I am not one for conspiracy theories (although the refs last night had me screaming, “the fix is in’!), so allow me to take off my tin foil hat and recap this game.
How often does a team lose the turnover battle and commit 119 yards in penalties and still win the game? Not often, but the Steelers were absolutely dominating the Giants in all 3 phases so it didn’t matter how many penalties or turnovers they had. Outside one bad interception, Big Ben played a great game. He converted on 3rd downs, bought time in the pocket, and was accurate most of the night. Elite quarterbacks make plays when their team needs them to and that is exactly what Ben did on Sunday.
The offensive line was stellar in run blocking yesterday and was opening up holes for Isaac Redman throughout the game. In terms of pass protection, they definitely left something to be desired. Mike Adams had a really tough assignment and had some good snaps and some bad snaps, which is to be expected from a rookie that is still developing.
Isaac Redman is just a bad bad man. He was getting tough yards up the middle, refused to go down after contact, and sealed the game with his big run late in the game. The Steelers have a good problem to have; they have great options at the Running back position. However, Chris Rainey got hurt as well as Antonio Brown so that leaves the wide receiver position thin at the moment since they use Rainey as an emergency 5th WR.
Mike Wallace is an unnatural human being. He turned a 4-yard crossing route into a 51-yard touchdown. Despite the defensive backs taking the correct angle on the play, he just simply outran them. That touchdown changed the complexion of this game and acted as a catalyst for the rest of the team. Not to mention Chris Rainey and Emmanuel Sanders absolutely dominated in their punt/kick off duties. It won’t be long until one of these hits pay dirt.
This offense is going to be tough to beat when it is firing on all cylinders.
Despite numerous pass interference calls (some warranted, others not), the secondary really had a good game. Ike Taylor had an interception and Keenan Lewis is improving every game. So even though the pass-rush was not hitting home the Steelers held Eli Manning to 125 yards for the entire game.
The pass-rush was there when the Steelers needed it. Both Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley had timely sacks on Eli Manning. Not to mention the front 7 did an exceptional job against the run game and limited New York to 68 yards on 22 carries.
The refs made this game closer than it actually should have been. The “Helmet-to-Helmet” hit by Ryan Clark on Victor Cruz was grade A malarkey. He led with his shoulder and hit him in the ribs. It was a perfect example of a textbook tackle. This penalty gave the Giants a fresh set of downs and ultimately they punched it in for the score. Then there was the absolutely questionable pass interference call on Keenan Lewis. It was good coverage, end of story. The problem is lack of consistency on the referees’ part. If the calls went the same way every time, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with it.
Overall, the defense delivered when the team needed it the most, especially in the 4th quarter when they forced the Giants into a three and out on their final possession.
Things to work on next week:
I would mention the penalties here but I think this game was an aberration rather than the mean. The refs had a lot to do with the penalty yards for the Steelers. I caution you to reserve your judgement until next week when the Steelers play Kansas City.
Hindsight of course is 20/20; would I have called a fake field goal for Suisham to try and get the first down with his legs? No, probably not. Who knows whether the Steelers would have won the game if we had kicked the field goal. What is really important is that Tomlin trusted his defense to get a key stop if the play failed. 3 weeks ago, the same could not be said of this defense.
Pittsburgh is playing a brand of physical football that hasn’t been seen from them thus far. They are imposing their will on their opponents and overcoming adversity. That’s what good teams do; they overcome bad referring, bad coaching, turnovers, and penalties to win games.