Sunday, December 5, 2010

A name for all seasons

Steelers 13, Ravens 10

By Mike Batista

A nickname coined in the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer finally was earned in the unforgiving chill of December.

Steelers running back Isaac Redman, undrafted out of Bowie State, was dubbed "Red Zone" Redman before the 2009 season because he did well in a goal-line drill during training camp.

That's nice, but producing in the red zone is one thing against teammates under the sunny skies of August, on the pastoral campus of St. Vincent College.

Red zone pressure is quite another thing in the cold, hostile environs of Baltimore, with not just a roster spot, but the AFC North on the line.

The Steelers trailed 10-6 with three minutes left in Sunday's game and faced third-and-goal from the Ravens' 9. If the Steelers' playbook consists of 200 pages, they went to Page 239 when Ben Roethlisberger threw a checkdown pass to Redman, who shed safety Dawan Landry halfway between the line of scrimmage and the goal line, then spun the rest of the way for the Steelers' only touchdown of the night and the first of his career.

The Ravens still had 2:51 and a timeout after Redman's touchdown. With the help of the second pass interference penalty against Bryant McFadden, both in the last five minutes, they reached the Steelers' 31. On fourth-and-2, the Ravens used their last timeout with 37 seconds left and went for the first down instead of attempting a game-tying field goal. Joe Flacco threw the lamest excuse for a pass, which fell well short of tight end Ed Dickson, and the Steelers (9-3) could turn their thoughts from a messy fight for a wild-card berth to a possible first-round bye in the playoffs.

For 56 minutes Sunday night, the Steelers did not look capable of winning this game. The best thing to happen to them was Roethlisberger's broken nose, which hopefully will make him more self-conscious and keep him out of bars.

Roethlisberger already was playing with a cement shoe on his broken right foot. His broken schnoz bloodied up his jersey, but he stayed in the game. Other Steelers weren't so fortunate.

Heath Miller suffered a concussion after a hit by Chris Carr that should have drawn a penalty (perhaps Carr wasn't penalized because the Ravens' leotard-like black pants made them look like guys who would try to fit a yellow handkerchief into their ensemble rather than guys capable of hurting anybody). The Steelers already were without Matt Spaeth, which is one of the reasons tight end David Johnson made three of his six career receptions in this game.

Flozell Adams, one of the Steelers' few offensive linemen not drawing unwanted attention for crappy play this season, was knocked out with a high ankle sprain. And punter Daniel Sepulveda was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his non-kicking leg.

So kicker Shaun Suisham not only kept the Steelers in the game with his two field goals, but also handled the punting duties. Suisham's done it all for the Steelers, except make a field goal at Heinz Field.

One of Suisham's field goals, a 19-yarder that pulled the Steelers to within 10-6 early in the fourth quarter, came at the end of a 16-play, 79-yard drive that was kept alive when Roethlisberger drew the Ravens offsides on a fourth-and-1.

It took that kind of chicanery to give the Steelers even a chance to win this game.

But with less than four minutes to go, it looked like the Steelers had emptied their bag of tricks. The Ravens (8-4) had a second-and-5 at their 43 and needed just a couple more first downs to put the game away and pretty much lock up the AFC North. The Steelers looked good enough to win the fight for a wild-card berth, but they didn't look quite good enough to beat the Ravens.

That's when Troy Polamalu struck. Like a rock band that waits until the end of the concert to play its signature song, the Steelers finally got the game-changing turnover that they could not win this game without.

Polamalu came into the backfield unblocked and made a guillotine-like motion with his arm, chopping the ball from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's hands. LaMarr Woodley scooped up the ball and took it to the Ravens' 9.

Those nine yards still seemed like a daunting wall for the Steelers, considering earlier in the game, they couldn't get into the end zone on a first-and-goal from the Ravens' 2. It looked like that wall would get a lot thicker when Terrell Suggs nearly sacked Roethlisberger, but instead tried to strip the ball from him. Roethlisberger, who seemed a lot more mobile in the second half, outmuscled the 260-pound linebacker to keep the ball, then threw it away to keep the Steelers nine yards from the end zone.

Another incomplete pass left the Steelers with two more chances to get that needed touchdown. Just when it looked like the Steelers' best chance would be Roethlisberger plodding into the end zone with a foot that looked like it was in a bucket, Redman finally showed he's more than a training-camp wonder.

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