Late For Work 12/21: Steelers Looking For Help

Plus the Colts found a run game, Terrell Owens’ season is over and the defense is back.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Tuesday, December 21st, 2010 at 9:16 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Steelers Looking For Help

With two games remaining in the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are hanging on to the AFC North title with a tie-breaking conference record advantage over the Ravens.

They will use all the help they can get to maintain that lead. And the schedule makers made things more comfortable by arranging a Week 15 home matchup against the 2-12 the Carolina Panthers.

"Seriously, Santa Claus himself couldn’t have delivered a better present to the Steelers than the Panthers," wrote Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Scott Brown.

Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin wouldn’t reveal whether five-time Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu would play Thursday night, but Brown said "there is no way" Polamalu should.

"The Steelers have already clinched a playoff berth, and if they can’t beat a run-heavy team that will start a rookie quarterback at Heinz Field shame on them," wrote Brown. "They don’t deserve to win the AFC North and are not a legitimate Super Bowl contender."

With Polamalu down, the Steelers are looking for assistance from, well, anyone on defense. Following their loss to the Jets, the Pittsburgh defense acknowledged its share of the blame.

"We stunk on defense," free safety Ryan Clark told the Tribune-Review.

After allowing the Jets to convert 50 percent of third and fourth downs, linebacker and defensive captain James Farrior added, "We couldn’t get off the field on third down, and that’s something we’ve been doing well at the whole year."

Even if the Steelers’ D does step up and the team gets a victory Thursday night, in order to clinch the North, the Steelers will still need help from two teams they would usually look to last – hated rivals Cleveland and Baltimore.

While the Ravens will do everything in their power not to oblige, frankly, Browns Head Coach Eric Mangini’s job may depend on it.

As the Tribune-Review pointed out, speculation is mounting that Mangini will be fired by Browns President Mike Holmgren after a wildly inconsistent season.

Unless he pulls out a win against the Ravens (and/or Steelers next week), that very well may be his fate. So you can be sure he will do everything in his power to pull off an upset against Baltimore.

He’s done it before. The Browns pulled off stunning upsets against New Orleans and New England earlier this season.

Uh-oh. The Colts Found a Run Game

Indianapolis Colts’ regular starter and Pro Bowl running back Joseph Addai has not played since Week 6 when he sustained a neck injury.

Since that time, the Colts have struggled finding a run game to compliment quarterback Peyton Manning and the air attack. That is, until now.

Backup running back Donald Brown had his first career 100-yard game in the win against Jacksonville and the Colts’ first 100-yard rushing game since Addai played, according to USA Today. Additionally, in six losses, the Colts averaged about 16 rushes per game. In eight victories, they average nearly 29 rushes.

"We need to try to keep that going from here on out," Manning said of the running game. "It just gives you good balance."

NFL Network’s Deion Sanders made the point clearer by saying, "You give Peyton Manning a running game and it’s on!"

Great. The Colts find a running game the same week they jump back into the playoff picture and are currently seeded against the Ravens in the first round.

Bengals’ Owens Out for Season

Since we’re looking at all teams that could potentially affect the Ravens’ playoff picture,  we have to note that Bengals receiver Terrell Owens is officially done for the season after having knee surgery Monday, according to the Associated Press.

The Bengals may have a terrible 3-11 record, but they have defeated Baltimore in the teams’ three previous meetings. So the Ravens will use all the help they can get in the regular season finale.

After drawing little interest from teams in the offseason, Owens was signed by Cincinnati and became the Bengals’ leading receiver with 72 catches for 983 yards and nine touchdowns.

Freeman: Call Ravens What You Will, But Say This – They’re Back

Baltimore’s defense has taken their fair share of roasts from analysts and observers this season.

Prior to the defense’s fourth-quarter stand against the New Orleans Saints Sunday, on NFL Gameday Morning, former NFL Head Coach and NFL Gameday analyst Steve Mariucci was asked about his opinion on the unit.

"I know the coach and player personnel is not the same as they used to be," he said on the show, via the Baltimore Sun. "It’s like a BLT sandwich without the tomato. It’s not a BLT."

Added ESPN’s Michael Irvin, "This defense still plays great defense for this league, but they have lost some of that ‘greatest ever’ defense. When you hear guys like Ed Reed say, ‘Only the W matters,’ they understand that they are no longer the greatest ever, but they’re still winning."

After watching the defense take care of business against quarterback Drew Brees,’s Michael Freeman thinks some of those comments were premature.

"Baltimore’s 30-24 victory at M&T Bank Stadium over the defending Super Bowl champions was a response to those who spent last week calling the Ravens pretenders and phonies," wrote Freeman. "We’re back, they said. Talk smack about us all you’d like but understand this: We’re back."

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