Bumped. Good stuff, at least from my perspective. I'll be elaborating in a bit more detail, but this more or less sums up my feelings about the Steelers 23-20 loss in Week 9 to the rival Ravens. Thanks to all of you for the never-ending stream of great commentary, news and analysis. -Michael B.-
As much as it hurts me to say this, I think it is. Sunday Night Football was just a great great game between two great great teams.
And it hurts even more to say, that the Ravens played amazingly well. Frankly, that's the way it should be, two very even teams, played a very even game, traded field goals, each scored a TD off a turnover, came up with long drives for another 7s, and the difference materialized only with 8 ticks to go. Seriously, it can't get much better than this.
Except, of course, if the Steelers had won.
We, loyal members of Steeler Nation, will always give credit where credit is due, and I am just going to say it: this one is on Flacco. Joe Cool had a career night - not in terms of stats, but in terms of quality of play. It was stellar, and he kept it up throughout the entire game. Extremely cool and confident amid the fierce pass rush, he stood in the pocket and delivered blow after blow, being especially effective on 3rd down. The Steelers shut down Ray Rice for the night, and Flacco had to win it on his own, with a bunch of untrusted receivers, and he did just that.
The Steelers came painfully close to making a stop on that final drive, but it was just not meant to be. We gave up to much yards - in chunks. This is the only reason that we lost. Our own secondary struck us again.
Really, there is not much else to say about why we lost. Offense did all it could, and gave us a chance to win it. Don't forget that Big Ben and his unit overcame 1st and 25 on their final drive to score a TD. Offensive line played lights out. Not much else needs to be said. But for the interception, Terrell Suggs was a non-factor. Haloti Ngata was not a monster on the D, Ray Lewis did not harass Ben or Mendenhall.
Don't forget that we played shorthanded at a WR position. This offense could be even better with Sanders and Ward in the game.
On the D, this was a night of textbook tackling by each and every Steeler. So many steel-hard tackles in the open field. Incredible.
Harrison - no words needed. It is good to have #92 back. Imagine the same power coming off the opposing edge?
Secondary - well, this is it for me. This is as if the tidal wave of the Lake wore off - I saw a lot of cushion given up by our corners (aside of Ike), William Gay looked like his 2010 self, and Keenan Lewis seemed to be overmatched at times. One blown play by a safety - and game over.
But all in all, I am pleased with how the Steelers played. I thought that Baltimore was not as dominant as it seemed, and I respectfully disagree with Michael Bean on this point. It's just that Joe Flacco made sure that the Ravens were 3 points better than Pittsburgh, just like Big Ben did a number of times before. It is important that the Steelers demonstrated that they are not as overmatched as they looked in Week 1. Despite the season sweep, it is too soon to call it a change of guard in AFC North.
Nothing is lost yet. The Ravens, even though they have their destiny in control, will not run the table, and it is up to these Steelers to take advantage of their miscues. Even if it is in the playoffs. I think that Ravens deserve one home playoff game, they have been consistently good. And it would be sweet to beat them there.
Now, though I hate this topic, I can't avoid mentioning the officials. There was a number of bad calls, including two pass interference calls and a phantom hold on Max Starks. But the key issue was the refs' treatment of blows to the head. Why did not Ray Lewis get flagged for a blow to Hines Ward's head early in the game? Why then Ryan Clark did for the same alleged infraction later? This is not the way officiating is done. Over the course of the game, I had a constant feeling that the Ravens were being favored by the refs. I am not claiming that this contributed to the final outcome, but the nagging feeling remains.
Anyway, on to next week. The Bengals apparently are no joke, but I will be sincerely surprised if Andy Dalton the Rookie handles the Pittsburgh rush as well as Flacco. And then we can exhale on the bye week before the final stretch of the season commences.