I had a dream last night. I somehow missed the start of the Ravens-Steelers game and when I finally turned it on, Baltimore was winning 55-14. Needless to say I wasn’t happy. This morning, I was telling my wife about it and she said, “You know, you were yelling ‘Get Down!’ in your sleep. I thought you were talking to the dog.”
I’m pretty sure I was screaming at the Steelers. Then I noticed that the game was in Baltimore, and I somehow pieced together that this wasn’t real. First time I dreamt about a football game. Ever. Not exactly how you want to wake up on gameday.
That said, I still felt pretty good about this matchup. I mentioned on the podcast earlier in the week that I thought the Steelers would win by at least 10 points. I obviously didn’t account for the two first-half turnovers deep in Pittsburgh territory. But you know what? Even after Po-Sweezy honked the 41-yarder, and the Steelers went into halftime down by 14, I had a good feeling about how things would turn out.
Joe Flacco, despite all the media bobblehead handjobbin’ leading up to this matchup, looked like he usually does against the Steelers: shaky. And the expression on his face — from start to finish — screamed “I’d rather be anywhere but here right now.”
On Thursday, my good buddy Merril Hoge said that the Steelers’ offensive line was much improved from the Week 13 matchup. Like most of you, I was skeptical. Even now, I’m not sure what to think. The Ravens sacked Roethlisberger six times, but, as is almost always the case, many of those were on Big Ben. But I’ve long since quit worrying about Roethlisberger holding onto the ball too long because despite the negative plays, the payoff is usually well worth it.
And Ben’s track record — especially against the Ravens — is what gave me confidence heading into the game. It also kept me calm when the Steelers trailed by 14. And no matter what the talking heads say, Flacco isn’t a guy who wins games. He’s a guy who has a good defense and is adept at throwing screens to Ray Rice and Todd Heap.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the random commentary…
* I live in a house in a quiet neighborhood in the middle-of-nowhere Upstate New York. In the past, I’ve been outside shoveling the driveway and I could hear my three-year-old son yelling and screaming about something inside, even with the doors and windows shut. I say that because I’m quite certain my neighbors — middle-aged people with good jobs and kids — thought about calling the police several times Saturday afternoon.
My wife figured out early on that watching the Steelers with me is a lose-lose proposition because I spend the game usually standing and always yelling at the television. So she and my son high-tail it to grandma’s house on gamedays. Which leaves me and the dog to act like savages. (Okay, it’s mostly me; the dog entertains me by playing along … right up until the time I feed him. Then he goes and lays on his bed pretending that I’m not really his owner). I was especially rambunctious today. I have no doubt that my neighbors could here me losing my mind, and probably wondered who Joe Flacco was and why I kept telling him to “get off the field before you get hurt.” Whatever. That’s a conversation I’m willing to have with the cops if Pittsburgh’s winning.
* Deebo set the tone before the game started. During the CBS pregame show, Cowher asked Harrison if he would give Terrell Suggs a ride to Heinz Field if he saw him on the side of the road.
“Yeah. … Because I don’t want no excuses.”
* There were so many noteworthy performances, but lemme start with Ziggy Hood. We all saw happened to the Steelers’ defense when Aaron Smith went down in 2007. So Pittsburgh drafted Hood in 2009 and we all waited. Well, things finally clicked midway through 2010, after Smith went down again, and Ziggy used Flacco as his personal punching dummy Saturday. And perhaps no play was bigger than his sack on that last, fateful Ravens drive.
Honorable mention: William Gay. I was the guy calling for Gay to get cut this preseason, even if it meant keeping Joe Burnett and Crezdon Butler. Burnett ended up getting the ax and Gay had a solid season and my keen eye for identifying talent continues to get sharper. Willie almost had a pick late in the fourth quarter, and played well in B-Mac’s absence. I’d still like to see B-Mac next week if for no other reason than to keep Anthony Madison off the field. Look, I love Madison, but nobody — No. 37 included — wants to see him out there as a nickel back.
Honorable mention, part II: Rashard Mendenhall. Hoge said the thought Mendenhall left some yards on the field during the Week 13 matchup, and that he could run against the Ravens. Rashard only managed 46 yards on 20 carries, and he had the fumble … but the touchdown run, after he hesitated in the hole — something Merril chided him for — was beastly. That’s big-boy football. Coulda done without The Flying Kemo to punctuate that play, but in the end, it gave the Ravens one less excuse after they got the ball at midfield and still couldn’t do anything.
* I’m going to use this opportunity to give Ted a hard time. As you may know, he’s Santonio Holmes’ biggest fan, and he’s pointed out once or twice that the Steelers were dumb to dump Holmes for peanuts (agree), and that this offense would struggle without him (disagree). The guys Pittsburgh drafted to replace Santonio have done that and then some. Manny Sanders and Antonio Brown improved each week of the season, and the Steelers relied on both of them leading up to this game. On Saturday, Sanders and Brown hauled in seven passes for 129 yards. The biggest, clearly, was Brown’s 58-yard reception on third and 19 to set up the winning touchdown.
* This is all I’m going to say about the officials: Jeff Triplette is a clown, and he did nothing to change my opinion after this game. Ben got hit in the head on at least two occasions, and Suggs hit him in the noggin with both hands on the fumble Cory Redding ended up returning for a score. But as I’ve written many times this season, good teams overcome crappy officiating. Of course, the Twitter Machine is already buzzing that David Johnson false-started during Mendy’s TD run. You can judge for yourself here.
I’ll just say this: maybe DJ did move, but it’s tough to tell if he moved early, or flinched as Ben got the ball. But let’s say the ref’s throw the flag. Pittsburgh gets another down, and barring a Jerome-in-Indy situation, worst-case, the Steelers are kicking a chip-shot field goal. Oh, right, the Ravens didn’t score on the next — and last — possession. That seems sorta important. If you’re not buying that, here’s what Suggs said after the game: “We have nobody to blame but ourselves. … You can’t blame the refs … we have to take a long look…”
* Fun fact about Ryan Clark, who had a spectacular effort Saturday: he joined the Steelers in 2006, after Chris Hope left for Tennessee. The Redskins decided to let Clark walk, even though he was a mentor of sorts to Sean Taylor, and a pretty damn good player. Instead, Washington paid Adam Archuleta $10 million. It’s the little stuff — from finishing your blocks, to filling out the roster — that, ultimately, is the difference between winning and losing. Hats off to you, sir.
* In case you’re wondering, the Steelers beat the Ravens in explosive plays, 2-1. Wallace went for 20 and Brown for 58. For Baltimore, Heap had a 21-yard reception.
* Also, via JJ “This was the best Steelers playoff comeback points-wise since the crazy Browns game in January 2003.”
* Finally, this seems like a fitting way to end this post:
And one more, to grow on:
Myron Cope wins.