I’m Not A Star: A Review of Ravens-Steelers Week 1
It’s been a while since I’ve been that satisfied watching a Ravens-Steelers game.
Yes, I know it’s one game, the season opener at that, but not since the “Roethlisberger goes DOWN!!” Game in 2006 (so named because of Greg Gumbel’s call of Bart Scott’s ferocious sack of Ben Roethlisberger in the Ravens' 27-0 win) have I enjoyed a game between these two teams this much.
Granted, much of my reason for lack of enjoyment over the last five years has to do with the fact that the Steelers won most of the time. But even when the Ravens won, it wasn’t as good as this, partly because those other times, Roethlisberger wasn’t under center. We didn’t beat them with the full arsenal. In fact, the last time the Ravens had beaten the Steelers with Roethlisberger at quarterback was Christmas Eve 2006.
So yeah, this one was a long time coming. But I don’t buy this meme going around that this win makes up for the playoff loss to Pittsburgh in January. It doesn’t. That dragon won’t be slain until the Ravens beat these guys in the playoffs. This win does go a little ways to ensure that a Ravens-Steelers playoff matchup will be held in Baltimore, where Joe Flacco is 20-5 in his career, and not at Heinz Field, where Flacco is 1-4 in his career.
I like that the team kept their perspective after the game; yes, it’s a nice win, but it’s only one step in a long journey. They’ll see Pittsburgh again, on the Steelers’ home turf, and you know the Steelers will be looking for some payback.
That being said Ravens fans, damn it feels good to see the Steelers get whupped by our boys in purple-and-black, does it not?
--- For the first time, Flacco outplayed Roethlisberger and this one wasn’t close. Flacco dropped two beauties in for touchdown passes, one to Ed Dickson that was perfectly lofted over the head of Troy Polamalu, and another to Anquan Boldin that I don’t know how he stuck in there because the Steeler defender – I think Bryant McFadden – had perfect coverage. Just a great throw by Joe to stick it right where only Boldin could catch it.
---I’ve been critical of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in the past, but he called a tremendous game yesterday. The touchdown pass to Ray Rice was brilliantly designed to get Rice on an inside linebacker (Lawrence Timmons), a battle Rice is going to win every time.
---Who needs preseason? The Ravens offensive line did not take one snap together in the preseason because of Matt Birk’s knee surgery and Bryant McKinnie’s late signing. It was a big concern heading into this game because of the Steelers vaunted zone blitz. But the Ravens domination of this game started with the five guys up front, plus the mauling blocking of new fullback Vonté Leach.
On Rice’s 1-yard touchdown run, right guard Marshal Yanda pancaked Aaron Smith. Michael Oher, moved back to right tackle, made Ravens nemesis LaMarr Woodley disappear. Woodley, the Steelers Mr. Big Mouth who said Flacco would never win a Super Bowl in this lifetime, hardly had his name called at all.
But the big story was McKinnie, who was cut by the Vikings after allegedly showing up to camp at 400 pounds. Slimmed down to 360 (there’s an oxymoron), McKinnie still blocks out the sun. As Phil Simms said during the broadcast, you know you’re big when you look big next to NFL players.
McKinnie put all fears aside in this game. He handed the Steelers Mr. Tough Guy James Harrison his lunch. Harrison, who was photographed this summer shirtless with two pistols in his hand for a magazine, had to leave the game with a knee injury. Mr. “I Try To Hurt People” was the only one coming out hurt.
---On defense, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed did what they do – Reed had two picks and Ray-Lew had a pick and forced fumble – but it was the new dynamic duo that made the biggest impression: Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata.
T-Sizzle looked like he was having a personal grudge match against Roethlisberger. Fittingly, the game ended on a Suggs sack. Nobody has sacked the Steelers QB more than T-Sizzle (15.5). Whatever he does to bring down Roethlisberger, one of the hardest QBs in the league to take down, Siz needs to teach it to the whole roster.
At some point last year, Sizzle finally figured out how to use his considerable physical gifts on a consistent basis. His combination of speed and power make him a nightmare for tackles. Siz comes out of his stance so low that he can dip underneath and run around the offensive tackle or, my personal favorite move, get underneath the tackle’s pads and push him back into the quarterback.
Suggs was always a good player but after he signed a big contract two years ago, the pressure was on to turn himself into a great player. Last year, it finally clicked and the proof is in the pudding: 11.5 sacks in 2010 plus five in postseason and three sacks on opening day in 2011.
As for Ngata, who is looking for a huge contract extension from the Ravens, I can only echo the words of Teddy K.G.B and say, “Pay that man his money!”
Let it be said that Ngata accounted for four tackles, a forced fumble, a deflected pass that led to a pick, two recovered fumbles and one soiled diaper. The last of those things belonged to Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, who looked like he saw his life flash before his eyes when big Haloti was bearing down on him after Mendenhall and Roethlisberger muffed a hand-off. Ngata decleated Mendenhall and pounced on the loose change.
---Three years ago when these teams played in a Week 4 Monday night game, Hines Ward laid one of his customary crackback cheap shot blocks on Reed, then jumped up and started prancing around with that smile on his face.
Yesterday, Ward ran a fake reverse and was supposed to catch a little slip pass underneath. But Jarrett Johnson absolutely destroyed Ward and Roethlisberger had to improvise, which led to Reed’s first interception. Remember the “NHL ‘94” scene in “Swingers” where Vince Vaughn makes Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed and keeps replaying it for Sue over and over again. That’s how I feel about that hit. I could watch ol’ Hiney getting that smile knocked off his face over and over and over again.
---Finally, to all those media types saying the Ravens tried to rub it in by having Sam Koch run in a fake extra-point and throwing to Boldin late in the game. Give me a break. Last I checked this wasn’t Florida State scheduling Louisiana-Monroe. The Steelers have NFL players, good ones, many of whom just played in the freaking Super Bowl seven months ago.
Beyond that, the Ravens have run that play before, against the Cowboys three years ago. Koch, the holder on extra points and field goals, is told, if he notices the other team is overloading one side of the field – which the Steelers were doing – take the snap and run it to the other side, since there’s no one there to stop you.
Now, maybe I would take offense if the Ravens had done this late in a 35-7 game, but when Koch ran in the two-pointer, there were still 14 MINUTES LEFT IN THE THIRD QUARTER!! Twenty-nine minutes is more than enough time for a quarterback as good as Roethlisberger to make up three scores. Hell, the last time these two teams played, the Steelers made up a 14-point deficit in five minutes.
Then there was the touchdown pass to Boldin late in the fourth quarter with the Ravens up 32-7. That pass was nullified by a pass interference call on Boldin, but some thought the Ravens were trying to run it up.
Again, these are NFL players; if you don’t like it, stop them! It’d be one thing if this was LSU beating up on some hapless cupcake from the FCS, but it’s not.
And coming from the Steelers, cry me a freaking river. For years, the Steelers have treated games with the Ravens as homecoming games, trotting out Bradshaw and Franco and Mean Joe to get their fans riled up. Over the last five years they’ve gotten every break, call and bounce you could ask for against the Ravens.
But yet, here they are, crying the blues when the Ravens are being big meanies and trying to score more points. If you don’t like it, well, as ex-Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said, go play intramurals brother!