The Ravens put a hurting on the Steelers today in a way they last, and maybe only did, in the 2006 season. Ironically, it was their first victory over a Steelers team starting Ben Roethlisberger since that '06 season.
Depending on your knee-jerk reaction, the Ravens made all the right off-season moves, the Steelers are too old to compete, the Steelers were complacent, the Ravens got all plays they needed until Pittsburgh was too far gone. However you want to frame it, this was really, really ugly.
The Steelers defense was slow and unable to apply pressure. The secondary was clueless, Bryant McFadden in particular. But even the greater lights of the unit deserve reproach. Troy Polamalu was beaten badly for a touchdown by a tight end. James Harrison looked like a guy running on fumes. Aaron Smith might as well have been replaced by Ziggy Hood.
Ben Roethlisberger had as stellar a preseason as anyone could have had, yet he made about as many unthinkably stupid throws as he could have made today. Two were intercepted by Ed Reed and a third should have been. Those were gift-wrapped interceptions to Reed. If you're gonna give Ravens fans something to crow about with the BALL HAWK, at least make the guy work for it.
Mendenhall was all right. Can't blame the fumble on him as Ngata was right there to pop him as soon as the late handoff was stuffed into his chest. Mike Wallace ended up with more than 100 yards receiving, though I can't recall a pass attempted in the air to him longer than 15 yards.
I'm willing to chock this up in part to arrogance on the Steelers part. When a team has owned another for so long, even if the regular margin of victory hasn't been that dramatic, there isn't a sense that much needs to be done. While the Steelers have changed as little of their roster as possible during the past few years, the Ravens have tried overhaul after overhaul until something stuck. Today, they found something that did.
A lot of the turnovers were sheer sloppiness. The defense I believe can improve if Ziggy and Keenan Lewis get starting nods over Aaron Smith and Bryant McFadden. James Harrison, if spelled over the next few weeks, should hopefully return to something approaching his Pro Bowl form of the previous few seasons. Any quarterback is going to look like a potential Super Bowl champion with as little pressure as Flacco got today. The Ravens' line isn't that good. The Steelers will make adjustments and find ways to make pressure the next time around.
I mentioned in my post this week that it was a matter of time that the Ravens got the better of the Steelers. I had a sneaking suspicion that it would be this week. Obviously, I didn't envision it would be quite this bad. The Steelers, especially under Tomlin, haven't been used to early season setbacks. In fact, it was the first Week 1 loss under Tomlin. But I have a feeling the team will learn to bounce back in a hurry. It doesn't hurt that a hapless Seahawks team comes to town next week with a trip to defeated Indianapolis the week after. Obviously, the point isn't about padding the record with wins over the meek as much as matching the best the league can offer. Questions remain after today and it may be a while before we get answers, for better or worse. Nevertheless, if nothing else, the Steelers have the luxury of some time. Pray they make the most of it.