Of course, many of us are well aware (at least I'd hope) that the devastating, tragic effects of Hurricane Sandy far outweigh the significance of any professional football game. But sometimes, watching and cheering for your favorite team just might be the key in escaping such a crude reality, even if it's only for a couple of hours. So post-Sandy, thousands and thousands of fans, including me(!), made their way to MetLife Stadium to take in the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants game -- controversy about the thing taking place at all be damned!
Though I obviously was cheering for the Steelers, a part of me was very much aware what a Giants win would mean to the ravaged, struggling New York/New Jersey area. With some of my family in the Jersey area listening to the game by radio since they still have no power, I felt a little guilty knowing what they were going through yet rooting whole-heartedly against their team.
The Steelers may have come out with the W during a roller coaster contest, but it was great to see Giants and Steelers fans getting along before, during, and after the game. (Thank goodness we're not division rivals or, you know, Red Sox fans.) But kudos to all Giants fans -- as someone who lives in downtown New York City on Wall Street, I'm glad we were able to get together, have some beers, and watch the game in relative peace.
Needless to say, it got a little scary for Steelers fans by the fourth quarter. The Steelers had to overcome an extremely sloppy first half to pull off a huge comeback. It's usually them who blow the leads, but this time, they were able to overcome a 20-10 deficit in the fourth quarter. Luckily, Isaac Redman led the way, finishing with a career-high 147 yards and 1 TD. He had missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain, but was able to return with a flourish. Redman also had 5 runs of 11+ yards, and he essentially helped win the game with a 28-yard run at the very end so that the Steelers could take a knee. We've had a 100-yard rusher for three consecutive games now, which hasn't happened since 2007! Between him, Rashard Mendenhall, and Jonathan Dwyer, if all of them happen to get healthy at the same time (is that possible?), we may finally get back the running game of old that Steelers fans have so longed for.
They got into that 20-10 hole partly because Ben Roethlisberger was stripped of the ball, which was then returned 70 yards for a touchdown, as well as a very costly interception during the third quarter that led to a Giants field goal. Yeeeeeah, maybe that whole coming in the morning of the game thing wasn't such a good idea (though the intention was more than honorable and I'm glad they decided to do it), until MIke Wallace came along and changed all that.
He helped electrify the Steelers with an insane 51-yard TD reception where he basically ran all the way across and up the field to give his team a much-needed confidence boost. Though we lost Antonio Brown early in the game due to an ankle injury, Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders stepped up as well. Sanders looked particularly awesome on third-and-9 with just 2:23 remaining in the game with a huge 16-yard pass, another factor in the last 5 minutes that helped the Steelers seal the win. And at the end of the day, Ben completed 21 of 30 for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns. Though he got sacked four times, the Steelers still ended up with 158 yards rushing, so, really, can't complain too much about the O-line. Let's give them another break this week, guys.
And so much for all that talk about a sleepy, old defense. They were able to contain the Giants to 68 yards on 22 carries, their second-lowest total of the season. Eli Manning was sacked twice, but Woodley's sack happened during third down on the Giants' final possession -- in other words, it was clutch. Manning had his lowest numbers of the season (he threw for only 125 yards, completing just 10 of 24 attempts, looking very un-Manning-like). Cornerback Ike Taylor's first interception this season led to the first Steelers touchdown. I guess the only thing to complain about was cornerback Keenan Lewis' two pass interference calls for freakin' 87 yards in the first half alone. But still, good showing by the defense all around, when you hold a red-hot Giants offense to statistics (13 offensive points and 182 total yards) like that.
And just think, this was all done without Troy Polamalu! But still, yeah, dude, hurry back, k?
To add to the beauty of the win, even special teams, minus one crazy trick play, looked solid. Chris Rainey, who unfortunately sustained a rib injury, had a 68-yard kick return, while Sanders had a 63-yard punt return -- unfortunately the offense didn't score as a result, sigh. Shaun Suisham still looked good kicking field goals, but let's not let him run on any more fake field goal attempts, okay? The Steelers were about to tie the game when the score was 20-17. They were facing fourth-and-inches on the Giants 3, and instead of going with the 20-yard field goal, they tried the fake. Granted, that would have been entirely badass had it worked, but since it backfired completely, it looked quite stupid. Glad it didn't cost us in the end!
So, hey, after much early criticism when it came to the Steelers this season, it looks like they may be peaking right when it counts, especially with two games against the Baltimore Ravens looming. No Steelers' fans livers are safe when we play those guys.
And no, I'm not getting into the bad calls by the refs, because my seat at the game was literally at the second row from the top of the entire stadium -- the view was of course fantastic, but I really couldn't tell for the most part what was going on. Yes, that 41-yard pass interference call was sketchy, Ben's fumble probably wasn't a fumble, that head-hitting penalty on Ryan Clark was questionable, though I completely missed it from the stands (oops, I guess I'm talking about the officiating now, huh, sorry), but bad calls happen, and you have to overcome, which the Steelers did brilliantly.
All in all, it was a hell of a game for the Steelers, even though it was a kick in the ass Giants fans definitely didn't need after this crazy week. It was inspiring seeing so many folks come together for the game to have fun and get away from it all. Luckily the win kept me going during the 2.5-hour freezing wait for the bus to get back to the city -- that is something I never want to do ever again in life. Still, a small complaint in comparison to what a lot of other people in this area are going through. Next week the Steelers take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Heinz Field, and hopefully my fingers and toes are defrosted in time for that one!
Follow Jill Baughman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jayboff