Alright, alright tell the truth. No one gave the Steelers a remote chance of traveling down round the inner harbor in B-More for their playoff-like showdown with the Ravens and returning with a “w” notched on their belt.
When Big Ben began the week wearing a protective boot, I like many among you became instantly suspicious. I initially surmised that 1. He was holding a pre-pity party preparing the Steelers nation for the team falling short in Baltimore. 2. Indirectly pushing his offensive line to offer better protection against the flesh eating piranhas” a.k.a. the Ravens front seven. Not only did Big Ben not receive an ounce of pity, it appeared very early in the game as if the men in the striped shirts appeared were at best indifferent to his continued good health on the football field.
After the initial series when Big Ben was visited by Ravens’ resident plastic surgeon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, M.D., I thought the Black and Gold would be leaving “the city of the crabs” smelling a little fishy. Instead the “dirty birds” were covered with the odors of pierogie’s and IC Light when they exited M&T Bank Stadium, well after the clock struck midnight early Monday morning. Roethlisberger brought a new meaning to the term, “blood, sweat and tears.” He was doing all the bleeding and sweating but the Ravens ended up doing all of the crying. “It was an all-out blitz. Ravens QB Joe Flacco said; “They brought everybody. I took three steps and raised my arm and was getting hit. It was pretty shocking.” Coach John Harbaugh continued as the CEO of “Whine Inc.” “Obviously, it was a tough loss,” he said. “Basically, we gave the game away at the end. We should have won the football game, and that’s disappointing.”
Oh no, Monsieur Harbaugh. Mr. Flacco did not give the ball to Senor Polamalu, the pigskin was conveniently dislodged. Did the Ravens give away the fourth and forever last play of the game, (for them) when a wide eyed Baltimore receiver watched in sheer horror as an errant pass fluttered harmlessly to the frozen turf.
I assumed the Ravens had all their big guns lined up to unleash a seriously potent offensive attack and for the most part they did. Hey look, Flacco had Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth and T.J. Houshmandzadeh just licking their chops at the thought of getting after Pittsburgh’s version of the “toast and jelly” twins defensive backs, William Gay and Bryant McFadden. The Ravens threw so many balls to McFadden’s side of the field I am sure the beleaguered cornerback had to think he was seeing double. If Pittsburgh is going to make the playoffs and advance toward a seventh Lombardi Trophy, #20 had better suck it up, defend, break up and intercept more passes so opposing QBs won’t be so comfortable tossing the rock his way. Instead of teams playing pitch and catch at the expense of McFadden and his cronies, (except cornerback Ike Taylor), McFadden had better show opposing offenses that he knows how to play the game of “pitch and pick.”
Over the years the rivalry between the team that was transplanted from Cleveland and the Steelers has dwarfed the rekindled competition between the “new” Browns and the Black and Gold by far. Both defenses in Sunday night’s contest were bent but were resilient and very active and basically dictated the tempo of the game in spite of both quarterbacks having had above average success rates.
Pittsburgh has upcoming home games against the Bengals, Jets and Panthers. Then they have to mosey on down to Cleveland to meet the very much new and improved, “Brownies.” Last year the Steelers made many miscues when they visited “the mistake by the lake.” Wide receiver Joshua Cribbs made the Steelers appear as if they were asleep in baby cribs and knocked Pittsburgh smack dab out of the playoffs. The Steelers’ visit to Lake “Eerie” could be even more important if the Steelers falter when they face the Jets on Dec. 19. Technically, the excursion to Cleveland could be for the AFC North championship. Let’s say Baltimore beats the Saints then comes out victorious when they travel to the Lone Star state to face the Texans. Then all the Ravens have to do is travel to Cincinnati and Cleveland and defeat the Bengals and Browns because at that point the Ravens will still own the tiebreaker having beat the Saints who beat the Steelers.
Boys and girls please do not forget the officiating factor that may be in place and fully enforced against the Steelers for the remainder of the season and beyond. Whether or not an imaginary or real “keep your eyes on the Steelers” mandate was issued, there is a very cloudy and nasty vibe being exhibited by the “zebras’” toward the Steelers regarding play from both sides of the ball.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)