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Lawrence Timmons Saves Steelers from Nightmare Loss, Pittsburgh Holds Breath on Big Ben’s Shoulder

Posted By Rob Stroup On Nov 13 2012 @ 12:36 pm In Pittsburgh Steelers | No Comments

Sometimes the result of the game is overshadowed by circumstances.  That was certainly true Monday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) squeaked by the Kansas City Chiefs (1-8) with a 16-13 overtime victory.  The big story, of course, is Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder injury.  Roethlisberger and his very pregnant wife left the stadium to go to a local hospital for an MRI after initial tests were done at Heinz Field.  As of Tuesday morning, there are unconfirmed reports that Big Ben’s shoulder injury was serious and will likely cause him to miss playing time.

Kansas Citymay be a hapless team, but they opened up scoring Monday night with a methodical touchdown drive punctuated by a 12-yard Jamaal Charles touchdown run – their first lead during a 2012 game all year!  They then took advantage of an Isaac Redman fumble deep in Steeler territory to jump out to a 10-0 lead. Pittsburgh gathered themselves and scored the last ten points of the quarter to tie the game by halftime, aided by two Kansas City special teams gaffes.  First, Ryan Succop kicked off out of bounds, which set up Pittsburgh at their own 40-yard line.  Then, following Pittsburgh’s first score, Shaun Draughn fumbled the kickoff return and was tackled inside his own 10-yard line to place the Chief offense in a precarious position to start its next drive. Pittsburgh took another short field on its next possession to score its lone touchdown.

There was a sense that the Steelers would run away in the second half with the offense finding its stride, and the defense putting the clamps on Matt Cassel and company – that is, until Roethlisberger’s right shoulder was pounded and driven into the ground by Justin Houston’s helmet with 13:40 to go in the third quarter.

Following that point, each team struggled to mount any kind of offense.  When the Chiefs were set up to score, they got in their own way with senseless penalties, dropped passes, and missed throws, along with some questionable officiating that appeared to benefit Pittsburgh.

Early in the third quarter, Matt Cassel hit Dwayne Bowe on a 22-yard pass where the receiver eluded tacklers and ran into the end zone, taunting the Steeler DB as he crossed the goal line (which was not called).  However, the Chiefs’ left tackle was dubiously flagged for holding downfield.  Three short plays later, Succop missed a 33-yard field goal to the right.  It could have been Chiefs 17-10, or 13-10.  But, the score remained 10-10 thanks to Kansas City’s inability to capitalize in the red zone.

Byron Leftwich, who filled in for Roethlisberger, squeezed the ball as his arm came forward in an attempt to maintain possession.  The pigskin squirted free and was scooped up by Justin Houston for a 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown and what would have been a 17-10 lead.  The replay officials correctly overturned the call and ruled that it was an incomplete pass (unlike last week against the Giants).  To pour some salt in the wound for the Chiefs, they made the horrific mistake of having a group celebration in the end zone, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty.  So, instead of Pittsburgh facing a 4th down and 8 in an obvious punt situation, the Steelers were awarded a first down thanks to this mind-numbingly stupid penalty.

Fortunately for the hometown team, Pittsburgh mounted enough offense (once again, thanks to KC penalties, including a dumb head-to-head shot by Tamba Hali on Leftwich) to plod down into field goal range and allow Shaun Suisham to take the lead on the strength of his right leg, 13-10 early in the 4th quarter.  That lead looked as though it would hold up.  However, the Steelers wound up a few inches short on their third down run and were forced to punt at the two-minute warning..  Kansas City, which had exhausted all of their time outs, moved from their own 20 to their 45 before the drive appeared to stall.  All of a sudden, on 4th and 15, Matt Cassel found Dwayne Bowe on a deep in route to gain 27 yards and set up Succop’s 46-yard field goal attempt.  Succop drove the ball low and it hugged the inside of the right goalpost to improbably tie Pittsburgh at the end of regulation, 13-13.

Kansas City won the toss and elected to receive.  After a two-yard Jamaal Charles run, Cassel did not read the coverage properly on a curl route and threw into a layered coverage.  Lawrence Timmons leapt to get both paws on the ball at the KC 28-yard line, then weaved through Chief would-be tacklers to get all the way down to the Chiefs 5.  Mike Tomlin did not waste any time and brought Shaun Suisham onto the field for the game-winning 22 field goal.  That was curtains on the Kansas City upset bid, but served as a reminder that any team can jump up and surprise you in any given week. Pittsburgh won the contest 16-13, but potentially at a severe cost.

The silent story before this game was that Ben Roethlisberger could have missed next week’s game against Baltimore due to the impending birth of his son.  He may miss next week now due to a multitude of reasons.  There is potential that Big Ben could be out for a lengthier period of time, depending on the severity of his shoulder injury.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Winners

Lawrence Timmons – his omnipresence at Heinz Field on Monday night saved the Steelers.  He flew all over the place, disrupting short pass plays, providing excellent run support, and none more important than his fantastic interception of Cassel in overtime.

The Beard Is Back – Brett Keisel had a slow start to his season, but had a fantastic night including two sacks, four hurries, and eight tackles.

Wallace Redemption – in the second quarter, Roethlisberger went deep with a pass that glanced off the hands of Mike Wallace.  It would have been a great 44-yard TD reception, but one that could have been caught.  The circus catch in the right corner of the end zone that tied the score at 10 was one that you need to see to believe [1] – a one-handed haul, followed by a squeeze of the ball with his knees, then control the ball before sliding onto the chalk.  Utterly astounding.

Pass Coverage – In general, the secondary played very well, limiting Cassel to 11 of 26 for 154 yards (65 of those yards occurred on two pivotal plays).

Losers

Big Ben’s shoulder – Of course, this is the preeminent concern for Steeler Nation.  Only time will tell how many snaps the franchise QB will miss.  Jay Cutler, Michael Vick, and Alex Smith all left with concussions and none of those teams came out of their games with victories (Chicago and Philly lost, San Fran tied).  At least Pittsburgh won…

Pittsburgh’s backup situation – Byron Leftwich’s slow delivery does not mesh well with the Todd Haley quick strike offense.  “After four or five plays, it was like riding a bike,” Leftwich said. “I took a few hits. I hadn’t hit the ground in awhile. It was a whole lot of things I hadn’t done in awhile. It was good.”  If Leftwich’s play is like riding a bike, I’d rather trust my eight-year old.

Ryan Clark – when he leads with his head, he either gets penalties (warranted or not) or gets hurt.  Tonight was no exception when he drilled Bowe with his head to Bowe’s waist on KC’s final drive in regulation. Clark left with a concussion, and his status for next week is unknown.

Cursing Referees – Have you ever heard a player penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for cursing a referee?  Well, guard Willie Colon now has that ignominious distinction.  I’ve watched football fairly religiously for over 30 years and I’ve never heard that call by an official.

Running Game – In a game where Pittsburgh desperately needed its ground game to step up to cover for its backup quarterback deficiencies, 3.3 yards per carry was unacceptable.  Redman’s fumble when fighting for more mere inches set up a Kansas Cityfield goal in the 2nd quarter.

Keenan Lewis – He bit on a play action fake that allowed Tony Moeaki to get wide open for a 38-yard pass play. Clarkalso missed a tackle on the play.  Thankfully, Lewis hustled downfield to tackle Moeaki after the deep completion.  (It brought back visions of Stan Humphries to Alfred Pupunu, getting behind Tim McKyer in the 1994 AFC Championship game)

James Harrison – It is obvious that Harrison is still not medically right.  The question is…will he ever be?  His ability to rush off the edge is renowned because of the amount of torque he can use to leverage larger offensive linemen.  #92 was seen rushing the passer up the middle between the tackles, certainly not something he would do if he could get around the tackles with ferocity.

Ziggy Hood / Al Woods – John Gruden correctly pointed out that the Chiefs were attacking the left side of Pittsburgh’s defensive line.  Hood was getting dominated for the first half of the game.  When Al Woods made a brief appearance, the runs continued.  Hood returned after a few snaps and appeared to take his benching to heart with more inspired play.

Lord Byron, Part Two – Did anyone else think that Leftwich landed hard on the back of his helmet when his legs were upended (in his first series)?  He looked woozy, and I would not have been surprised if he experienced concussion-like symptoms.  The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that this was swept under the rug due to the dearth of healthy QBs on the Steeler sideline (Ben – shoulder, Byron – possible head, Charlie Batch – inactive).  I don’t even know who the emergency quarterback would have been.

Outside the Lines

Pittsburgh rookie defensive lineman and former fourth round pick, Alameda Ta’amu, was released prior to Monday’s game to sign wide receiver / return man David Gilreath from the practice squad.  Ta’amou’s recent DUI arrest appeared to be behind him when he was reinstated by the team following a two-week suspension.  Apparently not…  If Ta’amu clears waivers, he could return to the Steelers’ practice squad.

Next up?

Baltimore in another primetime performance on Sunday night.  Ben Roethlisberger has shown his warrior mentality time and time again, so do not be shocked if #7 is back in the saddle if it’s humanly possible.  If he is unable to give it a go, let’s hope that the “new Ben” (post-Milledgeville) is a better teammate than the last time he missed a Ravens / Steelers game due to injury.  When Ben heard that he was going to be held out for a concussion back in 2009, he snickered and told the guys “Good luck,” sarcastically because Dennis Dixon was taking the reins for that game. (Pittsburgh lost in overtime thanks to a Dixon interception)

“As soon as that field goal goes through there, it’s Baltimore Time,” linebacker Larry Foote said.  And so it is…let Baltimore week begin.

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[1] The circus catch in the right corner of the end zone that tied the score at 10 was one that you need to see to believe: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vNR8U-bJtI

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