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September 12, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode
Bleeding Black and Gold: Pittsburgh 15, Atlanta 9
A LITTLE EXTRA
Steelers’ cautious plan pays off
with Mendenahall’s overtime dash
First quarter: Pittsburgh 3, Atlanta 0
> We’re not even going to get into the substance of Terry Bradshaw’s criticism of Ben Roethlisberger. It’s been done, redone and overdone (although we understand why Fox did it again). However, Bradshaw’s words drip with such personal rancor that it’s hard to even listen.
> Trai Essex gets away with a massive hold on the Steelers’ first third-down conversion.
> Good replay from Fox showing Antwan Randle-El open for a first down on Dennis Dixon’s first scramble.
> Jeff Reed. Contract year. Enough said.
> Sometimes we think all the conservative playcalling done with young quarterbacks only makes an already nervous player more nervous because it results in so many third downs.
> What a sack by LaMarr Woodley while being blatantly held.
> Terrible punt (low and short) by Daniel Sepulveda sets the Falcons up nicely.
Second quarter: Pittsburgh 3, Atlanta 3
> Aaron Smith is occupying two Falcons on every running play. Not surprisingly, Falcons are not running the ball effectively.
> Terrible decision by Falcon punt returner Eric Weems to fair catch a ball at his own 28. His team has spent the last 10 minutes methodically turning field position and he’d have hit the 40 before he encountered a Steelers player.
> Dixon, who was treated like a scared kid by his coaches for the past hour, now looks like a scared kid. Seriously, if that’s your offensive game plan, why play Dixon?
> The spot on Mike Wallace’s first-down catch in the final minute was comically bad (but it’s nice when that kind of thing benefits your team).
> Of course, things evened out when there was no booth review of a very borderline catch by Weems that set the Falcons up for the tying field goal.
> Dixon, obviously, is not seeing the field very well.
Third quarter: Pittsburgh 6, Atlanta 6
> Laura Okim, that is some bad wig.
> Weems credited for a 9-yard catch on Falcons first drive where he had ZERO (first foot picked up before he caught the ball, second foot toe on the line) feet in bounds.
> By all accounts, Casey Hampton reported to camp this year in the best shape of his career … and got hurt in the first game of the regular season.
> Famed NFL photographer Dennis “Pow Pow” Pawlikowski gets some great face time just after the Falcons’ first second-half kickoff. Also, good visuals of his cutting-edge equipment.
> Flozell Adams saves his first false start of the year (he led the league last year) to move the Steelers out of field goal range, but a sweet play by Dixon and Hines Ward saves the day.
> Max Starks out and based on the hobble it’s at least four weeks.
> To be fair, Sepulveda has hit two good punts since his early terrible one.
> Jim Mora’s fake enthusiasm seems just so, so, so … fake.
Fourth quarter: Steelers 12, Falcons 12
> Bill Gay. C’mon man!
> The Steelers have played this game to be a final-possession outcome since the first snap and it looks like they’ll be getting their wish.
> We hate to see a coach HAVE to waste a challenge flag on an obvious call, even if it’s the opposing coach. And even as the Fox crew is praising Referee Scott Green for not blowing his whistle, no one is mentioning that the Falcons had to waste a challenge on a play that was nowhere near borderline.
> Wow, we hate to see a coach not be able to use a challenge when an NFL refereeing crew misses a critical spot by two full yards. That’s a rule (can’t challenge a spot if a first down is not in question) that has to be changed and there’s a textbook example of why.
> Idiotic timeout called by the Steelers to save five seconds! You know we love Mike Tomlin, just not on game day. The stupidity is sufficiently rewarded with a sack of Dixon.
> Mr. Sepulveda, all is forgiven.
> Troy Polamalu makes a lot of athletic plays, but that was a smart play.
> Apparently, the fact that Jeff Reed is on one of our fantasy teams overrode the contract-year corollary.
Overtime: Pittsburgh 15, Atlanta 9
> This is a broken record, but if THAT was holding on Sam Baker then James Harrison gets held 15 times a game. Of course, he does.
> Nice job by Rashard Mendenhall not falling down and causing multiple heart attacks in the Greater Pittsburgh area.
> Honestly, an excellent job by the Fox announcers in overtime, picking up on all the important issues (the hold on the kickoff, the Falcons stacking the box) quickly.
The final word:
> The Steelers coaching staff played that game for a final-play outcome from the first snap and it’s the kind of game that creates a lot of momentum if you win and a lot of bad juju if you lose. Luckily, for Mike Tomlin and Co. the officials decided to see two critical holding penalties in overtime that really occur on every kick return and every third-down passing play. As expected, the Steelers defense was dramatically improved with the return of Mssrs. Smith and Polamalu, but the big story was the play of corners Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden, who were nails against one of the better passing attacks in the league. Dennis Dixon certainly looked better in the second half and that’s something to build on as the team is halfway to the requisite 2-2 start they’ll need (is that redundant?) to remain in the hunt when #7 returns. Of the injuries, Max Starks’ ankle is the bigger concern, although a hamstring injury on a nose tackle can linger a l-o-n-g time.