Ravens-Steelers Recap: Ignoring the Obvious, Some Positives for Pittsburgh

Bill Parcells used to say that you are what your record says you are. The Steelers are 3-1. That there only loss came against the Ravens in Heinz Field isn’t particularly comforting, but there are a lot of positives to take away from the first month of the season without Big Ben, Sunday’s game included.

* The offensive line has played out of its mind. Charlie Batch had more time to throw against the Ravens than Roethlisberger had for the entire 2009 season. There’s something to be said for a historically beleaguered bunch finally getting it. Down two starters and they managed to keep Batch mostly clean — and more than that, have played a big part in the new, assertive Rashard Mendenhall. This isn’t a top-flight unit and we all know that; but they’re a seasoned group, and thanks to hot-as-hell early-game rotations in Tennessee and Tampa, they’re also a pretty experienced bunch.

* Mendenhall is about to bust out. Hardly revolutionary, I know, but after a tentative start to his career that included a shoulder injury courtesy of Ray Lewis and a Mike Tomlin-ordered deactivation-to-prove-a-point against the Bengals, Rashard has been a much more confident, versatile runner. He beats defenders to the corner, rarely has negative plays, trucks people for tough yards, and can one-cut-and-go for huge chunks. Put differently: one more weapon for Ben when he returns.

* I know Bryant McFadden got beat on the decisive touchdown pitch-and-catch between Joe Flacco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but it was single coverage, a double move, and Flacco had time. Shit happens. That play aside, the defense — and the defensive backs — hung tough. And no one more so than William Gay.  The same dude who exemplified all that was wrong with the secondary last year, has proven that he’s a valuable cog through four games. Gay’s back in the nickel role and that has magically improved his tackling and, apparently, his coverage skills. He was singlehandedly responsible for stopping Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin on Baltimore’s penultimate drive from the Steelers’ 2-yard line. We shouldn’t lose sight of that despite the loss. And by “we” I mean “me” because I was ready for the Steelers to cut ties with Gay this summer. So, again: my bad, Willie.

Looking for an upside? Here ya go: Pittsburgh has the league’s best defense, a running back on the brink of a huge season, a much better o-line, fantastic specials teams (can’t believe I just wrote that), a crapload of offensive weapons, and, oh yeah, a top-5 NFL quarterback returning to the team to take advantage of all that.

Losing to the Ravens sucks. This isn’t news. But I’m not sweating this one as much as other games. (Like, say, the whuppin’ the Ravens put on the Steelers in Baltimore back in 2006. I’d like to have that permanently erased from my memory.) They beat a 35-year-old nine-year backup and needed 60 minutes to do it. And that’s not to take anything away from Charlie Batch — the guy has been solid in 10 quarters of work — but he’s not Big Ben. That’s great if you’re at a college bar full of drunk coeds, less so when you’re an NFL quarterback.

More silver linings:
- This will quash the 16-0 talk. The mainstream media would have beat it into the ground starting … well, now because Roethlisberger’s back and the team was undefeated without him. We’d hear about it until the Steelers lost, and then we’d have to put up with the subsequent “IS THIS TEAM OVERRATED!?!” gum-flapping to bring the moronic storyline full circle.

- Batch was admirable in fill-in duty, but now that the Steelers are 3-1, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review can take it down a notch with all the crazy talk.

- Ike had a pick. I half-expected an asteroid to hit the Ravens sideline seconds later.

Alright, it’s the bye week, Pittsburgh’s 3-1, and this team isn’t nearly as good as it’s going to be. If it helps distract you from Sunday’s outcome, think about that.

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  • Cols714

    I’m completely happy with being 3-1. Losing the way they did kind of sucked though. I’m waiting for people to pile on Lebeau for blitzing Troy on that last play. I’m not going to complain though. LeBueau knows what he’s doing.

    The only thing that sucks here is that Flacco is now going to be praised despite having mediocre numbers for the day.

  • SteelerBill

    Could be a very good thing for this team – they seemed to come out a bit flat and perhaps reading their own press clippings a bit….plenty of blame to go around though…..just sucks that we have to wait 2 weeks…

  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    SteelerBill,

    Agree about coming out flat — even Tomlin appeared at times to be less than his usual cool-as-a-cucumber self.

    Disagree about plenty of blame to go around. I thought the Steelers didn’t play horribly. Skippy missed two kicks and B-Mac got beat in man coverage with no pass rush. Charlie made a few mistakes, but he’s a 167-year-old the fourth-string QB.

  • RoB D

    I don’t know why but this is the first time I noticed what a complete douche Harbaugh is.

    Have to file that away for when we meet them again. IN Baltimore.With Ben.

    • David

      Rob D, I’ve known it for a while. Harbaugh makes Billick look like The Pope.

      • RoB D

        They had a cam on him all game.. and he was celebrating Skippy’s misses like he just won the Super Bowl, the lottery, and the division on one play ….jeebus..what a tool.

  • RoB D

    We end the 4 game stretch we all dreaded with a single loss. This one doesn’t hurt that much. Plus Cincy lost again. To Cleveland. If it comes down to a two team race for the division, I think we will best Baltimore on wins. WE played not all that great today and could have won this one if Skippy makes his kicks and/or Wallace comes down with the ball in the endzone. Lost the battle of inches today but we are sitting very pretty and Ryan makes a persuasive case to issue the Steelers a mulligan after this one. Should be a fun off week.

    Welcome back Ben…we missed you. Now come back with fire in your eye. This could get scary good…wink

  • Cols714

    One more thing, people bitch and moan about the prevent defense. But this is why teams play prevent, to stop the big play at the end of the game.

  • Cols714

    Oh yeah
    Did anyone notice that oher seemed to false start on a bunch of pass plays?

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      Cols,

      Funny you should mention that — my buddy said the exact same thing.

    • David

      Yes, I did also.

      And on the 4th down play from the 3, the RB also moved his foot forward. The refs then gave the Raisins a TO.

  • David

    Pittsburgh has the league’s best defense, a running back on the brink of a huge season, a much better o-line, fantastic specials teams…

    Ryan, I’ll mildly disagree on a couple of these items.
    -Our D was bested today. They were constantly in Batch’s face and they stopped us when we had short fields. Their CB Webb had an incredible day, especially stripping Wallace of the ball in the endzone. Remember last year when our D couldn’t hold leads? Well, same song, different verse.

    -The O-line played very average, which is an improvement. And Mewelde missed a key block on the safety blitz on an early 3rd down pass. Redman covered well. I’m for Redman as our 3rd D back.

    -ST’s covered OK, but made too many dumb penalties.

    And finally, with the exception of two drives, Batch made very poor decisions today. Hell, he didn’t complete a pass for 1 hr, 7 min at one stretch. And he took too many sacks, the worst when we were in very makeable FG range.

    But, that being said, barring a rusty Ben, I think we’ll be fine. I picked us 11-5, going 3-1 these 1st 4. So far, so good.

  • David

    One more gripe, then it’s back to work:

    How in the heck, as the media is now reporting, are the Raisins the teams to beat in the AFC now? Yeah, they beat us, no excuses. But geez Louise Christmas, the TTB in the AFC?

    • RoB D

      Because Don Banks says so..that’s why!

    • Outofbubblegum1

      FYI;

      Ravens have played their entire division (2-1). This was the first division game for the Steeler(0-1). Steelers still have to play and win Cincy & Cleveland. Moreover, Ravens have played 3 road games to be (3-1). Again, the lost to Cincy was an away game.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I’m mostly over the game. And I even see a silver lining in not getting cocky. My biggest concern was that Potsie stood out for being slow again and Foote seemed to do little as his replacement. And, uh, Skippy. On the plus side, ARE has done much more than I expected.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I think our opponents are 9-2 when not playing us.

  • Bigswa

    The glass is definitely half full not half empty

  • Bigswa

    Offense
    QB: C+
    RB: B
    OL: C
    WR: C
    TE: C
    OC: C

    Defense
    DL: B
    LB: C+
    SEC: C – McFadden must play inside leverage to take away seam route and use the boundry
    DC: C – How do you give up the sideline stuff on the last dive? Too many big plays early and late. Last two drives on defense were bad.

  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    Ha. Just reading the comments after JJ, Gretz and I recorded the podcast and I think we covered pretty much everything brought up below, including my perhaps-too-glowing reviews certain aspects of the game. I’ll have it posted in a bit.

  • drinkingclub

    Arrgh! I blame Reed. He has to make field goals.

  • http://twitter.com/davesftballblog Dave’s Football Blog

    The thing that pisses me off the most was the play call in the last two minutes. We have 3rd & long deep in our own territory, and the Ravens are out of time-outs. Why didn’t the Steelers take a shot at getting that first down and ending the game right there?

    Yes, you can be Bo Schembechler and argue about all the things that could have gone wrong: Batch could have gotten sacked for a safety. The pass could have been picked off. The pass could have fallen incomplete, thus giving the Ravens more time to score. I get all that, and none of it matters. The Steelers only had to convert one play to win the game, and they didn’t even bother to try. Instead of playing to win, they played not to lose. Well, guess what happened?

    That’s the most frustrating thing about this game. Pittsburgh had a chance to end it right then and there, and they didn’t even go for it. Horrible.

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      Dave,

      That’s a fantastic point. I can’t disagree with any of that and I’m sorta shocked more people (us included) aren’t talking about it.

    • 41True

      Yeah, your right. They should have let the 4th string QB win it for them as opposed to giving their all-world defense, who has carried them to this point, the best chance possible to make a stop in win the game. Really, with 2 minutes to go in the game 45 seconds of clock is utterly insignificant. Clearly – like start of WWI, the Hindenburg disaster, and the spread of AIDS – it was all Bruce Arians fault. He just didn’t want to win the game. Why is he so content to lose? Unacceptable.

  • Man532

    Ike pick, I’m still stunned by that happening. I knew the game was over and put a W in the column, Ike should keep wearing the pink gloves. But Arians went real conservative and this stat tells it all “2 possessions inside the 35 with No Yards and 0 points”. Ben at least gets us 6 on 2 short FG’s for Skippy, soon to be ex Steeler kicker.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I can’t argue with the playcalling at the end. In more than 16 quarters (OT included), we’d only given up 1 non-garbage time TD. Robo has been booming long punts all year (including, unfortunately, when we want to pin teams). A longer Robo punt and no dumb penalties and we might have held them off. And going into this game, BAL had giben up 0 first downs on 3rd and long. Just because something didn’t work doesn’t mean it wouldn’t most of the time.