I mentioned it two weeks ago against the Raiders and again last week: good teams overcome crappy officiating. Versus the Ravens, the Steelers not only overcame that, they managed it without their Nos. 1 and 2 tight ends, their right tackle and with a Frankenfooted quarterback sporting an Owen Wilson nose.
On Saturday, Mike Tomlin said both teams were looking for a signature win and this is easily one of the most impressive Steelers victories that I can remember. Terrell Suggs was abusing Pittsburgh’s offensive line and Bryant McFadden was pretending he was Willie Gay, 2009 version, yet through it all — and despite Ben getting punched in the face and Heath almost dying — the Steelers are now 9-3 and in first place in the division.
Some other quick random thoughts:
* Say what you want about this defense, but I sensed early on that the unit would have a good game. It’s not often that I’m overcome with a sense of calm while watching the Steelers, but two series into Sunday night, I felt pretty good about Pittsburgh’s chances.
Of course, a possession later, B-Mac made the first of countless mistakes, that one resulting in an Anquan Boldin touchdown. That said, credit to him for making a play in the end zone on that last drive, and more importantly, credit to guys like Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel, LaMarr Woodley (sorry I ever doubted you!), Potsie Farrior, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu for more than picking up the slack.
* If not for Ben Frankenbootsberger’s performance, I’m giving my game ball to Isaac Redman. Huge third-down conversion early in the game, and a HUGER touchdown catch at the end of the game. On the decisive third-and-goal play, MeMo’s usually the go-to guy, but Redman lined up there, ran the hot route, and made a couple guys miss on his way to the end zone.
My first thought after he scored? ”The ball never lies.” It’s a tried and true maxim, and after the Ravens got a handful of questionable calls on the drive leading up to Troy’s strip and LaMarr’s return, it only made sense that the karma gods woke up long enough to right the wrongs.
(Also, random: at one point during the game, my wife said to me: “I really get stressed out listening to you watch the Steelers. I actually have to consciously slow my heart rate when the game is on.” This probably means I have a problem. We have both accepted this fact.)
* So it appears that ROBO-PUNTER has blown up his knee for the second time in three seasons. That’s sort of a problem. He was having a good year, but if there’s an upside, the last time he went on IR (and I’m assuming that’ll happen Monday), Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl.
Related: Shaun Suisham’s balls have dropped. After a big week in Buffalo, he hit a tough 45-yarder in Baltimore, and then did a better job as fill-in punter than Mitch Berger ever did.
(More complete randomness: Anybody see Skippy in a 49ers uniform? Let me just say, brown pants and an untucked white shirt couldn’t be less flattering for a 5-8, 290-pound kicker. He looked like a thick crust white cheese pizza.)
* JJ’s been calling for it for months, but Manny Sanders is getting more involved in the offense, and he had a couple nice catches against the Ravens. Antwaan Randle El has been relegated to fair-catch punt duty — which I think we’re all fine with — but more than that, kudos to Tomlin for not sticking with the status quo when it clearly wasn’t working.
* It’s a weekly occurrence, but the Steelers will have some injuries to contend with as they prepare for the Bengals. Miller, Flozell, ROBO-PUNTER, Ben and I’m sure a few other guys we don’t yet know about.
For now, Pittsburgh is 9-3 and lead the AFC North. I’ll take it.