Can we count the ways the Steelers got lucky in overtime against Buffalo? I probably shouldn't, but let's do it for the sake of exorcising the stink of that game and being grateful for an improbable win.
1. Leodis McKelvin gets tripped by teammate Arthur Moats as McKelvin broke free near midfield on the opening kick return of overtime.
2. Roethlisberger falls on his own fumble after a sack on the Steelers' 1. Flozell was uniquely terrible on this play. Let his man blow right by him and watched helplessly as he looped around and stripped Ben from behind. Guh.
3. God blessedly smiting Stevie Johnson.
Of course, you can make an easy and sensible argument that it should never have gotten to that. Another bullshit personal foul on James Harrison galvanized a dead Buffalo offense late in the third quarter. Emmanuel Sanders dropped a huge pass in the fourth quarter that could have probably put the game away for Pittsburgh.
That's a mighty impressive start, yet the Steelers led only 13-0 by the end of a first half they absolutely dominated. As we saw, all it took was one blown play for the Bills to get back in it. You can't leave that kind hope alive to a team being crushed for 40 minutes. And that's exactly what the Steelers did.
Why? One quick explanation was "holy hell, Chris Kemoeatu owned by Kyle Williams." Williams had two sacks and drew four holding calls from the Steelers' left guard, though the one that nullified the long Mendenhall run was some bullshit, as Williams initiated the hold by hooking his fingers on Kemo's facemask.
But other than the Harrison hit and one of Kemo's holds, the penalties were pretty much justified and taking away those two still leaves more than a bit of penalty yardage. That's back to back games giving up more than 100 yards from flags. Yeah, the Steelers have won both those games, but Sunday's game is a clear lesson of how it can let an inferior opponent get the best of you.
Hines and Shaun Suisham were clear bright spots on the day. Hines had more yardage than the past four games combined while Suisham was the polar opposite of Jeff Reed's long distance ineptitude this season. Besides Kemoeatu, LaMarr Woodley had a disappointing day, which marks the second for him in three weeks. Woodley typically performs well against the Ravens and will need to have a game to reverse some of the funk of getting little pressure on his own of late.
Oh, and you know who else performs well against the Ravens? The quarterback they haven't beaten since 2006. Ben has a foot sprain, but it certainly didn't stop him from pulling off this 18-yard scramble, so I wouldn't be too worried.
Bryant McFadden probably won't be able to go against the Ratbirds, which is unfortunate, though William Gay appears to have bounced back well the past two weeks after a disastrous game against New England. Keenan Lewis still doesn't look ready to take over as an outside corner role, so Gay will have to turn in another big effort.
Ratbirds fans are already chirping about the Steelers getting lucky in Buffalo, as though Baltimore didn't get several huge breaks of their own at home against the Bills. Can't expect any better from fuckwit fairweather Ravens fans. Sunday night's game will surely be a huge test, though I saw a lot of things the Steelers can exploit on that weakened Ravens defense during Sunday's game against the Bucs. Baltimore seems to be attacking more than they have earlier in the season, and they obviously will on Sunday against that O-line, but the coverage behind it has shown to be highly vulnerable.
It will be interesting to see if Arians has the guts or the imagination to try the kind of spread stuff that the Patriots did to the Steelers or even that the Ravens tried in the first match-up in Pittsburgh. Not saying I'm encouraging a steady diet or shotgun four- and five-wide sets, but pulling them out occasionally outside the obvious third down pass situations would be well advised rather than telegraphing the run at the start of most series, as Arians was prone to do with Batch starting the first game against Baltimore.
Despite the Ravens' "miracle" the first time around, that offense hasn't figured out the Steelers defense by any means. Of course, Keisel being able to return will figure hugely with Eason being banged up. It was thought Keisel would come back against Buffalo, but ended up waiting another week. Having an improved showing from the pass rush will be imperative and Keisel's return can certainly help set that up, especially with Michael Oher's false starting ass being slightly banged up.