I was just as incensed as Denver’s head coach, Vic Fangio, as I watched the tail-end of the Ravens’ rather easy victory over the Broncos in Week 4.
The reason for my anger had to do with Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s brazen attempt to continue his team’s streak of games with 100 rushing yards or more. Despite having the contest in hand at 23-7 with just three seconds left, Harbaugh called a running play for his quarterback, Lamar Jackson, who scampered for five yards as time ran out to put his team over the 100-yard mark for the 43rd straight game.
So why was I so angry at Harbaugh? Did I think he was being disrespectful to a defeated opponent? Yes, but I didn’t really care about that so much. No, my anger had to do with Harbaugh doing everything in his power to tie a record that had belonged to my Pittsburgh Steelers for 44 years.
That’s right, the Steelers were the team that had solely owned the record for consecutive games with 100 rushing yards or more at 43 straight, a streak that began in 1974 and ended in 1977.
I was just a little boy in 1977 and don’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing the Steelers’ 43rd-straight 100-yard rushing performance was achieved with honor and glory. It wasn’t contrived. It wasn’t convoluted. Only a Ratbird head coach would do what Harbaugh did to tie Pittsburgh, an organization that’s obviously living rent-free in his head.
But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with Harbaugh’s decision. After all, that team rushing streak is a sacred one in the NFL, held in the same esteem as Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing mark or Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. Heck, it’s up there with Barry Bond’s (or Hank Aaron’s) all-time home run record.
Why wouldn’t Harbaugh want his team to tie and then break that streak? Heck, if I were him at the end of that game in Denver, I would have told Lamar to do whatever he had to do to get to 100 yards. A naked bootleg? Taking on multiple Broncos’ defenders? Not running out of bounds? Not sliding? Whatever it took to get the job done.
Harbaugh knew how much Steelers fans and Pittsburgh sports fans clung to that team rushing yards streak. We put it in the same class as Bill Mazeroski’s home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. Old-timers remember where they were the moment the 43rd consecutive 100-rushing yards game was secured just like they talk about where they were during the Immaculate Reception. The time Mario Lemieux scored five goals in five different ways in the same game? The rushing-yards streak is on par with that to us yinzers.
Heck, we are as much in love with that rushing streak as we are the Steelers' six Super Bowls and Antonio Brown’s five catches for 55 yards thing.
And this is why I was so thankful when the Ravens were prevented from breaking the mark in their 31-25 come-from-behind overtime win over the Colts on Monday Night Football.
I don’t have a whole lot going for me at the moment. I’m 49 and still searching for my next career move. I’m single. I have thinning hair. I live in a one-bedroom apartment. I have Netflix and Paramount Plus but not Amazon Prime or Apple.
The Steelers' 100-yards rushing streak has been keeping me going through everything.
The Ravens tried their best to take that from me, from us, but they just couldn’t do it.
The Steelers may no longer be alone at the top of the 100-yards-rushing-as-a-team-streak mountain, but they haven’t been pushed off.
Nice try, Harbaugh, but not nice enough.