Steelers' O-line, run game picks up steam en route to playoffs

Lost among the numerous playoff scenarios flying all over the place in Week 16 was a dormant Pittsburgh Steelers rushing attack that came to life. And lost among Rashard Mendenhall's first 100-yard game since Week 6 was how a struggling offensive line exposed St. Louis' defensive front seven in a 27-0 thrashing.

With backup quarterback Charlie Batch called into duty because Ben Roethlisberger was resting his injured ankle, the Steelers' offensive line was challenged to rise. It did, despite being much-maligned and banged-up for most of the season.

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The Steelers rushed for 169 yards and three touchdowns against the Rams. Mendenhall finished with 116 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, and Isaac Redman rushed eight times for 35 yards and a score. Even John Clay, an undrafted rookie from Wisconsin who was activated from the practice squad a day earlier because Mewelde Moore was injured, made the most of his one carry -- a 10-yard touchdown run.

While one game does not make a trend, it is a good sign for the Steelers and one of the reasons analysts, like NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, are picking Pittsburgh -- one week before playoff seedings are finalized -- to become the AFC representative in Super Bowl XLVI.

Yes, it did come against a Rams defense that, according to Redman, showed signs of being fraudulent on film. 

"We saw that their defense misses a lot of tackles," said Redman. "They weren't too disciplined on their gaps. We knew we would have a lot of cutback lanes, and if our offensive line was able to get up on their linebackers, we would have a big day."

Pittsburgh has much at stake in its regular-season finale at Cleveland, and Roethlisberger's status is still in doubt. If he doesn't play, the offensive line will be asked to step up again. When these two teams met on Dec. 8, the Steelers rushed for 147 yards, more than 30 yards better than their season average.

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