BALTIMORE – They were decisions made for the game that was played here last Sunday, but they also were decisions made with more than just that game in mind. And the reaction to those decisions show what kind of a team these Pittsburgh Steelers are.
Within 24 hours of an embarrassing showing on the shores of Lake Erie, Coach Mike Tomlin had changed his depth chart at running back and wide receiver, he picked a rookie seventh-round draft pick to start at right tackle, and he moved his All-Pro center to left guard. The offensive line moves were in response to new injuries – to Mike Adams and Willie Colon – and Tomlin also was looking at a medical timetable where Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu would return to action against the Ravens, with Ben Roethlisberger a possibility for the game after that, against the San Diego Chargers.
The immediate challenge was to incorporate these moves into the kind of performance they were going to need to defeat the kind of team the Ravens are. The most accurate way to describe the 2012 Ravens is as a find-a-way team, a team capable of winning with four takeaways compensating for a defense that allowed 214 yards rushing one week, with a punt return for a touchdown another week, with the conversion of a fourth-and-29 the week after that.
The 2012 Steelers were a team still finding itself, even though it's early December, and the root cause of this situation has been a never-ending series of injuries that has prevented the continuity of personnel necessary for an on-field identity to form. Their strength lies somewhere else, and make no mistake, that characteristic was at the foundation of their 23-20 victory over the Ravens.
"I think they're a uniquely close group, and that is a potential winning edge for us," said Tomlin on the day before the Steelers departed for Baltimore. "We have a nice blend of veteran and youth. The veteran experience stabilizes us in times of unrest, and the youthful exuberance helps us and keeps things from getting mundane."
That's how the Steelers defeated the Ravens, with a bit of resiliency combined with some veterans contributing in important ways combined with some young guys coming through in the roles assigned to them, and the approach to the whole quest was exemplified by Maurkice Pouncey.
To sum up, Maurkice Pouncey is the All-Pro center who moved to left guard, a position he last played as a freshman in college. Not only did Pouncey do it, but he did it enthusiastically. And during the game, he was running around, just crushing people, and taking no guff from any of the Ravens. In coaching parlance, he played with the proper demeanor.
This 2012 NFL regular season is coming to a close, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are getting healthier and playing better. Their seventh win gets them closer to a spot in the postseason, and how they handled the week leading up to this game, and then how they performed in it, revealed their identity.
The 2012 Steelers are an every-hand-in-the-pile team, and last Sunday they proved it can be their winning edge.
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