The most miserable guy in the Bible was Jeremiah, the "weeping prophet." He knew that his people were headed for disaster, he warned them, but there wasn't sweet diddley he could do about it. And his people hated him for his warnings.
I was scared to death of what I had - and hadn't seen - in the pre-season games. I talked to Michael Bean about my concerns earlier in the week, and told him I'd write about them. I got cold feet, not wanting to post a "Here's How the Ravens Can Beat the Steelers" post a week ahead of the game. Hell, I even took the points and chose the Steelers in the pick 'em.
But then, twenty-five minutes before kick-off, I posted my pre-game analysis, which we switched to the first half thread when the original first half thread broke down. If you think I take any joy out of saying, "I told you so," you're nuts. I hated Sunday's game. It was like watching a nightmare come true, and, like Jeremiah, there wasn't sweet diddley I could do about it.
It's a good place to start the analysis of what went wrong. Here's what I wrote and posted at 12:40pm.....
I've been very quiet about this game, and there are several reasons. I've shared the reasons with Michael Bean, and want to share them with you....moments before kick-off.
1. It's too easy. The Steelers are a public team. They have backers from coast-to-coast. They have the Ravens' number and they have Flacco's number. For them to be two-and-a-half point underdogs makes it too easy a pick to bet on the Steelers. (Just like it was too easy to take the points against the Packers) The guess here is that more money will be bet on the Steelers than the Ravens. When Homer sees this, he doesn't walk in the opposite direction. He runs.
After game analysis: Yep. When it looks too easy, time to run away.
2. Line of scrimmage. Pre-season games mean little, but the Steelers simply have NOT been able to control the LOS with their first team defense against other teams' first string offense. Harrison has not shown his power or explosiveness, and Worilds has not shown much of anything against the run. And the sack he had against Carolina, Betty White could have had it. It was a totally missed assignment. If the Steelers can't control the line of scrimmage against Baltimore's makeshift line, it's going to be a long, challenging afternoon. I know that Baltimore's offensive line is patchwork, but that patchwork includes an all-pro center. They're not as bad as you think they are.
After game analysis: The Ravens controlled the LOS, and the play of Steeler linebackers was cause for great concern. Harrison hustled all over the place, but he absolutely does not have the strength and explosiveness that he had before the injury. The 3-4 is predicated on the front three taking up the blockers and setting up the four linebackers to make the big plays. The linebackers were out-physicaled or a half a second too late all afternoon. It wasn't just Harrison. The entire linebacking corps had a miserable afternoon.
3. The Steelers' running game. Again, pre-season games mean little, but the Steelers have not been able to put together a consistent running attack. If they can't do it today, Ben's gonna take some serious shots. And if they can't block for the run, will the Ravens be able to pin their ears back and come full tilt? Will Ben have time to find young money?
After game analysis: This was a combination of not being able to put together a consistent running attack and not trying to do so. The game plan was obviously to put the ball in the air and take advantage of an inexperienced Baltimore defensive backfield with speedy young money receivers. The game plan didn't work. And Ben, who had gone a long time without throwing an INT in the regular season (IIRC), was handing out INT's like the kid outside the Quizno's who hands out coupons. Basically, the OL was out of sync and often manhandled. Roethlisberger didn't have enough time, and he was also rattled and made some awful decisions.
4. The defensive backfield. If Ray Rice and Company can run the ball, it's gonna be a tough afternoon for the cornerbacks.
After game analysis: Nuff said.
5. Hidden vigorish. Some day, somehow, Flacco is going to have a good game against the Steelers. And there's a certain Baltimore DB who hasn't intercepted a pass against the Steelers in four years or something. Sooner or later...
After game analysis: Flacco had his great game. And Reed had two picks. Baltimore exorcised a lot of demons out there.
Of all these concerns, number two is the most serious. If the Steelers can't control the line of scrimmage, it's going to be a rough afternoon. And in recent years, James Harrison has been the key to LOS dominance. His play has increased the effectiveness of every single player on the Steeler defense. He is coming back from two back surgeries. Without him - and with him - the Steeler defense has been pushed back during the pre-season.
Maybe that's why the oddmakers in Vegas are daring us to bet on the Steelers.
Homer still loves his Steelers, but he is extremely concerned.
After game analysis: The Steelers didn't control either line of scrimmage. And I'm really, really worried about Harrison and the entire defense. Deebo's explosiveness and strength have been the keys to LeBeau's 3-4 for years. Without that strength and explosiveness, they don't control the line of scrimmage and they don't put enough pressure on the QB and all aspects of the defense suffer. It is too early to write him off, because he is recovering from two back surgeries and is said to be regaining his strength. But the Steelers without Harrison at 100% are clearly a different defense. And the play of the other linebackers was, at times, mystifying and troubling.
Final thought: the Ravens were who we thought they were, but even better. As for the Steelers, it's time to reassess who they are. They are nowhere near as bad as Sunday's performance. But this was not simply a bad day at the office. There are serious problems that the coaching staff, and perhaps the front office, will have to address.