I’m still not sure how it happened, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the division race after their impressive 24-20 victory over the Giants on Sunday.
They managed to do so despite losing Antonio Brown during the game, on top of the other, seemingly dozens of injuries that are already plaguing them, and the two absolutely horrendous calls that went against them to help the Giants in the game.
And let’s face it; this game could’ve been a downright blowout for the Steelers had the refs not decided to make things a little more difficult for Pittsburgh.
The first call on Ryan Clark is absolutely indefensible. Not only were things moving so fast in the end zone that the safety absolutely no chance to tell where Victor Cruz was going, but the man was flagged for a helmet to helmet hit when his shoulder make contact with Cruz’s ribs. Cruz even limped off the field holding his ribs after the play was done!
Even if one of the many refs in the area hadn’t seen the play go down, one might expect that Cruz’s reaction would be a pretty big clue. I understand that it’s embarrassing to pick up a flag, and that the league has some obsessive hatred of Clark, but that was one of the more egregious calls we’ve had all year, including days of the replacement refs. That penalty turned a third and goal stop and likely field goal into a first down on the one-yard line that New York easily converted, tying the game immediately after the Steelers put a touchdown on the board.
But the refs still managed to outdo themselves in the rest of the game, managing to screw up Ben Roethlisberger’s “fumble” in two separate ways.
Firstly, there’s no way Ben fumbled on that play. Just none. Sure, a Giants player managed to shift the position of the ball in his hand, but in no way does that mean he ever lost possession, as evidenced by the fact that he was able to throw the ball roughly five yards downfield.
So the ensuing return should have been absolutely meaningless, but I appreciate that with the new rules that stipulate that every turnover is reviewed, it pays to let things play out. Instead, Heath Miller hustles to make the TD-saving tackle and the refs miss a blatant clip by Jason Pierre-Paul that should’ve called back any potential return. The whole thing was an absolute mess, and while I’m not one for conspiracy theories, the fact that the game was officiated by Bill Leavy, the ref that notably said he regretted some of his calls in the Steelers’ Superbowl 40 victory, is at least a little fishy.
Having said all that, the whole team played a stellar game. The offensive line continues to impress, especially against a defensive front as solid as New York’s.
Similarly, I was stunned to see Isaac Redman top 100 yards rushing to pace the offense. I think that part of the reason every running back has had so much success is the newfound cohesion on the line, but Redman’s efforts can’t be ignored, especially considering what a horrid start to the season he had.
Even Mike Wallace stepped up in Brown’s absence. His 52-yard touchdown run is what ignited the team’s comeback, and it’s nice to know that he’s flashing some of his potential now that Brown may be out for the next game or two.
The pass defense perhaps deserves the most credit of all. Eli Manning may be playing poorly lately, but to only allow one completion for one yard in the fourth quarter is no small feat, no matter whom you’re facing.
Part of this win was undoubtedly the fact that the Giants seem to be suffering their yearly November slump, but this was a huge win for the team, and gives them real momentum in the division race.
The team’s got a nice, easy game against Kansas City Monday night, and then comes their two games against Baltimore in three weeks, so hopefully this win gave them the confidence they need to seize control of the AFC North.
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