Not a flawless effort for sure tonight, but a good win nonetheless. One more win in week 17 against the Browns and they clinch the #2 seed. The game was over pretty quick in my opinion.
The Panthers were really trying to take Mike Wallace with underneath and over the top help. The quick hot slant to him for the touchdown along with Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller getting targets helped loosen up another couple of catches for Wallace.
Miller really made a difference at tight end and had a ton of room to work like I thought he would. 5 catches for 73 yards is not too shabby. They will need him in the playoffs for sure. it is good to see him back and the field and the rest was what he needed.
Very fun to watch the development of Sanders this year. He seems to be way ahead of schedule right now. He seems to understand the speed of the game and really runs great routes and can stick his foot in the ground. It was a shame he did not get that TD, but his endzone days are coming.
Antonio Brown made some mistakes in the punt return game and was scolded a few times it seemed for it. He wants to make a play so bad, it seems to cloud is judgment and in-game smartness. Coaching staff stayed with him with the game in hand. I worry less about him as a 4th or 5th receiver right now than I do him making a mistake in the return game.
Ryan Mundy played good again in relief of Troy Polamalu but was not without some fault on a few coverages. He is not Polamalu, but is serviceable in a pinch. I expect him to start again against the Browns. We will see if Troy works next week and is ready.
The offensive line was less than stellar but had their moments. Jonathan Scott had a God awful start and was yanked briefly for Trai Essex while he got an earful from offensive line coach Sean Kugler on the sideline. He returned to play the rest of the snaps it seemed. The film will not lie, but I think the interior line played better than the tackles tonight. Once the game was in well in hand, Flozell Adams effort went down.
Rashard Mendenhall ran hard, especially on the first run of his that went for 35 yards. Mewelde Moore was pedestrian and Isaac Redman ran hard, but that one fumble is likely from a lack of reps in practice with Ben Roethlisberger. I am not THAT concerned about it. Push come to shove, I think Red can carry the load if forced to.
Bryant McFadden had a solid game tonight and I have defended him since week 1 against the Falcons. He plays the position off quite a bit by design. He is not a shutdown corner, but a corner that knows the defense and is a sure handed tackler. He made a splash play tonight with the interception. I like how Ike Taylor is following the number one across the field instead of playing zone. It has been working well the last few games. He took Steve Smith out of the game easily.
The turnovers need to stop, regardless. They were not killers, but could be in the playoffs.
You knew a Shaun Suisham miss was coming, I noted this in a podcast. How he responds going forward is the key. Punter Jeremy Kapinos shows why he was on the street. I suspect they might have some other guys come work on Tuesday just in case. He saved a little face with the 52 yarder. I am not so sure Kapinos did not get the ball down cleanly on the Suisham miss either, but I will look closer next time through the replay.
I liked the play call on the 4th down and short in the redzone. I think the spot was very bad and thought Mendenhall had the 1st down. Doug Legursky was violent in the redzone as a fullback and really cracking heads. I am glad they stayed dedicated to punching it in on the ground, even if it was Roethlisberger to do it. It really looked like Mendenhall was in on both of his tries, but the officials said no.
I thought Roethlisberger should of thrown the ball away before the half instead of taking the sack. All that said, he sure can extend plays. I think you will see more hurry up in the post season. He runs it well and defenses will be forced to declare earlier what they are doing pre-snap.
I really thought more bodies would of rotated in the 4th quarter. I really only saw Essex spell Adams and Larry Foote spell James Farrior. Speaking of Farrior, I thought he had a rough first series, but recovered nicely.
Is Hines Ward dropping more passes than normal? Sure seems like it. I am not too worried.
Brett Keisel I think had at least one, maybe two pass knock downs again. He is playing very strong and looks well rested. Great pressure since he has returned from his injury. Great to see him and Ziggy Hood get sacks tonight. Also the few sacks I noticed Chris Hoke in on, he did a solid job controlling the gap.
Outside of the first Panthers drive, it is really hard to praise the defense for what really was a mis-match. I expected the dominance tonight. They defended the short field well after the turnover despite the game being in hand.
As far as injuries, Moore and Jason Worilds had knee injuries that I hear required scans. The Steelers have plenty of time to rest up for the Browns who still have to play the Ravens this weekend.
Special teams kick coverages might be a concern. Arnaz Battle was out this week and Worilds went out early. Al Everest needs to get back to tightening the screws on the coverage units.