Big Lead Sports Bar

12/14/2008

UPDATED: AFC NORTH CHAMPIONS

STEELERS (11-3) 13
RAVENS (9-5) 9

ROETHLISBERGER 22-40, 246 YARDS, 1 TD
PARKER 14-47
WARD 8-107

AFC North Champions. Just had to say it one more time. I really enjoy hearing it, don't you?

But as we all know, the AFC North title is just one step on the journey to a much bigger goal. If you've forgotten that, ask the Pitt Panthers basketball team their opinion on the subject as they shine their Big East trophies while leaving a space open for the "real" trophy that might be earned someday.

We're not here to talk about college basketball, though. We've got plenty of time to discuss that over the next few months. I'd rather re-hash the 60-minute battle of wills that took place in Baltimore, Maryland on Sunday. To the bullet points!

1. Pregame: while doing some afternoon shopping, I spot a guy wearing a Max Starks jersey. Now we've discussed at great length the pros and cons of purchasing a Limas Sweed jersey, which I understand as more of a "buy low", long-term investment. But tell me, what could possibly possess someone to buy a jersey of a much-maligned offensive lineman, outside of being a friend or relative of the guy? Admiration of his ability to squeeze $7 million out of the Steelers for one season's work? Maybe he won it as a prize in a blog's caption contest? I would like some opinions.

2. Sorry, had to get that out of the way.

As for the game itself, let me repeat what I've said many times in the past: Ben Roethlisberger is a rock star. Period. You can have whatever Quarterback of the Week you want, be it Derek Anderson, Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Joe Flocko, or Merril Hoge's NFL MVP, Matt Ryan. Give me Big Ben.

The ability to bring his team back so many times is the stuff of legends. Is it safe to say that I feel more confident in Ben's fourth quarter abilities than his first quarter abilities at this point? We're getting there. It's like a switch gets flipped that allows Ben and the Steelers to move the ball at will, regardless of the defensive opponent.

And to my knowledge, there are two players in the NFL that undoubtedly have switches: Roethlisberger, with the game on the line; and the opposite, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, one Randall Gene Moss, superstar wide receiver who was once traded for John Bowie.

3. I can't remember two consecutive games that were mirror images of each other like this Sunday's game and last Sunday's game. Incredible defensive effort. Steelers playing from behind virtually the entire game. Stirring comeback drive. Suffocation of opponent's last gasp.

They were both fantastic. Now I will check myself into the hospital for a nerve transplant, like I presume most of you will do, because mine are shot.

4. I heard hot-shot baseball free agent Mark Teixeira was at the game on a recruiting trip. After the game, I have no doubt that he'll be signing with the Steelers. The Orioles have no shot.

5. Loved the resurgence of Hines Ward this week. Last week I was shocked to see his lack of production, catching one ball for two yards. He usually rises to and above the occasion. Today was the old Hines. Eight catches. 107 yards. Many of the huge variety. This is the Hines Ward I will always remember. Especially when he took an Ovechkin-like run at Bart Scott, who was Malkin-esque in his ducking of the hit.

6. Speaking of the wideouts, nice redemption for Santonio Holmes catching the game-winning TD after fumbling not once, but twice. And Nate Washington came up with a YUUUUGE grab on 3rd-and-10 on that epic, 92-yard scoring drive that won the game. If only we could spread some of that passing-at-will magic throughout the other 3 1/2 quarters of the game...

7. You'll hear a lot about the refs screwing the Ravens out of a win. on Santonio's TD. And these will be the same people telling you that James Harrison wasn't being held over...and over...and over again on Sunday. It's called excuse-making, and you'll hear a lot of it coming from the Maryland area in the near future.

Thankfully, Ray Lewis (of all people) is not among the angry mob. "That didn't win or lose the game for us," said Ray-Ray. This might be the only time I say this, but I totally agree with Ray Lewis.

By the way, for everyone who always says the Steelers get every call, answer me this: why do they lead the league in apologies from NFL headquarters after the fact?

8. Believe it or not, that was the Steelers' first win in Baltimore since 2002, which was the last time the Steelers swept the series. That, my friends, is the definition of "rivalry".

9. Le'Ron McClain came surprisingly close to a 100-yard rushing day against the Steelers, finishing with 87 on 23 carries. It was the second-best performance by a Steeler opponent this year, just one behind Tashard Choice's 88 last week.

To recap the opponents' leading rushers against the black and gold this year:

Week one, Houston - Slaton 13-43
Week two, Cleveland - J. Lewis 19-38
Week three, Philadelphia - Buckhalter 10-43
Week four, Baltimore - McClain 16-63
Week five, Jacksonville - F. Taylor 10-19
Week seven, Cincinnati- Benson 14-52
Week eight, Giants - Jacobs 18-47
Week nine, Washington - Portis 13-51
Week 10, Indianapolis - Addai 12-34
Week 11, San Diego - Tomlinson 18-57
Week 12, Cincinnati- Benson 16-35
Week 13, New England - K. Faulk 6-73
Week 14, Dallas - Choice 23-88
Week 15, Baltimore - McClain 23-87

I have no other way to describe that other than "completely awesome".

10. Says reader Mike in Jackson, Wyoming (by way of Pittsburgh): "I've officially nicknamed the Steelers defense 'Congress', because all they do is bail out the offense all game long."

I must say, I like the comparison better than calling them the 2000 Ravens.

11. Joe Flacco has had an impressive rookie season, but he did not help his team much on Sunday. 11-28, 115 yards, and two picks in a game where turnovers are magnified means that Canton should probably wait a while before completing his bust.

12. Speaking of rookies, something I mentioned on my Friday conversation with Dave Dameshek: rookies are contributing to contending teams all around the NFL this year, such as Flacco, Matt Ryan, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Jonathan Stewart, et al. The Steelers have had no contributions from their 2008 draft class. None.

Your first-rounder, Rashard Mendenhall, carried the ball 19 times before the Ravens decided he would be a casualty of war in week four. Round two's Limas Sweed has six catches for 64 yards. Third-rounder Bruce Davis has not played, nor has fourth-rounder Tony Hills. QB Dennis Dixon, who some thought could be used in a Slash role, has not been used. Sixth rounder Mike Humpal joined Mendenhall on IR, and fellow sixth-rounder Ryan Mundy is a practice-squadder. Undrafted LB Patrick Bailey (who has several special teams tackles on Sunday) is considered a rookie, but was originally picked up in 2007 and is not part of the 2008 draft class.

I say this not to bash the draft, because I liked it. And I say it not to be impatient, because that's not the case, either. I say it to emphasize how impressive the Steelers' season has been despite the lack of immediate help. Look how an influx of talent has boosted Carolina, with Jeff Otah and Stewart. The Steelers haven't had that advantage. Guys have been injured, guys haven't developed as quickly as we would have hoped, but still we sit at 11-3, and in the face of The Toughest Schedule in the History of Organized Sports to boot. I'm shocked that more hasn't been made of this.

13. Back to frivolous nonsense: Do you realize the Steelers just ruined Michael Phelps' weekend?

14. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Phil Simms and Jim Nantz are analysts and not referees, right? The lines seem to have blurred for me.

15. The hit delivered by Lawrence Timmons was so hard, I felt it back in Pittsburgh. There's gotta be a lot of sore football players in Pittsburgh and Baltimore this week. As a reward, the Steelers get the Titans with AFC superiority on the line and the Ravens play for their playoff lives in prime time against Dallas. In other words, no rest for the weary.

And now would probably be a good time to mention how teams struggle the week after playing the Steelers. Interesting, but not surprising.

16. Let me say this: DB William Gay, who had the game-ending interception, is one of the most underrated guys on the team.

17. I just realized this today: CBS' pregame show has Crafton's Bill Cowher and Dan Marino. Fox's has Steeler Terry Bradshaw. ESPN's has Aliquippa's Mike Ditka. Ignoring the fact that Pittsburgh's football intellect dominates the media, I was more interested in finding out what pregame show you watch. Let's put it to a vote.



18. That was the most enjoyable 13-9 game since...this one.

19. When Mike Tomlin walks past the Steelers' sixth Lombardi Trophy someday, we'll be reminded that the Tomlin-Parker war of words didn't completely kill the Steelers' chemistry this weekend.

20. How many times did James Harrison pop up behind Joe Flacco and look like he was a step away from swatting the ball loose? I counted 59. OK, I'm exaggerating. It was actually 58.

21. I think I did a triple-take when I looked at the schedule and saw that the Steelers' final two games were both on Sundays and at 1 PM. I thought those Sunday 1 PM games were either 1) discontinued or 2) exclusively reserved for Bengal and/or Browns games to try and spoil one's appetite for an otherwise good day of football.

22. I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking that we would potentially lose the game based in part on a Skippy Reed personal foul that gave Baltimore the ball at midfield. That would've been off-the-charts goat material.

23. If you would've told me after their week one nuclear bomb of an opener against the Steelers that the Houston Texans would be 7-7, I would not have believed you. Of course, if you told me that the season's top quarterbacks would include Kerry Collins, Kurt Warner, and Chad Pennington, I wouldn't have believed that either. Moral of the story: don't ever try to tell me anything, because obviously I won't believe you.

24. Dewey, I enjoy our back-and-forth, but you're going to hear about it from Steeler fans this week.

25. Two things happened this weekend: the Heisman Trophy was awarded and Bob Smizik retired. To tie them together, let's remember a warm Smizik moment of the past, when he cast his Heisman vote for Jason White instead of Larry Fitzgerald. That was always a personal favorite.

26. Scott in San Diego thought I should mention the fact that the Ravens have a male dance team that's available for parties. Sounds like a caption contest photo in the making.



27. Please take three seconds and vote in this poll. Trust me.

28. Titans, Sunday, 1 PM, as I mused several points ago. Collins. Johnson. White. You could have no idea what team I was talking about with those three last names, but it will probably be a tough game nonetheless. Maybe we'll even get a glimpse of Tennessee's quarterback of the future on the sidelines.

Update - this just in:

29. Mitch Berger said Ravens CB Frank Walker spit in his face after Skippy's PAT late in the fourth. Berger added that Walker tried to take out Reed's knee as well, which resulted in Skippy being assessed a 15-yard penalty on the kickoff. I'm shocked, appalled, and surprised at these allegations coming against an organization like Baltimore, which has always carried itself with class on and off the field.



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21 comments:

Someone Somewhere said...

That was an intense game, but I agreed with what Cowher said at halftime: "they've been down before, they know how to win coming from behind"...so my stress level was actually pretty low throughout the game. When they walked out onto the field at their own 8, I said "this is your time #7, do your thing". The sack and fumble by Timmons was such a huge play.

Speaking of which...you mentioned (the lack of) contributions by the Steelers '08 draft class. If three players emerge in their second season and are anything like Timmons, Woodley, and Gay...I'm going to be quite pleased, because those three are very good players.

The Ravens offense was even more anemic than it looks on paper. One field goal they were handed via Santonio Holmes' fumble at the 16, the other was (I think) set up by the long punt return. Without the good field position, they certainly wouldn't have even scored 9.

I commend the Steeler offense for trying something different on 3rd and 1...even though it ended disastrously...at least they didn't just slam Gary Russell into the line. Oh, we know why they don't run too many shotgun draws,(as I mentioned in my comments last week) as evidenced by the effort at the end of the first half.

Finally, I'm just glad Santonio Holmes channeled his inner Santonio Holmes and not his inner Nate Washington on that final catch. Though to be fair to Nate, he's made some of the biggest catches of the season the last two weeks...so I guess I can't bang on him too much, thanks Nate.

Broke But Still Drinking said...

So the Steelers don't even have female cheerleaders and the Ravens have males and females? I guess the Ravens are better than us in some areas, even if it involves girly men.

art said...

http://www.nfl.com/draft/history/fulldraft?teamId=3900&type=team

Speaking of the 2007 draft class.
They are indeed making their mark on the team.

A nice 5th round. Gay and Stephenson, both making very solid contributions. I forget how we got 2 5th round picks, but it must have been part of a trade. However we got them, I am glad to have both those guys. Plus Patrick Bailey, who had one really nice tackle on kick coverage.

art said...

http://www.nfl.com/draft/history/fulldraft?teamId=3900&type=team

Speaking of the 2007 draft class.
They are indeed making their mark on the team.

A nice 5th round. Gay and Stephenson, both making very solid contributions. I forget how we got 2 5th round picks, but it must have been part of a trade. However we got them, I am glad to have both those guys. Plus Patrick Bailey, who had one really nice tackle on kick coverage.

tecmo said...

Also, about the draft class. Rashard will basically be giving us another rookie prospect in 09. Hopefully, that allows the team to look at a lineman, because they have young skill position players in Mendenhall and Sweed that'll pretty much be rookies again. This season has been a second training camp for the young skill players, because the vets have stepped up like none other. I look forward to the 09 draft class, and what they, along with Mendenhall and Sweed, will do in 09.

tasj7045 said...

Baltimore Ravens Male Cheerleaders: If you love our team's colors then we have the cheerleaders for you.

sjb093170 said...

Did anyone else see the Ravens (most notably, Joe Flacco) wearing their cutesy little Santa Claus hats on the sidelines? Does anyone have a picture?

Charlie Hildbold said...

Anyone notice how much better and efficient the offense is when we go No huddle? This offense is tough to stop when you can't sub in and get the right defensive package...I really wish Bruce would go with this more often because when we huddle up and run the play its not very hard to figure out what it is. There is NO trickery or special plays run anymore.

Phil said...

art,

I think you are confusing Stephenson w/ Stapleton. Also did you notice on that draft link they have the Steelers taking Jeff Otah and Mendenhall in the 1st round of this year's draft.

Looking forward, I'm not sure I want the Steelers to get home field advantage throughout, too many bad playoff losses at home are fresh in my memory.

Steve said...

Has anyone gotten a good official explanation of the so-called "controversial call"? It seems everyone but the officials were wrongly concerned with whether the ball broke the white line but the official review was only concerned with possession and whether or not Holmes had it with both feet in and that's how I saw it.

On a punt or kickoff, if the defender trying to keep the ball out, touches the ball and his feet are inside the line, that's a touchback even if the ball isn't over the line, so logic would dictate the same applies for a touchdown, right? If a players feet are inside the goal line, he is considered in the end zone, so if he has possesion of the football, then the ball obviously is too. He wasn't carrying the ball in, he was in and caught the ball. End of story.

I'm pretty sure the whole "breaking the plain" stipulation has nothing to do with catches and is primarily looked at as it applies to the run. How often has a ball ever been carried over the line backwards?

I've seen catches at the post where the ball never crosses the goal line but the receiver reaches over the post and catches it with both feet in and that's a TD, so why all the fuss about this call? Every announcer said it was a bad call and I think they're full of shit...especially Collingsworth but that goes without saying.

Robert Ullman said...

I think the recent draft pick we're missing most is Sepulveda...I can't imagine anyone still being up in arms about that pick with as poorly as his replacements have performed. Seriously, is is that hard to find a competent NFL punter?

Jon said...

@ Steve:
I think the way you explained it is correct, unfortunately nobody can come up with a link to concretely prove the rule.

The way i unnderstand it is that the front of the endzone is treated the same as the back and sides:If you have possession and two feet down in bounds in the end zone it is a touchdown regardless.

The national media members never seem to comment about 23 straight quarters in which Steelers' opponents havent been called for an offensive hold either.

blueline said...

People tend to forget that Lawrence Timmons was just a special teamer last year, and that LaMarr Woodley didn't really start to be productive until the ned of the year.

The Steelers have the veterans in place, so there's no need to rush rookies, unless they're exceptional.

People also forget that Troy Polamalu did NOTHING his first year.

RedHawks Hockey said...

I wouldn't even buy a starx jersey.

mondesishouse said...

Like I said, I wasn't taking a shot at the team or any of the draft picks. I was merely stating that in a year dominated by rookie contributions on a number of contenders, the Steelers have not had that advantage.

art said...

Phil,
You're right. I did have Stapleton confused with Stephenson.

72 DARNELL STAPLETON


PRO CAREER (0-0/0-0): Originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2007 NFL Draft…made the team’s 53-man roster out of the 2007 training camp but did not dress for any of the regular-season games


Cameron Stephenson | # | G

New Orleans Saints | Official Team Site



Height: 6-3 Weight: 306 Age: 25

Born: 6/18/1983

College: Rutgers

Experience: 1st season

I did not remember the Steelers having 2 linemen from Rutgers as rookies last year. Interesting that the undrafted free agent is the one to make the team (and make some big contributions this year).

The final installment of our Snapshot series takes a look at the two Steelers rookie offensive linemen from Rutgers: Cameron Stephenson and Darnell Stapleton.

Jonny Van Mundegaarde said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonny Van Mundegaarde said...

Hines Ward was mainly on special teams his first year.

I will never be convinced that taking Mendenhall instead of Otah (or one of the other 5 O-linemen) was a good choice. Running backs can be found anywhere (look at where we got our top two), not to mention Peyton Hillis, Tashard Choice, Timothy Hightower, and Steve Slaton. I think the team is set at pretty much every other position, I hope they draft nothing but lineman in the next draft.

Chip said...

Otah was gone by the time the Steelers drafted last year. Carolina had to sacrifice next year's #1 to move up and get him.

Do the Steelers need OL? Yeah. Would Otah look good in the Black and Gold? Yeah. But would I give up TWO DRAFTS for him? Nope.

Every decent lineman was gone by the Steelers pick last year. I agree first round RB is kinda dumb because good ones can be had in the 2nd or 3rd but I can't fault them for taking Best Player Available.

People moaning about the 2008 draft class are just looking for things to whine about. If you need big production from a rookie, chances are your team sucks. Besides, as others pointed out, the Steelers best players almost always don't contribute until their 2nd year.

bohica said...

what a finish. this team is special. my old man has been coaching ball up there for what seems like forever and most of his ramblings go in one ear and out the other but one thing he always says stuck with me.

Good teams always find a way to win.

I am starting to believe.

By the way, this was one of the best recaps I can rememeber, nice work Raul.

Someone Somewhere said...

Just to clarify, I think the '08 draft class has a ton of potential. Mendenhall is going to be good...I don't think we'll be bemoaning the Steelers' inability to convert 3rd and 1 for the next 7-8 years. He has power, speed and can catch the ball...people thought he was going to be a top 10 pick.

I think that it's become increasingly clear that someone is going to pay Nate Washington more than the Steelers will pay him, so I think this is his last year in Pittsburgh. If Limas Sweed can catch the ball when it's thrown to him, I think it will be nice to have a 6'4" receiver...maybe he'll stink, but the Steelers don't have a whole lot of options WR. This is one area I can see them making a Mewelde Moore/Keyaron Fox type signing to add depth. Someone who can play WR if you need him, but will hustle and play special teams (punt return experience preferred).

Bruce Davis doesn't play very much (though, I trust the Colbert/Tomlin model for player evaluation...at least on the defensive side of the ball...as they have 3 [potential] starters from the '07 class), but the Steelers don't make many mistakes in drafting linebackers. I love the guy's fire in this interview following the UCLA upset of USC in '06. It's hard to find playing time at LB for the Steelers though...so, barring season ending injury I don't think we'll see much Bruce Davis in '08.