Big Lead Sports Bar

1/15/2011

7 Lengthy Thoughts on Steelers-Ravens


It was everything advertised, and more. It was close. It was exciting. It was violent. And it ended the way every other Steeler-Raven playoff game did: with the Steelers on top. Some thoughts on one of the most exhilarating wins in Steeler postseason history after the jump:


1. I've been on the Ben Roethlisberger bandwagon (or "Benwagon"), for years now, as the majority of the national media continues to play favorites and exclude him from the hallowed ground of the Brady-Manning Club. It used to be Carson Palmer and Tony Romo getting the love of that "3rd best" ranking in the league. These days, Drew Brees is the flavor du jour, convenient for a guy who won one playoff game prior to 2009. And on the horizon are the Flaccos, the Matt Ryans, the Aaron Rodgers of the world. They're the young QBs just a ring away from getting praised to the point of nausea. 

But through it all, through the allegations, through the drama, through the injuries, Roethlisberger continues to win. And win. And win. He's 9-2 in the playoffs. 9-2! Two rings. Four AFC Championship appearances in seven years. A regular season record of 60-26. Engineer of possibly the most dramatic Super Bowl drive and touchdown pass in history. At some point, I just have to throw my hands up in the air and say there's an anti-Roethlisberger bias. 

For years, the game manager argument has loomed over his head. That's a joke. Trent Dilfer was a game manager. Trent Dilfer didn't put the team on his back time and time again and come out on top. Roethlisberger is one of the most dangerous fourth-quarter QBs in the history of the NFL and is the complete opposite of the game manager.

Then we have the argument that his wins are greatly a result of his defense. Another joke. The Steelers have had one of the top defenses in the league for years and years, long before Roethlisberger arrived on the scene. Neil O'Donnell never won two Super Bowls. Neither did Kordell Stewart. Or Tommy Maddox. It wasn't an accident that Bill Cowher finally won his elusive Super Bowl ring once Roethlisberger came into the fold.

My question is this: What does Roethlisberger have to do to crack the Brady-Manning Club? Manning is 9-10 in the playoffs. Roethlisberger is 9-2. Roethlisberger has two rings. Manning has one. Manning has seven first-game exits. Roethlisberger has one. 

I'd go on, but I think I've made my point.

2. Beyond Roethlisberger, it was incredible team effort by the Steelers to come not only from behind, but go ahead against the Ravens on Saturday. Their collective heart was off-the-charts.

First of all, the offensive line deserves some praise, as does coach Sean Kugler. They define the word patchwork. They're losing men left and right to injury, even illness, in the case of Flozell the Hotel. And somehow, some way, they pulled together enough to help win this game despite allowing six sacks to an incredibly tough defense. Beyond Maurkice Pouncey, there's not a whole lot of exciting parts on that line. For them to scrap and fight their way to victory was beyond admirable.

The defense did more than their part, shutting Baltimore down to a total of three second-half points while sacking Flacco five times, forcing two fumbles and one interception. James Harrison was all over the place. LaMarr Woodley was all over the place. Brett Keisel was all over the place. Even Ziggy Hood was all over the place. 

The receivers came to play, most notably rookies Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, who combined for seven catches and 129 yards on 10 targets. Their development throughout the season to earn 10 targets in a playoff game cannot be understated.

Hines Ward had a huge touchdown, albeit with a small statistical day. He brought a lot of emotion to the table and was an invaluable asset. Heath Miller's sure hands were there, with five catches and a touchdown. He continues to be one of the most underrated pass-catchers in the NFL. 

Rashard Mendenhall earned every one of his 46 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Isaac Redman had a key first-down scamper. Mewelde Moore threw his hat into the ring with a few nice runs as well. 

And most of all, Mike Tomlin did not coach scared. He was aggressive, he coached to win, he did whatever it took to wake his team up after that first-half funk. He's my 2010 NFL Coach of the Year, and he showed why on Saturday.

3. I'm pumped over this win. I really am. But the Steelers absolutely cannot repeat their 60-minute performance next week and expect to beat a team like New England on the road. If you fall behind the Patriots by 14 points in the 2nd quarter, I have no doubt that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will go for the jugular and probably succeed, not trip over their own feet and fail to close the deal a la Flacco and Co.

The Steelers played the first half in such a sleepwalk that it's a miracle they were only down by the aforementioned 14. The Cory Redding fumble-recovery touchdown was beyond belief. How 21 professionals stand around and not play to the whistle is mind-blowing. Giving the ball back to the Ravens on a golden platter to set up their third touchdown of the half was another gaffe. Predictably, Shaun Suisham missed a makeable field goal before the half concluded, leaving us to wonder if they could get their heads out of their collective rears to at least make the game competitive in the second half. I guess they showed me what they're made of. I've never been happier to be wrong.

The performance Pittsburgh put on in the third quarter was downright magical, inspired by the cliched but still-effective Renegade montage getting the depressed Heinz Field crowd back into the game. The Steelers simply wanted it more, and they merely took it from Flacco, Rice, and the Ravens, who looked  by the end of the third like they didn't get the name of the train that just hit them.

The fourth quarter was a continuation of the third: the Steelers rose to the occasion, the Ravens shrunk, as they've been known to do when the big chips are on the table. As I said, I'm ecstatic that things turned out the way they did, but if they draw New England next week (on the road), they'll need 60 minutes of focus, not 30. 

4. I hate to bring this up, but the officials were way too involved on both sides during Saturday's contest. In the first few minutes of the game, they blew the opening kickoff call, costing the Steelers a challenge; they called a lousy personal foul on Hines Ward, perhaps trying to set the game's tone at the Steelers' expense; and they possibly gave a make-up call to the Steelers on a 37-yard pass interference call that was shaky at best.
The Steelers were lucky they weren't penalized even more than they were. The officials missed Ike Taylor's headbutt on TJ Houshmandzadeh (of course, they also missed Houshmandzadeh's "rebuttal"). They also missed Chris Kemoeatu's first late dive into a pile, although they got him the second time he did it. But all in all, there were nearly 200 yards of penalties handed out on the afternoon, even omitting these blatantly obvious calls. The NFL has to do a better job of consistent officiating next week, and the Steelers need to do a better job of controlling their emotions. They have to play smarter.

5. Lost in the euphoria of the Steeler win is that they allowed only 126 yards of offense to the Ravens in the game on 53 plays. That's simply an unreal stat.

The Baltimore running game netted 35 yards on 18 carries, capped off by Rice's crucial, rare fumble. Flacco, who allegedly "grew up" last week in beating an iffy Kansas City team, threw for 125 yards, with an interception and a lost fumble on his resume. Anquan Boldin had one catch for -2 yards. Willis McGahee touched the ball six times and gained 18 yards. Derrick Mason was shut out. I keep hearing about how the Ravens have added so many playmakers, but I saw no evidence of that on Saturday. 

6. This is usually the time when I rap about who the Steelers play next week, but since we don't know that, I'll have to be brief. If it's New England, we get to revisit the nightmares of many a big loss over the years. Think Mike Tomlin, Dick LeBeau, Hines, and Big Ben don't want to finally get over that hump?

On the other hand, we could also witness a Steelers-Jets contest at Heinz Field, which should look more like the street fight we saw on Saturday. I wonder what the toll of the Ravens game will take on the Steelers, because New York would probably be the tougher matchup on that front. 

Either way, I expect an incredibly exciting, riveting game with huge stakes on the line. As a football fan, you can't ask for any more than that.

7. Finally, it's Sad Trombone time!

As you know, the Sad Trombone  goes to someone who deserves no sympathy and in turn gets mocked by internet tough guys such as myself.


I think it's probably a no-brainer that Terrell Suggs easily walks away with this honor. He's taken a lot of shots not only at the Steelers, but at the City of Pittsburgh over the years. For his hard work, he can once again get a head-start on his offseason, courtesy of the Black and Gold. And he also gets our first playoff Sad Trombone.


Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc): twitter.com/mondesishouse
Email: mondesishouse@gmail.com

21 comments:

susiejoy2009 said...

Merril Hoge givin' Roethlisberger some love on ESPN right now...said he was just as good as Brady and Manning throwing and better at making plays out of the pocket.

whycoh said...

officiating: suggs blow to the head on roethlisberger fumble. seeing as he did last time they played you think the officials shouldve been on the lookout. if you watch the replay it was his chest that hit bens arm. both hands went straight for the head. he wasnt even going for the strip.

DonR said...

Housh is my pick for the Sad Trombone.

Kevin said...

Agreed......it took four years, but Housh finally got his terrible towel justice.

okel dokel said...

I agree about the level of respect Ben receives but he was getting his "props" last night. His ability to get the play made under any circumstances is unequaled.

*What did Hines say to Ed Reed? He really got him "off his game"

*You are right about Sean Kugler and the o-line - good effort.

* Ziggy Hood was a beast. Meanwhile, Troy proved he can be human

* That was one of the best team defensive efforts the Steelers have ever put together. I know the scoreboard does not indicate that, but the Ravens had a short field on most scoring drives

* The special teams play and virtually guaranteed holding call on every return is maddening

* One of the best observations from yesterday - Harbaugh/Newsome can't be happy they spent that money for two drops in the clutch. The Steelers used two rookies who came through when needed

Nate said...

"My question is this: What does Roethlisberger have to do to crack the Brady-Manning Club? Manning is 9-10 in the playoffs. Roethlisberger is 9-2. Roethlisberger has two rings. Manning has one. Manning has seven first-game exits. Roethlisberger has one."

Gee, I dunno, maybe he has to set the record for TD passes in a single season, throw for over 4000 yards every year but his rookie year and one other random year in there, lead the league in QB rating 3 years in a row, be in the top 5 among active QBs for completion percentage (Brees: 2, Manning: 3, Rodgers: 5, Roethlisberger: 9), etc.?

Look, I agree that Roethlisberger is an elite QB. One of the best 5 QBs in the NFL. To use rings as your only crieteria is stupid. No individual players win rings. Teams win rings. It's not taking anything away from Roethlisberger to say that without our defense, he wouldn't be a Super Bowl winner. It's true. Manning is a better QB, but he's never had a defense like ours. That goes a long way since football is, contrary to popular belief, a team sport.

Also, I've never heard anyone mention Flacco in the same breath as "elite QB." Even all the Ravens fans I know think he's terrible.

"Heath Miller's sure hands were there, with five catches and a touchdown. He continues to be one of the most underrated pass-catchers in the NFL."

Truth. And he'll continue to be, unfortunately. It's his burden for knowing how to block. You don't get recognition as a TE unless you're basically a WR like Antonio Gates or Dallas Clark. Neither of whom can block.

Joshua said...

Yes, but, by that token, you could also speculate as to what Ben could do with an o-line or receivers like Brady and Manning have had over the years. I agree that rings aren't the only criteria, but stats aren't definitive either. Stats can be a reflection of system or, like you said, overall team strength on the offensive side of the ball.

Whatever you think, it's still ridiculous to hear people talk about how Aaron Rodgers is in the "Brady-Manning" class because he played in a offense that had to be pass-happy by necessity and he won his first playoff game. All year the national media has been annointing some young QB the next elite QB because of some minor accomplishment after a season or two of consistent improvement, but they would never mention Ben as an elite QB. Ben has shown that he can put up big numbers when he needs to, but the Steelers don't really need him to because we're usually strong all-around.

People who don't like Ben are so quick to discount his accomplishments and focus on raw stats taken out of context. That's just as faulty an approach as boiling it down to the number of rings Ben has.

Corey said...

Madison's pass interference call was not shaky.

Good game by the steelers with the exception of the turnovers.

Oh, and Ben is shit in big games! Tops in the league! I think that is really tough to argue!

Despite Troy's performance, I was glad to get a win with out him getting injured.

JW said...

Troy played deep so much during the latter part (2nd through 4th Q) of the game, I wonder how much of that was LeBeau realizing he wasn't playing like himself, and how much was just scheme/gameplan. The Ravens certainly had/took no shot at anything downfield, so it was quite effective in that regard.

Corey said...

Madison's pass interference call was not shaky.

Good game by the steelers with the exception of the turnovers.

Oh, and Ben is shit in big games! Tops in the league! I think that is really tough to argue!

Despite Troy's performance, I was glad to get a win with out him getting injured.

Jonny Van Mundegaarde said...

Corey liked his comment so much he re-posted it an hour later.

Still remember, the Jets hadn't won in Pennsylvanie until a month ago.

Santonio's TD catch was eerily reminiscent of The Catch, complete with him sitting legs splayed after the catch.

The curse of Myron was the first thing that popped into my head when Housh dropped that pass. Hope it was worth it, jagoff...

Reed pulling Ward down on top of him by his facemask should have brought off-setting penalties. That call was a joke.

Nate said...

"Whatever you think, it's still ridiculous to hear people talk about how Aaron Rodgers is in the "Brady-Manning" class because he played in a offense that had to be pass-happy by necessity and he won his first playoff game."

Fun fact: name a quarterback. Any quarterback. Doesn't have to be active. Pick any quarterback in the history of the NFL. Aaron Rodgers has a better passer rating. Know why? Because he's the all-time leader in career passer rating. True story. Look it up. He's also thrown less interceptions as a percentage of passes than any QB in NFL history.

He's in the all-time top 5 for yards per pass attempt. He's the fifth best among active NFL QBs in touchdowns as a percentage of passes thrown.

People don't put Aaron Rodgers in the same breath as Manning and Brady because he won a playoff game. They do it because he's as good as them. If you ask me, he's better than Brees. My top 5 NFL QBs are Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Brees.

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

Give Houshmazilly the sad trombone for pouting like an 8 yr old on the sideline at the end of the game.

Troy hasn't been wrapping people up for years! That was shown on one of the ravens TDs and a few other plays. He's been throwing his shoulder into people for a while now, sometimes it knocks the guy off balance, most times it only slow him down half a step and redirects him. Troy IS AWESOME, but his tackling def could be even more awesome with some fundamentals.

As much credit as you want to give to the stillers def, an equal or greater amount of blame is deserved for the BAL offense. That Ray Rice fumble was a good def play, but an absolutely dreadful offensive play and that turned the game in my mind.

Can't overstate... Big buck WRs brought in to help flacco - combined 1 rec, -2 yds, 2 crucial crucial drops to end the game.

@ Nate - Maybe Manning puts up those numbers BECAUSE he's never had our DEF? He HAS to throw that much to keep up.

@ Joshua - i agree on the o-line front, but Brady's never had receivers. All of his guys did terrible before/after brady.

@ Nate - Antwaan Randle El, has a better passer rating... look dat up! haha Aaron Rodgers IS PHENOMENAL, and he's the reason that team is in the NFC Championship game without Jermichael and Ryan Grant. GB drafted an heir apparent for Favre, what? 6 yrs ago... what's MN waiting for? I have a hard time arguing with your top 5 QBs, but i'd drop brees off and call it Top 4. Brees is like Colt Brennan at hawaii to me. I dunno, i'm just not impressed.

Eric said...

"No individual players win rings. Teams win rings."

The Steelers have had one of the league's top 5 defense for over 20 years and didn't put any rings on until Ben was under center.

I know you hate Roethlisberger because everyone around here likes him (for some reason), but he's better than Aaron Rodgers. You can put whatever stats you want in this comment window but it won't change that fact.

3rd and 19. 58 yard throw on the money to ice the game in the divisional round against your bitter rival.

That is what we're talking about when we say he's a winner. Does Aaron Rodgers make that throw? I don't know, he's never had to.

Nate said...

"I know you hate Roethlisberger because everyone around here likes him (for some reason), but he's better than Aaron Rodgers."

1. Who said I hate Roethlisberger? I don't. I love Roethlisberger. He's one of my favorite Steelers players ever. But I can take off the black-and-gold tinted glasses and admit that other QBs are better than him.

2. You're confusing individual players winning rings with an individual player putting the team over the top. Roethlisberger was the piece of the puzzle separating the Steelers from Super Bowls, sure. That doesn't mean he did it all by himself. Take away the Steeler defense and he still can't win it.

That's what I mean when I say football is a team sport...you can be the best player in the NFL, but unless you have 10 other good players around you, you're not going to win jack. It's why the Dolphins never won with Marino. It's why the Red Sox never won with Ted Williams. It's why the Cavs never won with LeBron. Those players weren't individually deficient, but the talent around them was. In Ben's case, the team around him wasn't deficient at all, they just needed a good QB to get them over the top. He was the piece that got them there. It's not like Ben came in and took them from nothing to perennial contenders.

Jeff said...

How has no one here mentioned Ryan Clark's great game? The man was great and made up for a pedestrian day from Troy.

Nate said...

And expanding on that last point...maybe the reason Manning and Brady get the praise they get is because they DID take their teams from nothing to perennial contenders.

Before Manning, the Colts ranged from jokes to mediocrities. Lots of 9-7, 8-8 type seasons mixed in with a few double-digit loss seasons (including 3-13 the year before Manning was drafted.) After drafting Manning, they went 3-13 his rookie year and haven't missed the playoffs since 2001.

Before Brady, the Patriots weren't any better. Under Bledsoe they went 5-11, 10-6, 6-10, 11-5, 10-6, 9-7, 8-8, 5-11. Under Brady, they won 3 Super Bowls.

Before Roethlisberger...the Steelers were a perennial playoff team.

DonR said...

"Before Roethlisberger...the Steelers were a perennial playoff team."

...that consistently fell short.

Ben's ability to make plays, even behind a patchwork line cannot be overstated. He's a security blanket for me in the playoffs.

That said, I think Aaron Rodgers is terrifying. Forget about the stats or the system, just watch him. His movement in and out of the pocket. The zip and pinpoint accuracy on his passes. He is flat-out great.

Eric said...

Ben can do everything I watch Aaron Rodgers do. I'm not sure Rodgers could fight off Terrel Suggs to throw a pass away and save a drive.

Nate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nate said...

"Ben can do everything I watch Aaron Rodgers do."

I agree. He CAN do all that. To this point in their careers, though, Rodgers HAS done it more consistently.

"I'm not sure Rodgers could fight off Terrel Suggs to throw a pass away and save a drive."

Because he would throw the pass away to save the drive before Terrell Suggs got there. That play could have easily ended in a sack as well, and if it did, we'd all be talking about how Ben held the ball too long instead of how he fought off Suggs.

I don't know why you guys get so butthurt about this subject anyway. Once you get past Manning/Brady, the rest of the top QBs are pretty interchangeable because they're particularly strong in different areas. Is it such an insult to say "Ben Roethlisberger is the 4th best QB in the NFL?" I think most of us would have killed to have the 4th best QB in the NFL when we had Tommy Gun slinging passes.

In some areas of the game, Roethlisberger is much better than Rodgers. He has a better deep ball (possibly second in the NFL only to Vick in that category), he's better at shrugging off defenders (easily the best at that), he's got a better pump fake, he's better at improvising to make something happen when a play breaks down...those are all great qualities. I value more highly the guy that can complete a lot of his passes, get a lot of yards on most of those attempts, and avoid interceptions. Ben does all that, but Rodgers does all that BETTER.