I don't know if you heard, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to Super Bowl XLV. They beat the New York Jets 24-19, thanks to a dominant rushing attack and suffocating defense. Make sure to check back throughout the week as we preview Super Bowl XLV, a matchup between the Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. Here are my observations from the fourth quarter. Be sure to check out my first, second and third quarter notes, too.
- Shonn Greene, who I think has one of the best nicknames in sports ("War Machine"), for all his problems this season, is going to be a hell of a back once he learns to a) pass protect, b) catch the ball, c) not fumble. Seriously, when he has the ball in the open field, he is a monstrous straight-line runner. Fantasy football owners, here's a bargain for you to target in next year's drafts. Greene (5.8 yards per carry) was far more effective than LaDainian Tomlinson (1.8), whose workload should diminish in the future if Greene can progress. All of Greene's efforts during the Jets' first drive of the fourth quarter were for naught, though, as the Steelers held tough at the goal line, keeping Tomlinson out of the end zone on Fourth and Short.
- With less than eight minutes remaining, Pittsburgh was happy to protect a 14-point lead on their own 1-yard line. Unfortunately, Doug Legursky and Ben Roethlisberger botched the center-quarterback exchange for the second time of the evening, resulting in a Jets safety as the quarterback scrambled to maintain possession. Hopefully starter Maurkice Pouncey can recover from whatever's ailing him during the long bye, because it's tough to win when literally any offensive snap could result in a fumble, especially against an aggressive defense like the Pack.
- Jerricho Cotchery caught a Mark Sanchez touchdown pass shortly thereafter, bringing the score to 24-19, Steelers. Pittsburgh ran man coverage a few yards outside of their end zone, and the defensive backs got caught on one another, leading to an easy Jets score in the flats. Fortunately, a nice return by Antonio Brown set the Steelers up on their own 41. After a New York timeout, on Second and 8, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians called a pass (!) and Heath Miller turned it into a first down. I love the call. It's aggressive, it's unconventional - it's the Steelers going for the win, instead of going for the friendliest, most defensible loss. Arians, while he has plenty detractors has called brilliant, aggressive games for two weeks in a row now. Let's hope he keeps it up in the big one.
- Speaking of which, I love, love, love the call on Third and 6, too. Instead of running the ball and likely not converting, Arians put Roethlisberger in the shotgun - with no running back. Here's why this is brilliant. You tell your quarterback to only pull the trigger if his receiver is 100% open; otherwise, he can take a sack or scramble for a few positive yards. Either way, it doesn't change field position much and the clock still runs. On other hand, if you convert through the air there, you win, period - the Jets offense doesn't even get a shot. That's exactly what happened, as Roethlisberger hit Brown for 14 yards, sealing another Super Bowl appearance for Pittsburgh.
- I'm already pumped for the Super Bowl, but I have to say that these next couple weeks are excruciating, especially when it's your team with a championship at stake and you just want to see them play. I find it impossible to care about the Pro Bowl, and the week before the Super Bowl is just overwhelming in its needless dissection of every last passing comment made by every last depth player. That said, we'll continue to bring you thoughtful, meaningful news as we preview Steelers-Packers in Super Bowl XLV. Check back early and often.