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.