In January of 2006, Allegheny County decided to leave up it’s Christmas tree but instead of Christmas ornaments, donations of black and gold ornaments were taken and thus the birth of the “terrible tree”. The Steelers went on a streak and ended up with the “one for the thumb”. Like Myron Cope’s Terrible Towel, why mess with something that works. Three years later, Allegheny County will once again bring back the “terrible tree”. Yeah, I know laugh. They laughed at the towel too, when it first came out, even Andy Russell was skeptical, but as the late Myron Cope had pointed out about the towel, there could be magic.
So while Allegheny County made plans for use of their Christmas tree and the Steelers waited to find out who they would be facing in their AFC divisional playoff game, the Steelers players were busy honing their skills, refining them shall we say. This may not be good news for Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers that James Harrison is honing his skills. Last meeting in Pittsburgh, Harrison ended up with one sack, one interception and forced fumble. That sack led to a safety.
Once the Steelers found out who they would meet, they began practice in earnest, the same day that Steelers linebacker James Harrison had become the Associated Press’s Defensive Player of the Year. That was on Monday. Monday was also the first day the Ben Roethlisberger practiced after receiving his concussion during the final game of the season against the Cleveland Browns.
Could this Sundays match up between the Steelers and Chargers at Heinz Field be the same type of game as their first meeting on November 16th? Maybe, maybe not. They’re calling for snow that weekend, it promises to be cold and Chargers will be facing a fired up fan base, and a team that not only has had a chance to heal up and rest, but one that ended it’s last game with a win.
Okay, so the Chargers are on a roll also and fired up with their win over the Colts. However, that win came with a running game by Chargers running back Darren Sproles, Could Sproles run like he did this coming Sunday against the Steelers defense, one that has yet to allow a single 100 yd rusher? It’s possible, but the Steelers defense had a chance to review the Chargers/Colts game film by Monday.
Last match up against the Chargers, the Steelers dominated every aspect of the game except one, scoring. Roethlisberger completed 31 for 41 passes to seven different receivers with no interceptions, despite being sacked four times. Willie Parker ran for 115 yards. The problem was, not only the inability to get it into the end zone, but 13 penalties for 115 yards, one which nullified a Santonio Holmes touchdown. With the exception of that one play, the Chargers red zone defense contained any attempt by the Steelers offense to get the ball in for seven.
Neither quarterback registered a touchdown that day. In fact, the only touchdown came from a 3 yard run by Tomlinson after a defensive pass interference call on Troy Polamalu which set the Chargers up in scoring position. Their only other score was on Nate Kaeding field goal in the fourth quarter. Steelers offensively would only score 9 points, but it was the final drive down the field by Ben Roethlisberger that would set up a Jeff Reed field goal to put the Steelers up by one point.
Now going into the Steelers first playoff game, we’re wondering if we’ll see a repeat of the November game. Of course there are questions.
Will Ben Roethlisberger, have the same type of game against the Chargers defense or will his injury coming into the game have an effect?
Will Willie Parker be able to run for 115 yards again, against the Chargers defense?
Will Bruce Arians play conservative or will he actually use Gary Russell on 3d and short and try to punch it over the goal line (something they failed to do the last match up)?
Will the Steelers defense contain both Antonio Gates and Darren Sproles?
How many sacks will James Harrison (and LaMarr Woodley) have this game?
Will the oline not only protect Ben enough but also keep from making the mental mistakes that have cost them touchdowns?
If the referees call offensive holding on the Steelers, will they also call offensive holding on the Chargers? The November matchup had 13 penalties against the Steelers while the Chargers only had 2 for five yards, none of which were offensive holding.
Will the stock in Maalox rise this week as we hold our breath while Mike Tomlin goes on 4th and short?
Guess we’ll have to wait till Sunday to have these questions answered.