Steelers, Karma Outlast Ravens

“I don’t officiate, I coach. I don’t work in New York, I work in Pittsburgh.”
- Mike Tomlin, post-game press conference, when asked about the hit on Heath Miller.

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.

Unreal.

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.

Whatever.

For now, Pittsburgh is 9-3 and lead the AFC North. I’ll take it.

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  • Anonymous

    Who gets the game ball? In this game that’s extremely tough. The performance was spread around most of the team. Look at the box score, that’s pretty tough. I guess my candidates are Polamalu for the game’s most important play, Farrior for good pressure and tackling, Roethlisberger for playing a decent game against a great defense with two injuries, Hood for stout run defense and that rare lineman sack, and Suisham for 2/2 FG and playing punter as well. See? Even my candidate list is long.

    Another thing you’ll note is how similar the two sides played. Look down every stat and you’ll see them similar. About the only place with significant difference is 119 return yards for the Ravens and 11 for the Steelers.

    • steelerfaninexile

      I’m not surprised your candidate list is long! I don’t think I’ve seen a better overall team effort this year. My only concern- and I’m not a coach- is that our secondary is going to eventually cost us when it matters most.

      I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, but I live in Vancouver, Canada now. My Canadian friends and neighbors are horrified by my game day fervor!! I’ve had neighbors knock on my door to see if I’m okay during games!

  • Mlwilliams7

    Great win by the Pittsburgh Steelers against our arch rivals the Baltimore Ravens (12.6.10).
    Something needs to happen in the secondary!!! Like now! Eh coach Tomlin, McFadden was an awful trade. He is the worst. So is William Gay, but McFadden is far worse. It’s painful to watch our linebackers excel in pass rushing and covering the flat, only to have McFadden blow the coverage every time.
    Let’s just drop all the focus on Ben’s personal life, and also the unfair attacks on Harrison for being awesome, and focus on the the real issue.
    McFadden is TERRIBLE and is destroying our ability to defend deep passes.
    PERIOD.

    • Cols714

      Way to celebrate a great win by doing nothing but complaining about Mcfadden.

    • Cols714

      Way to celebrate a great win by doing nothing but complaining about Mcfadden.

      • Mlwilliams7

        Do you think he has played well? If so in what game?
        I am celebrating the win, however I’m not so blind to not recognize there is a significant problem with the secondary.
        You don’t think people can be critical in a thread that discusses the successes and failures of a game?
        The win was awesome!! It was awesome despite the bad play of McFadden.
        Get a life.

    • Anonymous

      You are aware that BMac is playing with a hamstring injury? That means LeBeau thinks he is still preferable to healthy Gay or Lewis.

      • Mlwilliams7

        Yeah. I think he has been a weak link prior to the injury. I’m sick of hear Chris Collingsworth point out when a team is picking on the weakness of McFadden. Gay has been equally disappointing for several seasons now. Since they are now using Polamalu more of a true safety lately, our corners have shown their true colors.
        Flaco has a good arm and decent receivers, but it is hard to swallow these deep pass completions against lesser teams.
        Just feel that our awesome defense deserves better.

  • Linda

    Great post. You nailed it with the stressing out loved ones comment. I am so there.

    • Mike Frazer

      I spend half the game each week apologizing to my wife for my insanity. And my 4-year-old daughter constantly tells me to stop yelling at the TV because they can’t hear me.

  • Anonymous

    Just watched a replay of the touchdown. Sanders earns some credit for solid blocking at the goal line to prevent the DB from coming up to attempt a tackle on Redman.

    • Anonymous

      Also give Sanders big credit for that ST tackle on the last kickoff to the Ravens. That put the Ravens in a difficult spot with a lot of ground to cover.

      • RoB D

        Good call Dennis, Sanders does all the things you expect from a STeelers wideout. He’s looking like he’s going to be a good one for years to come and we needed a young guy to step up.. I like Antonio Brown as well. Great drafting.

  • RoB D

    “Everybody watching TV at home, everybody in the stadium, you all know it you see 43 at the line, four-minute offense, he’s coming,” said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs , who had 1 1/2 sacks. “It was just like, I hope we have a plan. It just didn’t feel good when I saw that hair at the line.”

    So far, my fave quote of the evening.

    Does Troy’s hair go in to the hall separately? I think you could make an argument that it should.

  • http://www.carlnatale.com/about-carl-natale/ Carl Natale

    One of the great military minds of this century said, “You go to war with the O-line you got.” Well that’s what the Steelers did. They came up with a decent plan to survive Terrell Suggs blitzkrieg. (He played like he was trying out for the Steelers D.) Then Heath and Flozell went out. Combine that with a questionable punter, what the hell were they supposed to do? Just what they did. Win. Wow.

    Give Arians credit for crafting a plan that involves something called the Pistol. Then credit the survivors for making it work anyway after the carnage.

    I know I used the words “questionable punter” but meant no disrespect to Skinny Skippy. He did what he had to do to. Who in Steelers’ management is looking like a genius because of the decision to replace Reed with Suisham?

    If you’re a Raven quarterback, you know it’s going to be long night when names like Ziggy and Ike are responsible for sacks. That means LeBeau has something new in store for you. Of course Flacco has seen this before. But I bet therapy had him convinced it was a bad dream.

    I agree. Give the defense lots of credit for keeping this a tight game. Yeah, McFadden had key problems. But the Ravens only were able to score 10 points because of McFadden’s play. I don’t remember the offensive stats, but I’m thinking without those two 60+ yard plays the Ravens didn’t show a lot. It’s like LeBeau planned for him to be the weak link.

    I say Big Ben redefined the term “drama queen.” Enuf said.

    Speaking of enuf said. James Harrison should shut up about officiating. His point was made quite nicely by Collinsworth and Michaels. Everyone in the NFL knows that hit on Heath was flaggable and fineable. We all know the officiating isn’t fair to Harrison. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on the NFL to officiate better. This doesn’t have to be fight anymore.

    I respect Harrison and appreciate every hit he has made as a Steeler. But this war on safety has run its course. One of his teammates was lucky to walk of the field last night. Complaining to a sideline reporter about a double standard made him look petty. I know he wants to see his kids go to college. But after that game, Miller is lucky to just see his kid.

    • JCRODRIGUEZ

      Carl, you beat me to it, but kudos for both coordinators, finally a great game plan for Arians and some nice in-game adjustments to get the offense in the end zone. I loved those quick hitches to Wallace and the¨Pistol formation to give the Ben a chance to minimize his steps under center while given a real threat of a running play on any given down. Congrats!!…and LeBeau, man, aside from that Boldin TD (who can cover an All Pro receiver during a 9 second play?, that make B-Mac a failure, a weak link??…really?) the schemes were fantastic and how he dialed up the last two defensive series was almost orgasmic, really…well, grat team effort, great team victory, lets try and get enough healthy bodies in shape for the rest of the season and a nice playoffs run.

      • http://www.carlnatale.com/about-carl-natale/ Carl Natale

        Yeah that weak link comment was harsher than I meant it to be. I suspect if someone looks at the game with JJ-like intensity, they will see McFadden’s body of work last night not that troubling. It’s tough when the high-profile plays happen on your watch. From my point of view, it’s part of the bend-don’t-break strategy. Which I am not complaining about.

        BTW, I should have mentioned my wife deserves a call out for sticking with me the entire game. I believe she watches with me so she can dial 911 right away.

  • eddie

    “the last time he went on IR (and I’m assuming that’ll happen Monday), Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl.”

    uh, the last time he went on IR, we ended up with mitch berger… if skinny skippy can learn to catch with his hands and not his stomach (ala plaxico), i’d love to have him PK and punt, and then we can bring in someone else to kickoff.

    my word, everytime cundiff kicked off, i was getting aroused to see kickoffs land DEEP into the end zone.

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

      RE: Cundiff. Watching him bomb balls out of the end zone was mesmerizing.

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

      RE: Cundiff. Watching him bomb balls out of the end zone was mesmerizing.

  • Steeler Stan

    Two things: First, Is Crezdon Butler so bad that he isn’t an improvement over Keenan Lewis and Anthony Madison in the dime? If so, he is not good enough to be on an NFL roster because those two are just barely worthy of their spots as it is.

    Second, did anyone else notice that on the fantastic play Big Ben made in getting away from Suggs in the 4th quarter that Suggs was all over his helmet? That should have been a personal foul in and of itself. When you compare the abuse Ben takes to the personal foul call on Suh against Cutler that helped the Bears win I feel like there are two different football leagues.

  • Anonymous

    Just wanted to note that Steelers fans are getting a bit whiny, much like Ravens and Seachicken fans … I’m sorry, but Suggs did not really touch Ben’s helmet on that play, much less deliver a blow or a personal foul. Harrison’s hits are legit hits – the same goes when big hits are delivered against Steelers players.

    The only play that might have been called was Ngata’s blow to the face that broke Roethlisberger’s nose – and frankly even that looked inadvertant. The hit on Heath Miller looked ugly but not sure it deserved a flag – the Ravens player was running full steam to make a play, not sure how he was supposed to slow up in a half-second. Isn’t that why we love Ravens-Steelers games – because they’re full of hard guys making hard hits? I mean, we’re not Patriot fans or Chargers fans or Colts fans for a reason, right?

    • Mlwilliams7

      I agree. I think the refs are not quick to make that call with Ben because of his stature and his ability to extend plays.
      I love a Ravens-Steelers match up because you know it’s going to be close and hard hitting.
      Ben playing through a twisted up bloodied nose is what Steeler football is all about.
      Go Frankenfoot!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Just wanted to note that Steelers fans are getting a bit whiny, much like Ravens and Seachicken fans … I’m sorry, but Suggs did not really touch Ben’s helmet on that play, much less deliver a blow or a personal foul. Harrison’s hits are legit hits – the same goes when big hits are delivered against Steelers players.

    The only play that might have been called was Ngata’s blow to the face that broke Roethlisberger’s nose – and frankly even that looked inadvertant. The hit on Heath Miller looked ugly but not sure it deserved a flag – the Ravens player was running full steam to make a play, not sure how he was supposed to slow up in a half-second. Isn’t that why we love Ravens-Steelers games – because they’re full of hard guys making hard hits? I mean, we’re not Patriot fans or Chargers fans or Colts fans for a reason, right?

  • Randy Steele

    This just in…

    “Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain has been fined $40,000 for an illegal hit Sunday night on Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller, the NFL confirmed Monday.

    Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata was fined $15,000 for striking Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the head, the league confirmed.”

    • Randy Steele

      By the way, did anyone else catch Harbaugh’s particularly irksome speechification on NBC’s pre-game show about the NFL’s new policy toward hits, and how it was very clear to him and his Raven’s team about what was clean and what was dirty?

      He adamantly, even stridently, maintained that he was not the weeniest tiniest bit confused about these mid-season changes to the rulebook.

      Obviously, his team gave him its full attention.

  • FW

    The Steelers had an unfair advantage on the Play of the Game. You watch the footage of Polamalu’s tomahawk chop, and he and Flacco both fall to the ground. In the next moment, LaMarr Woodley scoops up the ball as several Ravens pursue, and he gets an extra couple of yards (with the potential to rumble for 6) due to downfield blocking from… Polamalu’s clone.

    See, it’s physically impossible for Polamalu to get up off the ground and cover 10 yards as fast as players on their feet already running can cover that span, ergo The Hair has a clone hiding, perhaps, in the actual hair itself.