Monday, November 18, 2013
Upon Further Review: Steelers Week 11
By Scott Brown
An examination of four hot issues from the Steelers' 37-27 win over the Lions:
Running on empty: The Steelers won for the first time this season when they weren't able to establish the running game and had to depend on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger slinging passes all over the field. The Steelers ran the ball on just 37.5 percent of their snaps. Le'Veon Bell struggled despite a promising start. The rookie gashed the Lions for 13 yards on the Steelers' first offensive play of the game. He gained only 23 yards on 17 carries the rest of the way, and Jonathan Dwyer hardly played until late in the game. It was puzzling that the player coach Mike Tomlin called a "spark plug" last week didn't get some carries earlier in the game. Dwyer is averaging 4.6 yards per carry this season while Bell is averaging a pedestrian 3.1 yards per tote.
Old reliable: Jerricho Cotchery's 20-yard touchdown catch sealed the Steelers' win and also established a new career high for scoring catches in a season (seven) by the 10-year veteran. Roethlisberger often talks about how much he trusts Cotchery, and free safety Ryan Clark added his own unique spin on what makes the player known as "J Co" to his teammates so valuable. "Sometimes they have Ferraris out there and sometimes you've got some Bentleys," Clark said of wide receivers in general. "Jerricho is a conversion van. He's always going to be there. He's going to tote the family well. He's going to be safe. He makes every catch he's supposed to and makes all the plays he should make. He's an awesome player. He's underrated in this league but he's eating people up in the slot."
Bouncing back: Ike Taylor looked completely overmatched in the second quarter when he gave up a pair of touchdown passes to Calvin Johnson and dropped an easy interception. The veteran cornerback looked like he needed extra help with Johnson. It turned out he just needed to get to the locker room to regroup along with the rest of the Steelers defense. Both were considerably better in the second half as Johnson did not catch any of the three passes that Matthew Stafford threw to him in the half. "We weren't drawing up anything different," strong safety Troy Polamalu said when asked about the adjustments the defense made at halftime. "We just needed to do our job better. It wasn't just Ike who gave up those plays. There were some broken coverages." Said Taylor: "We stuck with [the game plan]. It's not how you start. It's how you finish."
Injury update: The Steelers came out of the game in pretty good shape on the injury front. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders left the game in the second quarter with a foot injury and didn't return. But Sanders indicated that the injury wasn't serious and said he did not need to get an MRI on his foot. He said the Steelers held him out of the game in part because they didn't want him making the foot worse on the wet field. "I could have went back in," Sanders said. Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester sustained a hamstring injury in the game.