Last night’s Steelers-Ravens game was another one for the ages. Instead of the low-scoring, close games that have come to define this rivalry, we got a good old-fashioned butt-whipping, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers started out slow on offense. I knew heading into the game no matter what the offense did, it would be perceived as a letdown after last week’s offensive explosion. They were playing a better defense than they’d faced last week against Indianapolis and history pointed to another 13-10 or 10-7 game. The Steelers’ offense was abysmal for most of the 1st quarter. They didn’t get a first down until their fourth possession of the game. I was expecting a letdown, but I wasn’t expecting the offense to go totally silent, which is what looked to be happening early on.
The Ravens took an early 7-0 lead when the Steelers forgot to cover Torrey Smith. At that time, things were not looking good. The Steelers couldn’t do anything on offense and the defense wasn’t looking great. Luckily, that touchdown turned out to be one of the few defensive miscues of the game.
The offense will get a ton of credit for this game (deservedly so, because scoring 43 points is impressive no matter how you slice it), but make no mistake, the defense kept them in the game. The two turnovers the defense forced in the 2nd quarter are what turned this game around. The turnovers created short fields and set up two touchdown drives, and the offense then got into groove that continued until Ben’s sixth and final touchdown pass to Matt Spaeth with 2:00 remaining in the game.
Quick thoughts about how awesome the Steelers are:
- Ben Roethlisberger looks like a man possessed. He went from a 50% completion percentage and 64.4 QB rating in Cleveland to a legitimate MVP candidate in a matter of 3 weeks. I don’t know what’s gotten into him, but I hope it continues. He’s been a joy to watch the last two weeks. On the season, he now has thrown 22 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions.
- Martavis Bryant has changed the complexion of the red zone offense and there’s no denying that. Who would’ve thought he’d be better than Justin Brown (oh, everyone did–except Tomlin and the coaching staff, apparently).
- Antonio Brown–11 receptions, 144 yards, 1 TD. Ho-hum, just another week for the best WR in the game.
- James Harrison has found a time machine somewhere and turned back the clock 6 or 7 years. His game last night reminded me of his “coming out” party against Baltimore on Monday Night Football in November 2007, when he was named Defensive Player of the Week with 10 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He didn’t play quite that well last night–just 4 tackles and 2 sacks. But not too bad for an “old and slow” guy.
- If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the season the Steelers would play a game with William Gay, Antwon Blake, and Brice McCain as their corners, I would’ve said “Who are those last two guys? Are you sure they play for the Steelers?” It’s pretty remarkable how well these guys have played. (It’s also pretty disappointing that Cortez Allen just signed a big contract in the offseason and is riding the bench most of the time.) Gay has played consistently well, so of course we’ve heard about him very little. When he plays poorly, fans complain nonstop about him. Nice to see him quietly having a good year.
- I love, love, LOVE that the Steelers allowed Ben to throw for the end zone on a 4th & 2 at Baltimore’s 33. They went for the kill and it was beautiful. I honestly don’t know if they do that against any team but the Ravens. Harbaugh pulls stuff like that all the time against the Steelers and it’s nice to see him get a taste of his own medicine.
- Brad Wing and Shaun Suisham could be an excellent superhero duo/crime-fighting team.
And the only things I can really find to complain about this week:
- The Jacoby Jones return TD. Woof. Why were they kicking to him again? He was eight yards deep in the end zone and the Steelers let him run it all the way back. Where’s Tomlin’s slick dance moves when you need them?
- Everyone in the stadium, on Twitter, and media guys blasting Tomlin for that “terrible” challenge. Turns out that Mike Tomlin, an NFL head coach, knows more about the rules than armchair coaches. Who would’ve thunk?!?!
- Harbaugh calling a timeout late in the game. When even Al MIchaels is saying on the TV broadcast, “Harbaugh calls a timeout. For what reason, I have no idea.”–yeah, Harbaugh looks like a petulant child.
- Can we talk about field position for a minute? I want to talk about the Steelers average starting field position this season. I think heading into last night’s game they had an average starting position of starting on their own 17. That’s just horrible. I’m not sure what solution there may be in the return game, but that’s one area where the team could really stand to improve.
- How much time did John Harbaugh spend standing on the field whining last night? It’s like both he and his brother don’t understand they’re supposed to stand behind the white line, because those guys spend more time on the field than half of their roster does.
Looking at the three game home stretch before the season, it looked like a stretch of games that could make or break this team. I said previously that I was hoping for at least a 1-2 record. They went 3-0. Things could be clicking at just the right time for this team. Of course, if they go into MetLife Stadium on Sunday and walk out losers, things will need to be re-evaluated. But right now let’s all enjoy this win and enjoy a classic Harbaugh fail face.