Going into Sunday's game at Heinz Field, a lot of attention was focused on the reunion of defensive stars James Harrison and Troy Polamalu along with Rashard Mendenhall returning at the top of the roster at running back. The focus during the game went from excitement to tension when Polamalu and linebacker LaMarr Woodley had to leave the field and the defense struggled. Seemingly, the Steelers took a big breath in the huddle to pull off a 64-yard drive during the final 6:33 in the fourth quarter to set up kicker Shaun Suisham for a 34-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 16-14.
Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 21 of 37 passes for 207 yards remained relatively calm under the pressure of another defensive breakdown late in the game. Call him the 'rainmaker' because, even though it did rain throughout the game, Roethlisberger pulled the team together and produced the right plays to take the win and move the Steelers to 2-2 on the season. In the final drive, Roethlisberger completed four of five passes for 50 yards. He also converted two crucial third downs. His ability to get away from pass-rushers helped keep the offense rolling.
Offensively, the Steelers struggled in several aspects. Antonio Brown dropped a pass in the end zone that would have widened the Steelers' lead. Fellow receiver Jerricho Cotchery tripped a mere two yards short of the end zone. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey fired two snaps in the shotgun formation over Roethlisberger's head. In the final drive of the game, Willie Colon backed the Steelers up to their own ten-yard line with a holding call.
The Steelers' running game became more solvent with Rashard Mendenhall on the field. Chris Rainey and Isaac Redman also chewed up important yardage and helped keep the chains moving. Mendenhall scored the only touchdown of the game for Pittsburgh.
Brown led the receivers with seven catches for 86 yards. Tight end Heath Miller proved again why he's such an effective offensive weapon with four receptions for 41 yards.
Defensively, the Steelers have some issues with injuries, but bigger worries about finishing games. Against the Eagles, the top defense in the NFL in 2011 was unable to hold on a third-and-goal and two fourth-down situations. Regardless, the Steelers were able to prevent any big plays by Vick and the Eagles. The longest gain made by the Philadelphia offense was 24 yards.
The defense also forced two fumbles. Linebacker Larry Foote was able to snag onto one of them in the end zone. Ziggy Hood logged one sack as did Jason Worilds and Steve McLendon. Those sacks amounted to a total of seven yards lost, but created turnovers as well. Overall, the sentiment is as linebacker Lawrence Timmons stated, “Our defense stood up today. We really needed this win. A good team is always defined by what they do after losses.”
When the Steelers started the final offensive series of the game, they began at their own 20-yard line before Colon's penalty. Roethlisberger then found Brown for 20 yards on third-and-12. It was Rashard Mendenhall that caught a 15-yard screen pass and moved Pittsburgh into Philadelphia's territory. Two plays later Emmanuel Sanders hooked up with Roethlisberger for an eight-yard gain. The Steelers then rushed five plays in a row to set up the winning kick.
Mendenhall finished the game with 81 rushing yards and a touchdown, also adding 20 receiving yards. When asked about Mendenhall's return to the game, Roethlisberger laughed, “Our savior is back. We've been teasing him all week. It was great to see him out there and he did a great job.”
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick said the loss was “going to burn for a minute.” Vick completed 20 of 30 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns, but gave up costly turnovers. Watching his team trail Pittsburgh for most of the game, Vick put together a 17-play drive for 79 yards at the beginning of the fourth quarter only to see the game slip away.
“[We're] going to need to score more points, going to need to help our defense out a lot more,” Vick said after the game. “And we tried to the best we can. Pittsburgh's a good football team; their record might not have shown it.”
Following Roethlisberger's 25th fourth-quarter comeback of his career, he said, “I always have confidence in myself and the guys that we can do it. It's good to go down[field]. That was everybody on that drive.”
Asked about how he felt, Mendenhall said, “When I stepped out there I knew I would be comfortable. I just wanted to go out there and play the best that I could and I was able to do that.”
In a game that didn't really get going until the second quarter, the Steelers showed that tenacity and determination will have to unify them through the rough times and help them overcome obstacles in order to win.
- TD 5:01 – Mendenhall, 13-yard run (Suisham PAT) PHI- 0 PIT-7
- FG 00:06 – Suisham, 20-yard kick PHI-0 PIT-10
- TD 06:32 – LeSean McCoy, 15-yard pass catch from Vick (Alex Henery PAT) PHI-7 PIT-10
- FG 14:51 – Suisham, 34-yard kick PHI-7 PIT-13
- TD 06:33 – Brent Celek, 2-yard pass catch from Vick (Henery PAT) PHI-14 PIT-13
- FG 00:00 – Suisham, 34-yard kick PHI-14 PIT-16
Mendenhall post-game (ESPN)
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