Ravens 35: Steelers 7: It Felt Like More

I’ll just start by saying this: I can’t remember the last time I watched a Steelers team get dominated like that.

The Steelers-Ravens series has been close in recent years, but it has had its share of blowouts. There was the 2007 Monday night game in Pittsburgh when the Steelers hung 35 points on Baltimore in the first half. The year before, in 2006, the Ravens swept the season series with two dominating wins, winning by a combined score of 58-7. That was the year the Steelers had to win six of their last eight regular season games just to finish with a .500 record.

If Sunday’s game were a movie, the Steelers would have been Scott Farkas in a Christmas Story after Ralphie, tired of being picked on for a few years, finally flipped his lid, lost his mind, and let loose on the school yard bully that had been shoving him around all the time. Only worse.

I’m not really surprised the Steelers lost. Coming into the season this was a game I had penciled in as a potential loss simply because these games are always a coin toss, the Steelers were going on the road, against a divisional rival, and against team that would no doubt be fired up and ready to deliver its best shot in the season opening game after blowing a 14-point lead in their last game — a playoff game — of the previous season.

I never expected a 28-point beatdown.

And the real kicker is the Steelers are lucky — damn lucky, as it turns out — that it wasn’t worse. Because it absolutely should have been, given that they finished minus-seven in the turnover margin.

Immediately after the game Craig Wolfley interviewed LaMarr Woodley on the field on the radio side, and the Steelers’ outside linebacker said this game was only one of 19, and followed that up by quickly saying that yes, you heard him correctly — the Steelers intend on being back in the Super Bowl. My first reaction was that Super Bowl teams don’t generally lose games by 28 points, at any point in the season, to any team. Out of curiosity I went back to the 1997 season and looked at every team that played in the Super Bowl and found their largest margins of defeat.

Surprisingly, quite a few of them had blowout losses during the regular season. Here’s the complete rundown of each Super Bowl teams largest loss:

2010: Green Bay: 4; Pittsburgh: 13
2009: New Orleans: 13; Indianapolis: 23
2008: Arizona: 40; Pittsburgh: 16
2007: New York Giants: 22, 24; New England 0 (16-0 regular season record)
2006: Chicago: 18, 19; Indianapolis: 27
2005: Seattle: 12; Pittsburgh: 19
2004: Philadelphia: 24, 28; New England 14
2003: Carolina: 23; New England 31
2002: Tampa Bay: 10; Oakland: 10
2001: St. Louis 7; New England: 20
2000: New York Giants: 14, 14; Baltimore: 13
1999: St. Louis: 7: Tennessee: 17, 27
1998: Atlanta: 25, Denver: 10
1997: Green Bay: 11; Denver 17

Silver lining! It’s only one game. But man, it was an ugly one.

The Ravens were simply the better team in all four phases of the game (offense, defense, special teams and coaching). It’s hard to put a finger on which one area was the most responsible, because they were all equally to blame.

I overheard a conversation on Saturday where some fan said this game “would make or break the Steelers season.” That, of course, is absurd, and even knowing the outcome of Sunday’s game it’s still absurd. It was ugly. It was forgettable. And it was even a little humbling. But I also don’t expect the Steelers to turn the ball over seven times every week or play as poorly as they did in all areas on Sunday, and my expectations for the season as a whole haven’t changed.

Still, if Mike Tomlin showed up in the meeting rooms on Monday and put this on instead of the game film I don’t think anybody in the room would notice the difference.

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  • Cols714

    I’m over it. Whatever. It was a huge loss, but it happens. This team has a track record of success. Things will be OK.

    • Anonymous

      I just finished watching it about a half hour ago, so I’m not over it yet. I remember reading an article a while back where they monitored the hormonal activity in sports fans and noticed striking differences between fans whose teams had won vs. lost. Specifically testosterone levels rise with a win and fall with a loss in significant enough amount to affect behavior noticeably. The effect on the affect (/rimshot) decreases over time and is in most cases largely gone the next day.

      Oh and yeah it’s only one game. Two out of three times the Steelers wins that one. They lost this one. It was a bad loss, but it is what it is.

      • Anonymous

        I just watched the second half of the divisional game from last year. Football penicillin…

    • Jim

      I agree.They came out ready to play, they were playing their Super Bowl. We came out flat like it was just another game.  When that happens, especially on the road, in a rivalry like this when the two teams are so evenly matched, you get results like this. No way are the Steelers that bad, nor are the Ravens that good.

  • David

    Regarding your memory on us being dominated, well, I can think of the Tom Brady QB-ed Patsies for several games and the smackdowns Steve McNair, as a Titan or Raisin, put on us.

    Oh, and there were the Aikman led Cowgirls who whipped us good in the season openers.

    Just sulking…I’ll be better once we annihilate the Screwhawks (I live in the NW and can’t wait to beat them and their we-got-screwed-in-XL fans. Yes, they still talk about that NOW.)

    • Anonymous

      I live here in Seattle too (well Snoqualmie actually, but none of you have ever heard of that town :-P). My barber a couple of weeks ago asked if I was a sports fan, what sport, and what team. I was truthful, and then she got on me about XL. She was cutting my hair at the time, so I went with the “shame the refs cost us a good game” line instead of being truthful again.

      • countertorque

        I’ve been skiing in Snoqualmie a couple of times.  My sister and her family live in Seattle.  My brother in law is generally a great guy, but he never lets this one go.  That superbowl was the one bright spot for their crappy team.  They have nothing else.  So, I try to be nice about it.  But, holy crap, get over it already!

        • Anonymous

          You’ve been skiing in the town of Snoqualmie Pass not Snoqualmie, which I know is confusing. Snoqualmie is actually about midway between Seattle and Snoqualmie Pass, so it’s much less remote. 
          That season started at right around the time I moved here to Seattle from Dallas, and I adopted the team as a second rooting interest since it rarely conflicts with the Steelers’ interests (when it does I’m all for the Steelers), aside from Holmgren they seemed like a decent organization, the fans seemed to get into it nicely, and I could actually fin their games on TV. That was an awkward Super Bowl party I attended that year. Everyone else in the room was a Seahawks “fan,” but none of them were really in to football.

          And no, I never rooted for the Cowboys. I did for the Rangers, Stars, and Mavericks (though the only one of those sports I ever watch is hockey), but I’ve always hated the Cowboys – whomever they’re playing I guess is another rooting interest. I moved to Dallas from McKeesport.

      • countertorque

        I’ve been skiing in Snoqualmie a couple of times.  My sister and her family live in Seattle.  My brother in law is generally a great guy, but he never lets this one go.  That superbowl was the one bright spot for their crappy team.  They have nothing else.  So, I try to be nice about it.  But, holy crap, get over it already!

      • countertorque

        I’ve been skiing in Snoqualmie a couple of times.  My sister and her family live in Seattle.  My brother in law is generally a great guy, but he never lets this one go.  That superbowl was the one bright spot for their crappy team.  They have nothing else.  So, I try to be nice about it.  But, holy crap, get over it already!

      • countertorque

        I’ve been skiing in Snoqualmie a couple of times.  My sister and her family live in Seattle.  My brother in law is generally a great guy, but he never lets this one go.  That superbowl was the one bright spot for their crappy team.  They have nothing else.  So, I try to be nice about it.  But, holy crap, get over it already!

  • GlennW

    The only hopelessly, naively optimistic thing that can be said of this game is that it was so bad but the Steelers can’t help but be motivated by it like nothing else.  Has Ben ever played worse?  Left all kinds of plays on the field, and just couldn’t miss wide-open Ravens defenders with underthrown back-foot throws and scatter-shot passes (if not for a couple drops this easily could have been a 5-pick game for Ben).  Not that this was the only problem of course; the defense was tiissue paper against the run and pass and the O-line was a sieve.  Disgusting.  Ridiculous too that Tomlin left Ben in there almost as punishment to the entire offense to take some garbage-time hits to no useful purpose.  Oh well, time to move on, as if there’s any other choice… 

  • http://www.facebook.com/caseyjadams Casey Adams

    I do believe the Ravens are legit, but can’t help but wonder if they just blew their load so to speak on this one.

    • Brian C

      I agree, this was the game that the Ravens were focused on all during an offseason that was started for them by yet another loss to the Steelers when it mattered most.  They had to show their fans today in a home-opener statement game that they could shake the monkey of Big Ben off their backs.  Today was  a week one road game for the Steelers, and the Super Bowl for the Ravens.  Im not excusing the Steelers for a lack of focus… but good luck getting worked up for the rest of the long season, Ray-Ray.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I think there was a chance that the team was a bit too contended and didn’t come in with enough intensity.  Hard to believe they’ll be contended again for the rest of the season.  I wouldn’t want to be Tavaris Jackson next week.

    It almost felt like a week 1 or 2 preseason game for all the things we did wrong.  Hopefully we’ll be firing on all cylinders in a week or two, as we were firing on none today.  I’m not going to get too fussed unless we lay an egg next week. 

  • Joe Stitt

    The problem is the Ravens have been waiting for this game since January. On the other hand, the entire organization was under prepared. The only positive thing I take away is Ike. I was pretty worried about Evans, but Taylor had a great game and never gave up. Arians did Ben no favors today. His play calling made no sense. And what the heck happened to the no huddle? It’s no secret that the Ravens are old at linebacker and inexperienced at corner. No huddle could have caused a lot of confusion. This stunk. A lot. But it was one game against the Ravens. If this happens next week, people better take every sharp object away from me. But September 18th is a new day. And I know I would NOT wanna be Tarvaris Jackson in that game.

    • David

      I agree with the play calling. Empty backfield, Ben under center? Suggs strip sack.

      2nd and 2? Two straight incompletions.

      WR screen to Hines? He gets leveled by Johnson and Ben throws a pick right to Reed at the goal line.

      Geez.

      • Joe Stitt

        And why bother faking a reverse 3 times if you never run it?

        But by far, the thing that bothered me the most was the lack of hustle or energy shown by the offense. It was like they couldn’t ever see the scoreboard or the clock.

      • Anonymous

        One of the two wide receiver screens to Ward worked out pretty well didn’t it? The pick to Reed was a desperation throw. The Steelers needed a lot of points in a hurry, so Ben took his chances and lost. Even so, on that play Hines Ward got tackled when he started running his route. I know bumping is allowed within 5 yards, which that was, but full on tackling has to be at least defensive holding doesn’t it? Otherwise why ever allow receivers off the line of scrimmage at all?

    • Cols714

      Yeah
      Let’s blame Arians. The Ravens put freaking 35 points on the board. Maybe LeBeau gets some blame as well…

      • Joe Stitt

        Did I blame Arians? Nope. I simply said Arians didn’t make calls to make things any better. He simply made things worse for Ben. Hence, he did him no favors.

  • Anonymous

    I disagree that it felt like more. Take every play that happened after the first score of the second half and throw it away. It didn’t count. At that point in the game, the Steelers needed very low probability massive explosive plays on both defense and offense to win. If you play to try and get those, and you don’t really have a choice, expect to get in bigger hole. This is especially true on offense, and five turnover came after that point.

    Even if you do ignore that part of the game, you’re still looking at a solid beating at 24-7 with 2 turnovers being committed. Both of those turnovers are easy to blame on the line. That’s the part of the game that worries me the most. The line stunk it up hard. The Ravens have one of the better defensive fronts, but not good enough to excuse that performance up front.

    • GlennW

      > Take every play that happened after the first score of the second half and throw it away. It didn’t count.

      The Ravens only scored 2 FGs after this point.  This is probably why the author says it felt worse (it did to me)– the Steelers committed *five* more turnovers after this, and the Ravens moved the ball pretty well but still only scored 6 more points due to their own problems (penalties, mainly).  We’re talking semantics here about something that doesn’t much matter, but the final score easily could have been worse than 35-7.

      • Anonymous

        That’s fair. What I was trying to get at mainly is that if you want take-aways from the game or you want to use it as a yardstick. All of that late play isn’t useful because it resulted in the kind of play you will see only when one team is desperate to get back into a game with very little chance, which doesn’t tell you an awful lot about performance in the part of the game that matters.

        If it was hockey they would have been playing with a pulled goalie.

        • GlennW

          I agree that we shouldn’t read too much into what happened in the second half.  However believe it or not I hadn’t given up on this game with the score 29-7 with a full 29 minutes to play.  Instead the Steelers just completely fell apart, which you really don’t like to see with that much game left to be played (Tomlin sounded pissed about this in the postgame, by the way).  As an example, in my opinion both of Ben’s final two picks weren’t really desperate “high risk” plays, rather just very poor throws (Phil Simms even wanted to give Ben the excuse of a “wet ball” on the last one, where Ben floated a wobbler over an open underneath receiver by a good 10 yards).  It happens.

          Okay, so Ben was awful.  I can accept that one as an anomaly which doesn’t occur often.  I can also accept the shoddy O-line pass protection, insofar as that is pretty much what we’ve bargained for with our personnel decisions with that unit, to be expected against good defenses but nonetheless something that Ben continually overcomes with his elusiveness and big-play ability (but just didn’t yesterday).  Perhaps of most concern though was the defense and its inattentiveness to Ray Rice– only the Ravens’ biggest offensive weapon– and the tight ends.  Hopefully this was mostly just scheme breakdown and not any sign of the dreaded age-based decline of our LBs and safeties.  Time will tell.

          • Anonymous

            Those are all fair points to make, and Tomlin’s justified in being pissed. I by no means wanted to imply that they played okay in desperation mode. They were still playing poorly. I just mean that they were taking chances I don’t think otherwise would have been taken. It’s not that the play wasn’t still bad or that it should be excused, it’s that, in the parlance of FO (congratulations on that, btw, JJ), I think it is “non-predictive.”

            I hadn’t given up at that point either. But I knew that coming back would require big swing plays, which in turn required high-risk play. I thought they had a shot at pulling it off, but instead they kept playing really poorly, only with riskier play and, I think, panic.

        • GlennW

          I agree that we shouldn’t read too much into what happened in the second half.  However believe it or not I hadn’t given up on this game with the score 29-7 with a full 29 minutes to play.  Instead the Steelers just completely fell apart, which you really don’t like to see with that much game left to be played (Tomlin sounded pissed about this in the postgame, by the way).  As an example, in my opinion both of Ben’s final two picks weren’t really desperate “high risk” plays, rather just very poor throws (Phil Simms even wanted to give Ben the excuse of a “wet ball” on the last one, where Ben floated a wobbler over an open underneath receiver by a good 10 yards).  It happens.

          Okay, so Ben was awful.  I can accept that one as an anomaly which doesn’t occur often.  I can also accept the shoddy O-line pass protection, insofar as that is pretty much what we’ve bargained for with our personnel decisions with that unit, to be expected against good defenses but nonetheless something that Ben continually overcomes with his elusiveness and big-play ability (but just didn’t yesterday).  Perhaps of most concern though was the defense and its inattentiveness to Ray Rice– only the Ravens’ biggest offensive weapon– and the tight ends.  Hopefully this was mostly just scheme breakdown and not any sign of the dreaded age-based decline of our LBs and safeties.  Time will tell.

        • GlennW

          I agree that we shouldn’t read too much into what happened in the second half.  However believe it or not I hadn’t given up on this game with the score 29-7 with a full 29 minutes to play.  Instead the Steelers just completely fell apart, which you really don’t like to see with that much game left to be played (Tomlin sounded pissed about this in the postgame, by the way).  As an example, in my opinion both of Ben’s final two picks weren’t really desperate “high risk” plays, rather just very poor throws (Phil Simms even wanted to give Ben the excuse of a “wet ball” on the last one, where Ben floated a wobbler over an open underneath receiver by a good 10 yards).  It happens.

          Okay, so Ben was awful.  I can accept that one as an anomaly which doesn’t occur often.  I can also accept the shoddy O-line pass protection, insofar as that is pretty much what we’ve bargained for with our personnel decisions with that unit, to be expected against good defenses but nonetheless something that Ben continually overcomes with his elusiveness and big-play ability (but just didn’t yesterday).  Perhaps of most concern though was the defense and its inattentiveness to Ray Rice– only the Ravens’ biggest offensive weapon– and the tight ends.  Hopefully this was mostly just scheme breakdown and not any sign of the dreaded age-based decline of our LBs and safeties.  Time will tell.

  • Mike L

    Is anyone ticked off about the two point conversion or going for it on 4th down up 22 points.  If there is any karma in the world let it fall on Harbaugh, for showing such poor sportsmanship. 

    • Joe Stitt

      Definitely. In general, Balitmore showed a complete lack of respect for the game today. Throwing when they should run the clock, late hits, cheap shots, taunting. Granted this all does come with such a fierce rivalry. But without a doubt, the Ravens were looking to take Steelers out of the game in the 4th quarter. However, come November, karma and more importantly the Steelers will remember this.

      • Dean Keaton

        That lack of respect started, IMO, with the whole crowd shouting their standard “O!!!” during the National Anthem. On such a heavy occasion, couldn’t they hold off just once?

    • Anonymous

      No, absolutely not. Going for two was surprising, but if he saw an opening, why not? And I think going for it on 4th in that distance and spot on the field was the right call strategically. They didn’t need the points, but so what? The myriad late hits the Ravens dealt all game were much more troublesome and indicative of poor sportsmanship.

    • GlennW

      The 2-point conversion came in the first minute of the 2nd half !  If we’re complaining about that, we’ve turned into a bunch of crybabies.  As for the cheapshots, the Steelers were as fully engaged in that stuff as were the Ravens, perhaps even more so as instigators after the game was lost.  The Ike Taylor penalty in particular was as senseless as it gets.  Sorry, I’m a Steelers fan but I’m not engaging in the whining and excuse-making– my ire after this game is reserved for the pathetic effort that our guys put forth.

  • JCRODRIGUEZ

    Guys, if you could take a closer look at the film, please check the LB’s, man, for what I saw they were abused by the speed of the young TE’s and Rice, the blueprint is there again, we need to adjust and adjust fast. Farrior and Foote were lost and/or eating dust, and Harrison was way, way below 100%. Worilds and Sylvester, better be ready to be called on deck.

    Also, Ngata abused our line, specially Legursky, to the surprise of no one. Are you running the o-line grading later on?

    Well, we better learn something from this. And let the Seahawks pay the bill.  Beat them. HARD.

  • Dean Keaton

    You all are taking the wrong point of view here, giving too much credit to the Ravens. Here’s what it comes down to: This was a close game that the Steelers handed to the Ravens. It came down to 7 plays and the Ravens just got lucky.

    • Anonymous

      Somewhat agree. I thought the game until it turned into a desperation fest was a lot more closely played than the score. If you take away that first “touchdown” where McFadden actually had really got coverage, Flacco threw it perfectly*, but Boldin didn’t actually get two feet down and I wonder how the game goes. That momentum could mean a lot. That being said, with the game still in contention the offensive line leaked like sieve, and there were huge gaps in coverage.

      *Yeah I know. I never thought I’d say that either, but that was the best game I’ve ever seen Flacco play by far. Here’s to hoping he reverts back to his normal mediocre self, and that’s not a preview of some sudden maturing.

    • Joe Stitt

      I agree. Mendy had some decent runs earlier on. But once the Ravens pulled away, the turnovers started and the team blew up.

    • Dean Keaton

      To be clear, I was actually joking and mocking the Ravens (specifically Terrell Suggs with the “lucky” comment) and their fans. Every time we beat the Ravens, they give NO credit to the Steelers, and just talk about how the Ravens gave the game away. It’s always one play, and the Steelers got lucky, dammit! Never admitting that they lost to a better team.

      Yesterday, the Steelers lost to a better team. Doesn’t mean that they won’t be the better team upon the first rematch of the year in November, or the second one — hopefully — in January, but the Ravens beat the Steelers in every way imaginable yesterday, and those 7 turnovers were only the natural outcome of the Ravens dominating the game.

      • Joe Stitt

         They were the better team, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a close game that blew up in the Steelers faces. Resulting in the blow-out.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

    I’m confused.  Were the Steelers the chicken or the swedish chef in the video?

    I just keep reminding myself of Tom Jackson’s overreaction when the Bills blew out the Patriots in week 1 of the 2003 season.  I hope our season ends as well as the Patriots did that year. 

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    We were -7 on turnovers.  Do we really need more of an explanation than that?  We would lose to some college teams if we did that.  I’m not going to draw more conclusions about anything until we get to at least the end of September.