Inside Conditions…House of cards

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One of the most famous “Baltimorians” aside from Babe Ruth was writer Edgar Allan Poe. Back in the day, way back in the day, Poe had this to say. “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary. Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping. As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered,” tapping at my chamber door—only this, and nothing more.” (From ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allan Poe)

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Sunday was football night in America. The Baltimore Ravens were more than a bunch of pilgrims looking for a warm place to stay and hoping for a handout. They were modern day Vikings looking to pillage and plunder anything or anyone that got in their way. There was supposed to be an advantage but in the end, the discrepancies and flaws of the Pittsburgh Steelers were put on view for the entire world to see.

The Ravens put to rest that age old myth that the road to the Super Bowl runs through Pittsburgh. The Ravens have been tapping and rapping on the door of the Steelers for many years to no avail. But they finally stopped knocking and kicked the door off of its hinges. Sometimes if you do not pay close attention to the sounds of the night, the next thing that you might see is a burglar’s gun in your “grille.” In the past, the barking and growling of Ravens future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis was an annoyance at best to the Steelers who had played in three of the last six Super Bowls but Mr. Lewis is now just not preaching to the choir. He is preaching a full sermon on “the mount” not with his mouth but with his play.

The Steelers’ schizophrenic quarterback and offense seem at times to be whistling while walking past the graveyard. They have to be constantly reminded that every possession is vital. There are no “gimmes” and no “throwaways.” Again and again Ben Roethlisberger proved that you can do what you will and very few people will call you to task for it. Big Ben and the coaching staff looked like “dodo” birds especially toward the end when they allowed the play clock to expire causing a delay of game penalty effectively pushing the Steelers out of field goal range thereby allowing a touchdown to seal the win.

When your defense is forced to play an extra series or two because of the blunders of the offense, it almost always comes back to haunt you when the game is on the line. Although this was an equal opportunity defeat, the defense could’ve used an extra series to really rest and catch their breath. Let’s talk about the “blunder of the season.” If Pittsburgh kicks a field goal when they were up by four points and the Ravens score a TD we have overtime. If Pittsburgh misses the field goal from the Ravens 36 yard line the Ravens get the ball and score faster, therefore leaving more time on the clock when the Steelers begin their final drive. However, the Ravens started with 2:24 left on their own eight yard line on their drive to “glory” and ate up far more clock than they would have if they had begun closer to mid field rather than their own end zone.

Folks are saying; “well what if the field goal attempt had been blocked?” Ya big dummies, that would’ve given Pittsburgh more time to complete a final drive because the Steelers would have only had to score three points, unlike the Ravens who had to score a TD.

“During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.” (From ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ by Edgar Allan Poe)

In late January when playoff games are played and legends are born standing bare before all of us will be a dark and soundless Heinz Field. People will drive past the abandoned gridiron hearing and joining the imaginary, primal, Neolithic almost Stone Age chant of “here we go Steelers, here we go.” There will be no security checks. There will be no fans warming themselves up with barley and hops, no ‘terrible towels’ twirling in the frigid winds barreling in from the Allegheny, just silence, dead silence. As this season draws to an end the clouds of this ugly defeat will bring the cold rains of coulda, shoulda, woulda, down on a dreary city armed only with dusty memories and broken dreams. The merchant with a garage full of Steelers merchandise will have to wait until next year to peddle his wares. A pick is not just a pick and a fumble is not just another turnover especially when the season and livelihoods of those other than the athletes are on the line.

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@new­pittsburghcourier.com or 412-583-6741. Bruce can also be heard on ‘The Odd Couple’ sports show Live on Wednesdays from 11-11:30 a.m. on Fox Sports Radio WCWA 1230AM Toledo, Ohio.)

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