The Steelers were so widely expected to lambast the Lions that it’s almost as if the game wasn’t even being played.
And so the efforts of the defending Super Bowl champs to get back on the right side of .500 were largely overlooked and ignored beyond the walls of Ford Field, even though the game was far closer than it should have been.
Indeed, with time running out the Lions had the ball and a chance to force overtime. It wasn’t until the Pittsburgh defense came up with three straight sacks (with 1.5 coming from blitzing cornerback William Gay) that the win was secured, and so there will be renewed questions as to whether the Steelers are ready to contend with the likes of the Vikings, Broncos, Bengals, and Ravens.
Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called out the coaching staff for the closer-than-expected result. “The insistence on throwing the ball with a 15-point lead in the fourth
quarter led to three sacks and only 18 plays in the second half,” Dulac writes. “[Rashard] Mendenhall had only six carries in the second half.”
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who has been heavily criticized for abandoning the run, admits that he “got too greedy” with decision to throw so much.
The candor is refreshing, but if Arians keeps it up he’ll soon be using last year’s Super Bowl win as the top item on the latest version of his resume.
For the Lions, who are still basking in the two-week-old glow of their lone win since December 2007, it was encouraging to stay within a touchdown and a two-point conversion of the Steelers.
“We’re fighting, man,” right guard Stephen Peterman said Sunday. “We’re getting
this thing turned around. Last year at this time, we wouldn’t have even
been in these games. Guys are fighting. Guys really care. It’s not
going to be long before we go on a roll here.”
The near-miss came without rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford. His replacement, Daunte Culpepper, who nearly signed with the Steelers during the 2008 preseason, completed 23 of 37 passes for 287 yards. He also showed off his slimmed-down frame by gaining 44 yards on three runs, which conjured memories of his best days from earlier in the decade.
And the folks in Detroit should thank thousands of Steelers fans for making the game available on local television. Per the Post-Gazette, half the crowd consisted of Pittsburgh partisans.
Receiver Hines Ward pegged the pro-Pittsburgh presence at an even higher percentage.
“We’re Steeler Nation,” Ward said. “Wherever we travel, we travel well.
Playing in the Super Bowl here brought back a lot of memories. We had
just as many fans as we did back then, so that’s what we love about
playing for this organization.”
The Steelers get two chances to play before fans who won’t have to travel before their bye, and a 5-2 record at the break would be a welcome change from that 1-2 start.