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Rashard Mendenhall Runs It For The Overtime Win, Troy Polamalu Picks Off Matt Ryan, Pick-Up Truck Commercials Are Getting Out Of Control

  • There were some definite casualties in this one. Casey Hampton left the game early with a hamstring pull, but will probably be fine for next week's tilt against the Tennessee Titans. Tackle Max Starks got tangled up in pass protection, though, and may have suffered a high ankle sprain. He looked like he was in severe pain trying to limp off the field. After all, that's a lot of weight for a gimpy ankle to support. I wouldn't be surprised if Jonathan Scott -- who looked pretty good coming off the bench -- had to fill in for Starks until the Steelers' Week 5 bye.
  • The beginning of the football season has reminded me of how truly awful most pick-up truck commercials are. I don't have the kind of job the necessitates towing 8 gazillion pounds, but I think that even if I did, I would be hard-pressed to imagine a scenario where I might be called on to tow the load through rings of fire and a circuit of machine-gun wielding velociraptors...or whatever. Advertisers: I know you're trying to prey on my masculine insecurity and everything, but you're really going overboard. The gruff, impossibly testosteroney voiceover and the driver's perpetual five o'clock shadow will do just fine. Give the pyrotechnics and the stuntmen a day off, okay?
  • James Harrison might be the best pass rusher in the league when it comes to anticipating the opposition's snap count. When he gets a whiff of the quarterback's cadence, left tackles don't stand a chance; he's already whizzed by them before they even get out of their stance. He also gets held more than in player in the league -- too bad it doesn't always draw the penalty.
  • The performance of the Pittsburgh defense was heroic, and doubly so when you consider just how little help they got from their offense when it comes to field position.
  • If the Atlanta defenders had better hands, Dennis Dixon could be looking at three or four interceptions, not one. In some ways, his final stat line (236 passing yards, 9.1 ypa) suggests a better performance than the reality. The Falcons defense, who I woefully underestimated in my initial post, rushed three or four men most of the game, spying Dixon, and dropping multiple defenders into coverage. Most of the Falcons' sacks can be credited to the defensive backfield. Unfortunately, Atlanta just gave the Titans, Buccaneers, and Ravens an effective blueprint for the next three weeks. 
  • Conversely, Pittsburgh could only sack Matt Ryan when a superior athlete (James Harrison or LaMarr Woodley) came off the edge and simply beat his man. Anytime Dick LeBeau called a zone blitz, Atlanta's offensive line seemed unfazed, picking it up effectively.
  • For most of the game, Falcons wide receiver Roddy White -- one of the most underrated players at his position in the game -- picked apart the Steelers secondary. He recorded a career-high 13 receptions for 111 yards, basically compensating for Atlanta's lack of a rushing attack (8.5 ypc). However, Matt Ryan went to the well one too many times; while he was able to complete deep outs along the sideline to White all afternoon, it was only a matter of time before a defensive back of Troy Polamalu's caliber jumped the route. Late in the game, the All-Pro safety did just that, making a game-changing interception and tapping his toes along the sideline for good measure. Unfortunately, kicker Jeff Reed, who had been solid up to that point, botched the subsequent field goal attempt, forcing overtime.
  • After notching piddling run after piddling run all game (3.3 ypc on 21 carries), running back Rashard Mendenhall finally broke a long one in overtime after the Pittsburgh defense stopped Ryan and company, scoring from 50 yards out for the walk-off score.
  • Boy, that was a stressful, ugly game to watch. Steelers eke out a win, 15-9.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.