The Deebo Chronicles, Ravens Week and Your … Top-Ranked Steelers

I can’t muster the energy to get worked up about the NFL’s haphazard process for meting out punishments. I blew a gasket in October and in the weeks since, James Harrison has been fined another $45,000 or so for what amounts to playing football.

Whatever.

Commissioner Roger Goodell might be a great advocate for the owners, but he’s the NFL equivalent of Bud Selig when it comes to competency. I’m pretty sure everybody — even those people who passionately hate the Steelers — can agree that Harrison’s getting the shaft. In fact, it’s gotten so bad, Terrell Suggs wonders what the hell is going on. Seriously.

During a Wednesday conference call he offered this: “Your guy over there, 92, I think he is red-flagged. The referees are kind of looking for him. Even if he breathes on a quarterback wrong, he might get a flag.”

Of course, Suggs has some experience with running afoul of the NFL’s version of the law. In 2005, in one of the most schadenfreude-tastic games I have ever seen, the Ravens lost to the Lions 35-17, committed 21 penalties, and referee Mike Carey tossed Suggs after accusing him of “having malice in his heart.” Good times.

History aside, Suggs makes some sense: The league has their favorites,” Suggs said. “One being in Indy and one being with that other team up north. Besides those two, everybody is fair game. Some quarterbacks are getting the calls right away. Some quarterbacks they don’t care.

“Like I always said, Carson Palmer got hit in his knee in 2005 but there was no rule made. Then Tom Brady got hit in his knee and all of a sudden there is a rule and possible suspensions, excessive fines — it’s just getting ridiculous.”

It’s ridiculous … and nothing’s going to change. At least not for the better. I suspect at some point this season, Deebo might even get suspended. Frankly, I was sorta shocked it didn’t happen already.

Part of me wonders what the league would do if, during the middle of a game, Harrison ran onto the field, punched Big Ben in the mouth, Seymour style, before pile-driving him to the turf. I’m guessing nothing — it would be some sort of punishment singularity.

UPDATE:: Just saw Hines Ward speaking the truth about all the fines:

Dear Hines: Quit making sense. Thanks in advance. Signed, Commissar Rog.

***

I have long been a proponent of Football Outsiders’ stats. They’re certainly more nuanced than “total yards” and offer a better picture of what is actually going on with a team or a player.

For example, I have very little trouble believing that, on a per-play basis, Mike Wallace is the NFL’s best receiver. Or by that same measure, Ben ranks third behind only Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. Or, hell, that ROBO-PUNTER is third in Football Outsiders’ “punt” metric. Intuitively, it makes sense.

So when FO’s Week 12 DVOA team efficiency rankings came out, I was surprised to see the Steelers at No. 1 (offense is 10th, defense is 1st, special teams is 8th). Most of us agree that Pittsburgh is the decided underdog heading into Baltimore.

Maybe some of that has to do with subliminally being told as much by the media. But a lot of it has to do with watching the Steelers stumble their way through four of their last five games, not to mention all the injuries up and down the roster.

But getting hurt is a part of football, and this time of year every team is ailing. The bigger issue: inconsistent offensive effort and a defense that can expect the dink-and-dunk treatment going forward (perfected by Tom Brady, imitated by just about everybody else) until they can prove they can stop it.

In case you’re wondering: the Ravens rank seventh overall (No. 12 offense, No. 8 defense, No. 6 special teams). But the Bills were the 29th heading into last week’s game, so who knows.

Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz actually writes that, “Even though the Steelers needed overtime to beat a 2-8 team, DVOA — even after opponent adjustments — sees Pittsburgh as the superior team over the course of the entire game. The Steelers did a better job of maintaining long, sustained drives, and only recovered one of the game’s four fumbles.”

So there’s that.

Of course, Aaron adds: “However, I know Steelers fans like to look for reasons for pessimism, so here’s one: Take out the blowout win over Oakland, and the Steelers were actually better during the four games without Ben Roethlisberger than they have been since his return. Their average DVOA in the first four games was 32.7%. Their average DVOA in the last seven games is only slightly higher, 33.4%, even though that string of games includes the biggest single-game DVOA of the season in the Oakland blowout.”

So there’s that, too.

(By the way, we’re starting to hear the media beat the “Yeah, but the Steelers can’t beat the good teams” drum. Well, the Falcons rank ninth, the Titans 10th and the Dolphins 12th. As for the losses, the Pats are second, the Saints 11th. Just putting that out there.)

Apparently, Ben’s 5-0 in his last five games against the Ravens, but ultimately, Sunday night’s get-together is going to come down to … well, what it always comes down to: getting off the field on third down, creating turnovers, and finding away to keep Big Ben upright long enough to make plays.

We’ll get into details during Thursday’s preview podcast, but I’ll point this out quickly: the way Hines Ward and Heath Miller have been playing recently have to be encouraging, as well as the emergence of Manny Sanders (even with that fourth-quarter drop in Buffalo) and Antonio Brown. Rashard’s coming off a big-boy effort, but historically, Pittsburgh’s running game goes out the window when they face Baltimore. Wouldn’t mind that changing this time around.

For that to happen, the offensive line will have to play well, something it has struggled to do consistently since, what, the 2005 season? And that leads me to this sobering stat from Pro Football Focus: “The Steelers’ offensive linemen were whistled for 13 penalties in this one, 10 of which were accepted. Compare that to the Falcons’ offensive line — 11 penalties ALL SEASON.” Lord help us.

In other news: Hines Ward still hates the Ravens. (Thanks to Ron Cook for clearing that up.)

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  • Randy Steele

    Put Trai Essex at tight end, hand Rashard the ball, and presto! You’ve got a running game!

    (Hey, why not do it until the Ravens prove they can stop it?)