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How the Steelers can win without Roethlisberger


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SportingNews 1 hour, 33 minutes ago

While Ben Roethlisberger(notes) is out, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to keep the wheels on. Although they will be down an important man, a strong, physical team effort can keep them from spinning in reverse.

Here are four things they must do to stay on track into mid-October, regardless of who replaces Roethlisberger:

Pound the ball

For the first time since Jerome Bettis and Bill Cowher left, the Steelers have a reliable power back. "Rashard Mendenhall will absolutely be key for them early," Cowher said. Last year, Mendenhall proved he can remain a tough runner with a heavy workload, but he will need a big assist from his line.

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The Steelers, set to start rookie Maurkice Pouncey(notes) at center, must consistently open holes between the tackles. A potential bonus for the ground game is the dazzling scrambling ability of quarterback Dennis Dixon(notes), who's more likely to start after Byron Leftwich(notes) injured a knee Thursday.

Rookie Jonathan Dwyer(notes), who is making a late surge to try to make the team, could also be effective if he sticks with a no-nonsense, straight-ahead running style.

Even if the Steelers lack Roethlisberger's big arm, they must at least show they can stretch the field for the occasional big pass play to wide receiver Mike Wallace(notes). That will keep opponents from stacking the box to take away Mendenhall.

Rely on the defense

With all due respect to Roethlisberger, he's not the Steelers' most irreplaceable player. "It's a must that Troy Polamalu(notes) stays healthy for them," Cowher said.

Polamalu, a versatile safety who missed 11 games last season, will be vital as both an extra run stuffer and in helping the secondary cut down on backbreaking plays. The return of defensive end Aaron Smith(notes), who also missed 11 games last season, is key, too. He's a linchpin in the line and will bolster the pass rush.

The Steelers have depth in their front seven, so defensive coordinator **** LeBeau will have options to both mix up his 3-4 looks and personnel. While the unit goes into attack mode, it also must maintain discipline.

Win the turnover battle

Though Polamalu's playmaking boosts the takeaway potential, it won't help the team if the offense doesn't take care of the ball. Coach Mike Tomlin knows his team can't afford big mistakes.

"The first part about being a tough team to beat is not beating yourself," Tomlin said. Last season, the Steelers were minus-3 in turnover margin, 20th in the NFL.

They need someone other than Polamalu to rack up interceptions, and the quarterback must have the mindset of opting to throw the ball away instead of forcing a pass into coverage. The defense must put the offense in position where it doesn't need to score a ton of points, but the team is no position to shorten its possessions.

Take advantage of the schedule

The first six weeks include three home games and a bye. Victories over the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are musts, and the Steelers are fortunate they will face Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens at home in the first month.

Perhaps the most crucial game comes against a team that might occupy a similar position in the playoff hunt: at Tennessee in Week 2. For the Steelers, anything less than a 3-2 start in a tough conference won't cut it.

Pittsburgh had owned its series against the Ravens until last season, when Baltimore took advantage of a Dixon start to steal a game in overtime. The Ravens have a rising offense with familiar faces and Ray Lewis(notes) fronting the defense. In an intense division rivalry, they won't come into Heinz Field intimidated—or sympathetic to the Steelers' plight without Roethlisberger.

Baltimore and Tennessee are rough-and-tumble matchups, and the Steelers must be at their physical best to have a chance.

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agreed with post above. The Steelers are fortunate they are playing us at home, not fortunate they are playing us period. I will be interested to see how our defense fairs in the opener. I do not expect them to run the ball on us. that leaves the pass. will have to see how that works out.. Hope the DB's ae ready.

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and the Steelers are fortunate they will face Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens at home in the first month.

This is a peculiar statement. The Ravens at full strengh againt the steelers with Leftwich is a mismatch, I don't care where they play.

Now the Falcons should win this game, but after watching Ryan struggling in the passing game I am not so sure and we have to pass the ball well to win there. Otherwise they just load up the line and it will be a long day for Turner. Now maybe (hopefully) they were sandbagging it a little and didn't want to give the steelers anything to prepare for. The other intangible here is Mularkey. Will he try to get too cute with his gadget plays since he's back at Pittsburgh?..we know how that usually turns out.

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Pretty good article with a lot of truth in it.. We will be missing our best DT and I just see them trying to run it up the middle all game.. If they can get the running game going then it would make it a lot easier for Dixon.. We definitely have the better QB and RB BUT how will we do against their front 7? I don't think we'll be able to run on them at all so Ryan will have to air it out.

I think it will be a low scoring game that could go either way.. If we can go and get the win in a very tough place to play like Heinz field that would be incredible.. This is the first time in the Smith/Ryan era that we will be opening up the season on the road.. I'm pretty excited to see how it goes..

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With Byron going down and Dixon getting the start against us I wholeheartedly believe there is no way we should lose that game. Don't get me wrong, Dixon is a good athlete but he is still learning the ropes and our much improved defense will be coming at him from all angles. On the other side of the ball is where the struggle is going to be, the Steeler's D is always stout.

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Sporting News can't print one other additional factor that could determine the Steelers-Falcon game.

The referees.

Rest assured the Zebras will throw every yellow flag possible against the Falcons, protecting the ongoing policy of favoring the "annointed" Super Bowl champs of yester-year.

Some things NEVER change.

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Pretty good article with a lot of truth in it.. We will be missing our best DT and I just see them trying to run it up the middle all game.. If they can get the running game going then it would make it a lot easier for Dixon.. We definitely have the better QB and RB BUT how will we do against their front 7? I don't think we'll be able to run on them at all so Ryan will have to air it out.

I think it will be a low scoring game that could go either way.. If we can go and get the win in a very tough place to play like Heinz field that would be incredible.. This is the first time in the Smith/Ryan era that we will be opening up the season on the road.. I'm pretty excited to see how it goes..

I agree there will be a lot of 8 and 9 in the box deffenses from both teams!

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I know it's not a good idea to count wins before they happen, but this is about a sure a win that you can have. We'll be facing Dixon. All we really need to do is stop the run, and make Dixon beat us. If we get a lead early, he'll have to play catch-up and that means tossing the ball...

You shouldn't underestimate their defense. They have sack machines at LB and a turnover machine in Polamalu. This game could be easily won if one of us are able to run the ball and the other is not. But its more likely that turnovers will be the deciding factor. Also, I can totally see Ryan just not throwing it to the part of the field Polamalu is responsible for(meaning lots of short passes when he is roaming deep, and deep shots when is on one side of the field or the other).

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Sporting News can't print one other additional factor that could determine the Steelers-Falcon game.

The referees.

Rest assured the Zebras will throw every yellow flag possible against the Falcons, protecting the ongoing policy of favoring the "annointed" Super Bowl champs of yester-year.

Some things NEVER change.

You are easily the most bi-polar poster here.

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The Steelers are still tough with or without Big Ben. We just have to show up to play. The guys I work with say we will start 6-1 but they dont realize that this is the NFL, anything can happen on any given Sunday. We still got to show up and play at a top level if we wanna win

Edited by ya_boi_j
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Steelers are not only missing their QB, but their best WR, and their starting right tackle. That's a lot to make up for.

Last year , with those players, Steelers lost to Cleveland, Oakland and KC. I'm not sure that this is the powerhouse team that won two super bowls a few years ago.

Not saying it will be a blowout for the falcons, but it's certainly a winnable game for the Falcons.

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Steelers are not only missing their QB, but their best WR, and their starting right tackle. That's a lot to make up for.

Last year , with those players, Steelers lost to Cleveland, Oakland and KC. I'm not sure that this is the powerhouse team that won two super bowls a few years ago.

Not saying it will be a blowout for the falcons, but it's certainly a winnable game for the Falcons.

They have plenty of time to game plan around their weak areas but I think this one is mainly going to be about protecting the ball. If our D is where it should be they should definitely create some turnovers.

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They have plenty of time to game plan around their weak areas but I think this one is mainly going to be about protecting the ball. If our D is where it should be they should definitely create some turnovers.

It's not season ending if the falcons lose, but a win announces that this is a good young team to the rest of the league.

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