When the news on Kansas City Chiefs LB Mike Vrabel came down that he wouldn't play today, and other hints that he might be out for several more weeks began to seep out, I'll admit it -- I really thought this defense was toast. I know how much the players, especially the linebackers, respect and lean on him for support and guidance.
Remember, it's a pretty young unit so a guy like Vrabel is a huge tool for those guys.
However....a funny thing happened today. Vrabel's replacement turned out to be pretty good. He's from a D-III school and has been nicknamed "Venice Beach" by the head coach for his, um, body (and his tendency to take his shirt off).
In fact, Studebaker made what I would argue was the biggest defensive play, heck biggest play period, in the second half today.
After the jump, more on Studebaker's two interceptions, why Derrick Johnson will razz him and why Studebaker not scoring made Todd Haley cringe (in a good way).
Down 17-10, and the Steelers driving, the Chiefs pretty much had to hold Roethlisberger and Co. to a field goal to even think about having a shot in this game. The fourth quarter was just around the corner and there hadn't been any indication that the offense would get in enough of a rhythm to overcome a two score deficit.
Well, you forgot Mr. Studebaker was playing.
As Roethlisberger dropped backed to pass on a 1st and 10 in the red zone, he was pressured causing an errant throw into the hands of Wheaton College's finest.
Not only did Studebaker intercept the pass, he hauled you-know-what 94 yards, the fifth longest interception return in franchise history. He took it all the way down to the two yard line, which set up a Chiefs field goal.
Man, how do you not score on a 90+ yard return? Derrick Johnson isn't sure how he didn't score but is ready to razz him about it.
"We're going to give him heck about it but he should have scored," DJ said. "But it was a good play on his part."
As for Todd Haley? Well, let's say that Studebaker's interception and subsequent return reminded him of another big play.
You remember the Super Bowl last year? Haley's Cardinals were driving at the end of the half and a Kurt Warner pass was picked off by Steelers LB James Harrison and taken for a 100 yard return.
"I wish Studebaker would have scored on the interception," Haley said today smiling. "That would have been full retribution [for last year's Super Bowl]. I was thinking I'd finally be able to put that interception return away."