This Time, It Was The Other Safety

That headline might make it seem like Ed Reed finally came through with a huge play to key a Ravens victory over the Steelers, but once again we know that not to be the case. Of course, Troy was not one for heroics in this, the third Steelers playoff victory over the Ravens. Instead, it was Ryan Clark who made the two biggest splash plays on defense to get the Steelers back into the game after a first half riddled with huge mistakes.

As for the first fumble that led to a Ravens touchdown, I'm sure Ramon Foster has already gotten quite the talking-to about dropping on stray footballs, no matter how little it thinks it was a fumble. Sometimes you never know, and he certainly has to feel foolish now for having stared at the ball before it was run into the end one by Cory Redding.

The protection on the O-line during the Steelers first scoring drive was so good that I knew that it couldn't last. Lo and behold, it did not, as the Ravens proceeded to pound Roethlisberger for most of the next quarter and a half. That said, the unit played admirably when both Flozell Adams and Jonathan Scott left the game for varying amounts of time in the second half. To put a finer point on it, the Steelers offense put up 31 on the Ravens' defense was two third-string tackles playing a significant amount of time. That's quite the indictment of now-departed defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.

Not sure what it is about third quarters in the divisional round for the Steelers, but look at what happened in 2008 against the Chargers and on Saturday against the Ravens. Out of a possible 30 minutes in those two third quarters, the Steelers held the ball for 25:42 while forcing five turnovers and scoring 21 points, while being on the doorstep of 10 more.

Naturally, there's bellyaching over the officiating. Shannon Sharpe was bemoaning it in the postgame. True enough, it was pretty bad. And even though I've seen more than a few Ratbird fans whining that they got somehow "screwed" again, most of them for once realize that they were enough bad calls and bad non-calls both ways for it to essentially be a wash. As for the holding call on the Webb return, yeah, it was a hold. Smith is hanging onto Allen's jersey and his shoulder pad as Allen is trying to shift left to make a tackle. Allen exaggerates it, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he was actually held.

Of course, that didn't stop our good buddy from letting this Tweet slip when the Jets upset the Patriots.

Steelers back into another Super Bowl. Unreal.less than a minute ago via web

More predictable sniveling from Nestminder. Don't even bother trying to figure out how a team "backs into" a Super Bowl. You either beat the teams put in front of you or you don't. Of course, this is just a terribly worded way of saying the Steelers are lucky not to play the Patriots, as they did not in the playoffs in '05 and '08. Well, '05 is easy enough to counter - the Steelers beat the top three seeds in the conference that season (see, the Pats weren't even that good that year) all on the road. As for 2008, if the Ravens hadn't purposely injured Chris Johnson in the division round, the Steelers would have had to go to Tennessee instead of beating Baltimore in the postseason. As for this season - weren't Baltimore and New York the consensus favorites to win the AFC this year?

Since we're on the subject of Nest - let's revisit what is perhaps his whinest post ever, his reaction to the Steelers winning Super Bowl XLIII. Here's his reasoning for then saying that Steelers fans are scared and jealous of the Ravens:

Fear because the 2% of Steeler fans who know even a lick about football see that Flacco is “Ben” 2.0. All the size, with a better arm, and without the holding the ball for 8 seconds too long and throwing silly interceptions like clockwork.

Woof. Guess he called that one. Flacco got two costly drops, but he also didn't do enough to win and failed to nurse a commanding halftime lead. Sure, Ben wasn't perfect, but, as always, he made the critical play when it mattered most and Flacco did not. No better proof than the final 2:07. Facing a 3rd and 19, Roethlisberger hits Antonio Brown, who torches Lardarius Webb, in stride, on the biggest play of the game.

Because the Chris Kemoeatu got a personal foul penalty on the ensuing touchdown and the Steelers squibbed the kickoff, the Ravens took over past midfield with a minute and a half remaining. More than enough time, given Flacco's "miracle" drive in Week 4 took less time. Two plays later, Flacco had Derrick Mason in single coverage with William Gay. What does he do?

Yep, he woefully underthrows Mason to the point that Mason is considerably lucky that he is able to prevent Gay from intercepting the pass.

Not that it was a matter needing much settling, but Flacco is at least one tier below Roethlisberger in the hierarchy of quarterbacks.

But enough about the Ravens, who once again, as Hines said postgame, have been knocked out of the tournament by the Steelers. While many of us are thankful to get another home playoff game, it's a little bittersweet, as I had mentally got myself whipped into wanting the Steelers to get another shot at New England, no matter what the odds or recent history had to say about it.

The Jets are certainly no cakewalk. Some have tried to denigrate their regular season victory over the Steelers by saying Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller didn't play, but the Jets had some injury issues of their own. Darrelle Revis wasn't 100 percent, leaving the outmatched Antonio Cromartie responsible for covering Mike Wallace. That Cromartie didn't get burned in that game has more to do with him getting away with a lot more contact downfield than he should have.

If we want to go simply on what happened in Week 15, we can feel pretty confident that the Steelers can beat the Jets, especially with Brad Smith likely to be out Sunday, thus lessening the chance of another kick return for a touchdown (which ultimately proved to be the difference). Then again, if Rex Ryan was able to put together a magisterial defensive plan capable of slowing the Patriots' offense, it's certainly within his abilities to do the same against the Steelers. Not that he will absolutely come through in this regard, but I wouldn't imagine that the Pittsburgh offense will have quite as easy a time moving the ball that they did in the last meeting, in which they might have only put up 17 on the scoreboard, but did compile nearly 400 yards of offense.

The Jets put up 13 points of offense with Troy Polamalu sidelined. Mark Sanchez made a couple throws against the Patriots, but missed more than a few routine ones that even a competent passer would have made. The Jets had a reasonably good running game going in Week 15, posting 106 total yards on the ground, which is about as good as it's going to get against the Steelers. Even replicating that feat will be difficult. Save for his touchdown run, Ray Rice was held to almost nothing. Another showing like that out of the Pittsburgh run defense and there won't be any ridiculous Jets arm-wing celebrations in these playoffs.

And, yeah, LaMarr Woodley only had one sack against Baltimore. So there goes that streak. Guess we'll just have to settle for the three that Silverback had.

1 comment:

Jim Philips said...

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