If you take the aggravation of having to watch Rex Ryan and his smug, flabby, over-exposed face in a victorious press conference out of the equation, I would have a hard time caring terribly much that the Steelers lost on Sunday to a desperate Jets team. The game was entertaining, and the play of the offensive line, Rashard Mendenhall, Emanuel Sanders, and the Polamalu-less defense was largely encouraging. It also doesn't really matter that we lost. We're not catching New England for the number 1 seed in the AFC. And if the Steelers beat Carolina at home and the Browns in Cleveland to close out the season, the number 2 seed is ours. That's going to happen. If it doesn't, well, it wouldn't make too much sense to get worked up about the Jets then anyway. Today I'm focusing on some of the positives, because there are a number of them.
- Ben Roethlisberger couldn't make the final play on Sunday, but who would you rather have with the ball in his hands when your team is on its own 8-yard line, with two minutes left and one timeout? It's just uncanny the way he can make clutch throws time and again in circumstances like this. After the 3rd and 24 completion to Emanuel Sanders, who didn't think the Steelers were winning that game? Like him or not (and, um, why would you like him), as we've said before, he's the John Elway of this generation. In the playoffs, he finds Sanders at the back of the end zone with no time on the clock.
- We take a lot of shots at them nearly every week, but the offensive line was nothing short of outstanding for much of the game. Those guys kept Roethlisberger almost completely clean, and they knocked the Jets defense back on a number of Mendenhall runs. If Ben hadn't been off early in the game, they probably would have gotten the game ball in a game the Steelers should have won. I don't know what happened on the Jason Taylor safety; it could have been a missed assignment, but it could have just been a terrible play call (with a guard pulling, leaving a gap for Taylor to shoot through) from the two-yard line. I'm sure Mike Tomlin will explain it on Monday. But we shouldn't lose sight of how well they played for most of the game, even with Jonathan Scott's backup in the game for the final offensive series. Let that one sink in. We drove the ball 82 yards with Jonathan Scott's backup protecting the quarterback's blind side.
- Mendenhall was terrific. That spring step he had going to bounce runs to the outside is the kind of thing that separates good from great backs in the NFL. I cannot understand why he's not getting the ball at least 20 times every game.
- Lest you find yourself rolling your eyes at my rose-colored ramblings, Finesse weighs in from Italy with the following: "I watched most of the game. We are pretenders. Super bowl caliber teams don't lose home games like that in 'December football' as a certain coach is fond of saying."
- I counted more holding penalties by Jets defensive backs than Antonio Cromartie has children. OK, maybe not that many.
- The officiating was horrendous for reasons beyond the holding going on in the secondary. I don't understand the unnecessary roughness call on Ryan Clark, and apparently, neither does Phil Simms. Simms opined that "It's maybe not a foul in the sense of the word," but you still have to throw the flag there. OK. Right.
- Jets punter Steve Weatherford showed just how important a punter can be when you're trying to unleash hell in December. Nothing against that guy Jeremy, but we're going to continue to feel the absence of Daniel Sepulveda.
Big week ahead. Put this one to bed.