Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers

The Steelers won the game last week against the rival Browns but certainly came out pretty
​banged up with all the injuries they suffered. Now they need to fly across the country and play
​against a 49er team that is pretty darn good and has a lot to play for. While the Steelers are
​playing for the AFC North and a possible first round bye, the 49ers have clinched their division
​but are fighting for the 2nd seed in the NFC and need a win to keep pace. When the schedule
​came out, we didn’t suspect this game would be difficult but as it turns out, it’s Monday Night
​worthy and then some. The 49ers have a strong D and a great running game, almost molded
​after the Steelers of old. They can be physical and gave the Ravens a pretty good fight in their
​matchup as well. We think this one is going to be a defensive battle and a battle of wills.
​Whoever is the most physical will probably win this game.

Here are the keys to the game for a Steelers victory:
-The Steelers will need to overcome the many injuries they are suffering and the suspension of James Harrison. We already know James Harrison is out which is a tough blow in a game like this but we believe LaMar Woodley will be back and will need to be the leader of the pass rush. We all know Ben and Pouncey are suffering high ankles injuries but Ben has proven he can play through just about anything. They’ll also have to overcome a hamstring issue for Polamalu and a groin for Hood. Whether these guys play or the guys behind them do, the team must prevail and fall in line with the Mike Tomlin’s catch phrase: “The Standard is the Standard”.

-The Steelers need to stop Frank Gore. He’s a top back in this league. He can break the long runs and he runs with power. While Alex Smith has been efficient this year, the black and gold would much rather make him beat them rather than give in to Gore.

-In a game that is expected to be close the Steelers absolutely need to not turn the ball over and really need to watch the penalties. They had nearly 100 yards in penalties last week and against a good team like San Fran, that will kill you. The offensive line had several false start and holding calls against them, which can NOT happen this week.

-We are working on the assumption that Big Ben is going to play and if that’s true, the O Line must protect him now more than ever. He’s playing on a bum wheel and the Steelers can’t afford to have him go down as we all got a glimpse into the Charlie Batch experiment last week. If he plays, the Steelers lose.
A few things to watch for this week:
-Big Ben-He’s in all likelihood going to play. Last week, immediately following the injury all he did was throw for 178 second half yards. What will he do this week and will he be able to extend plays like he normally does? That’s a big part of his game.

-Mike Wallace-He’s been held in check the last few weeks and we are looking for a breakout game from him. He’s as good as they get but we want him to show up with one of those 7 catch 125 yard, 2TD games again.

-Hines Ward-The countdown to 1,000 receptions is still on. He needs 9 catches with 3 games to play. He only had 1 catch last week and obviously needs to average 3 a game the rest of the way. Going into last week we thought it was a lock he’d get it, but if he doesn’t get at least 2 catches this week, we fear it may not happen.

-The Running backs-they worked pretty hard last week, especially after Ben got hurt and a lot will be on their shoulders again this week if Ben is limping around. They will need average 4 yards a carry and possibly total 125-150 yards or the game.

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Turnovers, Penalties and Playing With Injuries Cost Steelers In a Big Way

On a night that saw the Steelers game delayed at the start by 20 minutes due to a power outage and then another delay for 16 minutes due to another powers outage in the 2nd quarter, the Steelers offense suffered a power outage as well. After the Ravens lost their game last night at San Diego, the Steelers were given the opportunity to control their own destiny. If they had been able to win tonight and win the final two weeks against the Rams and Browns, they’d win the division and gain the top seed in the AFC meaning they’d only have to play two games, at home, to get to the Super Bowl. Now, after this horrific outing, they are staring at the 5th seed in the AFC and 3 road games if they want to return to the Super Bowl. That’s not set in stone, but the cement is drying on that outcome.

This wasn’t the night that anyone in the Steel Nation was hoping for. We all knew Big Ben was going to play on his injured ankle, but we didn’t expect he’d look as bad as he did. He tossed 3 interceptions and added a fumble as well. While he did throw for 330 yards, he didn’t look good in doing it. We’re not knocking the guy, he has the heart of a lion just going out there and playing on that ankle. The same injury kept the Steelers All Pro center Maurkice Pouncey out of this game. However, you could tell the injury was affecting the way Roethlisberger was throwing the ball and clearly his ability to extend plays. He didn’t have the same power or spin on his ball and he never really was able to escape any pressure put on him by the 49er defense. The offensive line failed him as well. In a game that they truly needed to step up and protect their leader, keep him from getting hit and hurried they failed. The O line gave up 3 sacks and 8 QB hits on their Super Star QB. That’s unacceptable. The fact they couldn’t come through is disturbing. Max Starks was beat all night long and looked old and slow. They just didn’t bring it tonight.

In our Game Day preview we stated the Steelers had to limit the mistakes, including turnovers and penalties. They didn’t do that tonight. We mentioned the four turnovers by Roethlisberger, the first interception he threw set the tone for the night. The Steelers were moving the ball on the opening drive of the game and got it into the Red Zone and Ben tossed a pick at the goal line. The Niners never looked back converting 4 turnovers into 13 points. The team also added 9 penalties costing themselves 72 yards. You can NOT do that against good teams and the 49ers made them pay.

The lone bright spot on offense tonight was Rashard Menden​hall, he quietly ran for 64 yards on 15 carries, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. That’s a good sign an something we haven’t seen too often this year out of him.

Defensively the team was led by Troy Polamalu he seemingly was in on every play. He had a team high 7 tackles and was everywhere. Other than that, while they held the Niners in check most of the night, they finally wore down and gave up 20 points. They were unable to get a single sack and once again came out of a game without causing a turnover. Possibly the worst news coming out of the defensive side of the ball was LaMarr Woodley leaving the game again with a hamstring injury. The team is going to need him for the playoffs and we hope he can rest it before then.

The Steelers need to regroup quickly as they have a short week and ‘trap’ game ahead on Saturday against the Rams. The black and gold needs to go out there and take care of their business and that’s all they can do. If the Ravens slip up somewhere in the final two weeks, then so be it, but for now the Steelers just need to win their games and get healthy in time for the playoffs, not worrying about seeding at this point. Blowing this opportunity tonight really put the first nail in that division coffin.

10-4, up next Vs. St. Louis, 2-12

This week’s News, Notes, Comments and Superlatives:
-Star of the Game: None-how can there be in a loss?
-The team should Cut: Shaun Suisham-No, his missed FG didn’t cost them this week, but he’s been far too inconsistent this year. At the very least, try some kickers out and make the guy think a little.
-Bryant McFadden: He is irrelevant, when’s the last time you’ve even seen him out there? He’s taking up a roster spot at this point. Get rid of him.

News: LaMarr Woodley, Ryan Clark and Mewelde Moore all suffered injuries, the extent of which will be determined in the next couple of days.

Notes: Hines Ward came into the game needing 9 receptions to reach 1,000 career. He left the game needing 9 catches. We think he can possibly do it, but it’s looking bleak.

Comments: Mike Tomlin should not have permitted Big Ben to play once they were down 17 points with 9 minutes to go. He was risking further injury to that ankle and it made absolutely no sense for him to be out there.

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Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

The Steelers approach their final regular season game with the knowledge that they are in the playoffs already. This game still has meaning however as with a little help from the Bengals, the Steelers still have a shot at the AFC North title and a first round playoff bye, coupled with a Steeler victory of course. One of the big questions here is, how will the Steelers approach this game? We all are very familiar with their various injuries on both sides of the ball to some very key players. Do they rest those guys or do they play them for a portion of the game? The biggest question surrounds Big Ben. He’s got the ankle injury that absolutely has to be healthy for the playoffs but at the same time he didn’t play last week and you’d like to see him get a few reps in so as not to have a rusty arm headed into the playoffs either. The Browns are not a good team, but they always seem to get up for the Steelers games. When these teams faced off a few weeks back, the Steelers pulled out the win 14-3. These teams have some bad blood between them and this could be a closer game and more physical game than any of us Steeler fans are looking for.

Here are the keys to the game for a Steelers victory:
- The Steelers need to run the ball effectively. We asked for it last week out of Mendenhall and he delivered. We’ll ask for it again this week out of the running back corps. We’d like to see 150 rushing yards collectively. The Steelers will either be playing Charlie Batch at QB or a still healing Big Ben, running will be important to protect either of those guys from having to throw too often.

- Peyton Hillis has been heating up for the Browns lately and this is his last game before he becomes a free agent. He’ll have a lot to prove and the Steelers will need to stop him as he’s a power runner. The statistics don’t always show reality. Yes, the Steelers have a top rated defense but they have been prone to give up a lot of rushing yards against some good backs this year. Stopping Hillis is key.

- The Steelers cannot allow the big plays. Just because they are better than the Browns they can’t play over aggressively and allow some deep plays that allow the Browns to move the ball downfield. 

- The Steelers don’t want to let the Browns hang around. Last time these teams met the Browns were in it the entire game. The Steelers need to score early and put them away, allowing the starters to rest and get ready for the playoffs. 
A few things to watch for this week:
- James Harrison-Remember the last time these teams played Harrison laid out Colt McCoy and was promptly suspended the following week. Harrison has a history of lighting up the Browns and getting fines and now a suspension. How will he approach this game?

​- Rashard Mendenhall-He ran the ball really well last week and may finally be hitting his stride at the right time of the season. Let’s see how effectively he can run the ball this week in the final game before the playoffs.

​- Hines Ward-The countdown to 1,000 receptions is still on and this may be his final opportunity in a Steeler uniform to do it! Hines needs 5 catches this week to reach 1,000 for his career. We suspect the Steelers will focus on getting him those catches at some point during this game.

​- The Red Zone offense- Last week it was pretty solid but the previous weeks leading up to it they have struggled to put up points and had even been turning the ball over in the red zone. That’s not acceptable and this is a good game to get that straight moving towards the post season.

To become a part of the Steel Nation Association and help out Children’s Hospital, please visit us at www.steelnationassociation.com and sign up today! All Steeler fans are encouraged and welcome to join!