea what that's about.
2. The Ravens
Let this be the first and last time we make light of the fact that the Ravens fell short of the division title AND almost lost to the BENGALS for the second time this season all in one afternoon!
3. Pass Interference on the Browns 1st Two Point Try
Watching the snap on the Browns' first 2 point conversion try fly over Colt McCoy's head was LOL worthy.
Seeing them get a second try after that because of a pass interference penalty on Bill Gay was not.
But ultimately, no one cares. The score was 41-9!
Which reminds me, also LOL worthy = Browns settling for a field goal on their red zone trip in the 1st half, but then going for two when they're down 32 points in the 4th quarter.
I hope Eric Mangini isn't wondering why he no longer has a job.
4. Three Penalties for 25 Yards
5. Leftwich Sacked on His 1st Play
Things That Were Slightly Less Awesome Than The Things That Were Not Awesome:
1. Matt Roth Shoving Trai Essex In The Back Like A Little Bitch
Oh, you thought there was more to it?
Yes, I know that image has nothing to do with anything.
I just think it might be counted among my top 10 screen grabs of all time (taken from this video).
Look at that dude's face!
2. Colt McCoy's Helmet Toss
Kid's got a little Tom Brady "fire" in him, huh?
Too bad for the Browns his tantrum seemed like the only Brady-esque quality he had.
By the way, those were McCoy's stats at the half you see up there...
Seems like he tosses a helmet better than he tosses a football, doesn't it?
Colt McCoy, field general.
3. The Browns 3rd Quarter Offense
By my count, 3rd quarter yardage = Steelers 127, Browns 7.
Not even a high enough number for AP style to dictate that I use the numeral instead of the word.
4. Maurkice Pouncey Hurt
WHAT WAS HE DOING STILL IN THE GAME, ANYWAY?
Seriously, though, all signs point to him being fine...so, really, whatevs.
5. Eric Mangini
If that expression doesn't say "I know I'm fired," then this press conference video certainly does...
You said it with your eyes, Eric. You said it with your eyes.
Yinz Luv Da Stillers, the AFC North Champions edition...
Miscellaneous Omitted Things That Were Also Awesome:
1. Doug Legursky at fullback on both Mendenhall touchdowns...
Teach me how to Dougie!
2. Ziggy Hood
Four tackles and a sack...get some.
3. Brett Keisel strip sack
Glorious GIF courtesy of Christmas Ape.
4. HEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAATTTTTTHHHHHH TOUCHDOWN!
5. Hines Treating the End Zone Like His Doormat
5 catches, 45 yards, one TD, 1564 smiles.
And so, we close the book on the 2010 regular season, and crack open the epic novel that is the NFL playoffs.
Enjoy it, Steeler nation.
Next Steelers action = Saturday, January 15 at 4:30 PM EST.
Until then, give us all your "Things That Were Awesome," "Things That Were NOT Awesome," "Things That Were Slightly Less Awesome Than The Things That Were Not Awesome," and/or anything else you've got in the comments.
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