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Labriola on win over Jets

Posted Sep 16, 2012

This was what they needed. Actually, where they work, with the expectations being what they always are, this was what they had to have because 0-2 is no way to start a journey to a trophy presentation in February.

The Steelers opened the home half of their 2012 schedule last Sunday, and it was a beautiful day in every way. The weather was perfect, the fans were into it and even got to flex their booing muscles at the replacement officials. The level of play on the field was far from perfect, but it wasn’t boring either.

And when it was over, after it had gone into the books as a 27-10 victory over the New York Jets, the Steelers had made a statement about who they are while offering some real promise about what they could become.

The identity of an NFL team for a particular season is only revealed over time, and no, two weeks isn’t enough time. But two weeks was enough to see how these Steelers were going to respond. Mike Tomlin referred to it as “redemption week,” and the team played to that level against a playoff-caliber opponent. The constant Tim Tebow sideshow aside, the Jets are physical and have enough proven playmakers to be dangerous to every team they face.

Ben Roethlisberger may have made one big mistake in Denver, but he most certainly made none against the Jets. His performance was everything the Steelers needed from their quarterback on a day when the team wanted to redeem itself. Roethlisberger ran the offense and made plays within the offense, but he also made plays when things, let’s just say, didn’t unfold according to plan.

And really, to their credit, the rest of the offensive players followed his lead. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders both made tough catches in key situations, and Heath Miller now has put together two great games in a row. The offensive line battled, held its own, and maybe most importantly it got out of the game as the same five-man unit that started it.

The Steelers defense was without James Harrison and Troy Polamalu last Sunday, and it’s not unreasonable to categorize those as significant losses.

The splash plays aren’t coming in waves yet, but the Steelers were combative and relentless and physical. Ryan Clark was a factor, and that’s not necessarily easy for a free safety; Ike Taylor spent just about his entire day as a shadow to Santonio Holmes, and while it’s accurate to point out Holmes caught a 14-yard touchdown pass, it says a lot about Ike to point out Holmes was targeted 11 times on the day and his grand total was three catches for 28 yards.

The Jets have been vanquished, and so Steelers responded to their loss to the Broncos in the proper way. His job demands Mike Tomlin to try to focus them on the next step – stacking wins – but there should be some credit given for what they did to the Jets.

Because, really, it’s what they did against the Jets that makes it seem possible this particular group of Steelers will be able to give Tomlin what he wants.

Read the rest of this column in its entirety in the current issue of Steelers Digest. To subscribe, call 1-800-334-4005, or visit: http://www.steelers.com/news/digest.html

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