Tag:Baltimore Ravens
Posted on: January 20, 2009 5:25 am

Waiting to Exhale

Can I breath yet?  It seems like all season I’ve been holding my breath, waiting for the shoe to drop.  Don’t get me wrong, I knew the Steelers would be to this point, going to the Superbowl, I even blogged my homer picks prior to the season starting calling for a Steelers/Cowboys Superbowl.  Okay, so I was half right.  I also predicted the Cardinals to make it to the playoffs, just never saw them getting this far, but I’m not surprised. 

But yes, despite my beliefs, I held my breath and would do nothing to upset the balance.  I stuck to my rituals, as if somehow changing them would jinx the Steelers.  Do I have that much impact on the Steelers, not really, but it should be noted on the day of the big loss to the Titans, I had done none of my rituals, and come game time, wasn’t even wearing the jersey. 

So going into this past Sunday, for the AFC Championship at Heinz Field, a place where the Steelers, as favorites, had lost twice before, there was nothing I was going to do to even tempt the fates.  That morning I donned my AFC North Division Champions t-shirt, something I had picked up on my last trip to the ‘Burgh, and went about my normal routine.  I stayed away from the smack talk on the boards, well, almost.  I did predict that Jim Harbaugh would enjoy coaching the AFC in the Pro-Bowl.  Come game time, I donned my #7 Roethlisberger jersey (which my husband bought for me after #36 retired) and parked my carcass in front of the tv, clutching my Terrible Towel.  Only leaving the couch come commercial breaks, not wanting to miss a thing.

Not that my rituals would have changed the outcome of the game, however, it seemed fitting for this season to stick to rituals, since, well, we’ve seen the Steelers overcome jinxes, curses and shaken monkeys for most of the season to get to that point on Sunday.  Now they were playing at home, to get to the big game and the hope of the third time being a charm.  Of course, the Ravens went into Pittsburgh hoping that their third time would be a charm also. 

By now, we know the outcome of the game.  The charm was for the Steelers.  The Ravens magical season came to an end, basically in the same fashion that another rookie quarterbacks first magical season ended, to a veteran quarterback and a defense that took advantage of mistakes and miscues.  Not that Joe Flacco made a lot of mistakes, two interceptions were good reads by Steelers defenders.  But the reality was that Flacco’s inexperience and the inability to move the ball down the field against the Steelers defense didn’t exactly help keep an already battered and bruised Ravens defense off the field.

Some will point to a personal foul in the fourth quarter during a return as the changing point for Baltimore, at least taking away the Ravens momentum, perhaps, but if that’s the case, there were more mental errors done by the Steelers that day.  The only scores from the Ravens were due to two pass interference calls that put the ball close to the goal for two rushing touchdowns. 

Mental errors, we’ve seen a lot of that this season.  I’ve lost count of how many big plays and touchdowns were called back due to penalties this season.  Teams make them.  Steelers were no different.  Of course, there were missed opportunities also, dropped passes by veteran receivers, not to mention one big one from a rookie.  But rookies make mistakes (hopefully Limas Sweed is a quick learner).  No doubt, this game wasn’t different.  The Steelers just overcame them, the Ravens, weren’t able to. 

As like any game between the Ravens and the Steelers, there would be bodies taken off the battlefield.  One wouldn’t expect anything different in this game.  In the first matchup, the first kickoff of the game, Steelers linebacker and special teams player, Andre Frazier would be carted off the field.  Steelers rookie running back, Rashard Mendenhall would suffer a broken shoulder incurred with his collision with a mac truck known as Ray Lewis, Steelers running back Carey Davis and Ravens running back Willis McGahee would also leave the game.  So there was no surprise that we’d see hard hits in this game.  Steelers would lose their star receiver Hines Ward to a knee injury and the stadium held it’s breath after seeing both Willis McGahee and Ryan Clark laying motionless on the ground after the two trains collided.  Clark is probably no longer seeing the little birdies circling his head and reports out of Pittsburgh and Baltimore expect McGahee to make a full recovery. 

The Steelers accomplished two of their three goals that night when they hoisted up the Lamar Hunt Trophy for the AFC Championship.  Despite the win, hopefully the Steelers aren’t breathing easy yet, their most difficult challenge is yet to come. 
Posted on: January 15, 2009 1:43 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2009 1:48 pm

HOF Nominee Rod Woodson Honorary Co-Captain

Having won his Superbowl ring wearing Purple and Black, NFL Hall of Fame nominee and former Steelers cornerback Rod Woodson will be serving as honorary Captain for the.... Pittsburgh Steelers, according to Ed Bouchette with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Woodson, in his online chat with NFL.com today acknowledged that if he had to chose a team to be inducted into the HOF from, he would pick the Steelers.   Woodson will be serving as honorary co-captain, with another Steelers HOF nominee, former Steeler center, Dermontti Dawson. 

Last week, former Steeler running back Jerome Bettis was on hand for the coin toss in the Chargers/Steelers game. 

Posted on: January 13, 2009 5:28 am

They Believe

It was in his eyes on Sunday, confidence.  You just saw it on his face each time the camera panned to him.  Mike Tomlin, going into the game against San Diego was a coach with the look of confidence.  Confidence in his team.

Tomlin had been criticized by about playing his starters in a meaningless game at the end of regular season against the Cleveland Browns.  After all, by doing so, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ended up with a concussion after hitting the turf.  Yeah, the Cleveland game might have been meaningless for the books, but this past Sunday proved that it provided something much more valuable, confidence.

Sunday, against the Chargers, the Steelers played with confidence.  They reflected their coaches belief, their own belief and they came out with something to prove. 

- Mike Tomlin wanted to prove that his Steelers deserved to be there.

- Bruce Arians wanted to prove that his offense wasn’t as bad as every one wanted to think they were, and that they did have a running game.

- Special Teams wanted to prove that they could be good on all aspects of the return and coverage. 

- Ben Roethlisberger wanted to prove that he was healthy and could play well in a playoff game. 

- The oline wanted to prove they could protect their quarterback. 

And Sunday, they proved everything and more.  What part of the team didn’t come out big.  Roethlisberger had good throws that kept drives alive, read the field well and didn’t give up the ball.  The concerns about the concussions were all wiped away Sunday. 

The running game came together, perfectly.  Willie Parker, finally healthy ran wild on the Chargers offense, and when he was out, Mewelde Moore came in with positive yardage.  Chargers defense may have denied Gary Russell one touchdown, but they weren’t going to deny him a second one. 

Big plays on special teams, both in returns and coverage.  Holmes would run one back for 6, something that hadn’t happened all season for the Steelers.

Defense would come up with one interception and would sack Phillip Rivers four times. 

However, it would be the oline that proved themselves in a big way.  In their initial meeting with the Chargers defense, the Steelers offensive line gave up four sacks on Roethlisberger.  This game, they gave up only one sack and opened up some nice holes for the running game. 

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians proved that he could actually stick with play calling that worked and that it was okay to put more faith in his quarterback.  

Head coach Mike Tomlin once again proved that he wasn’t afraid to take chances and play the game to win, versus playing not to lose.  Although the fake punt failed, it showed some creativity in finding ways to try to get something started on offense. 

With the win on Sunday, Steelers stayed alive to face the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship.  They’ll be going into that game with a dangerous combination.  Confidence and a completely healthy team.  Unlike the Ravens/Titans games were a number of Ravens players sustained injuries, the Steelers left the Chargers game relatively unscathed and no injuries.  

Forget that the Steelers record at home in the AFCC isn’t the best.  They proved this season that none of that matters.  They’ve shaken monkeys before.  They weren’t suppose to win against the Jacksonville Jaguars or the New England Patriots, because…well…their record against them wasn’t the best.  They were 0-2 against San Diego in the playoffs before Sundays games.  They’re beating those monkeys back.  Curses, jinxes are not factors in this upcoming game. 

They say that third times a charm.  Perhaps.  Then again, there’s a truism that bad news comes in threes.  Perhaps it’s not a good thing for the Ravens to meet the Steelers in Heinz Field this time.  Either way, these sayings offset each other, so they're not factors either. 

This past Saturday, the Ravens won the battle of the turnovers against the first seed Titans, to advance on to the AFCC.  However, the Titans aren’t divisional rivals.  In their two previous matchups, the Steelers and Ravens were equal in turnovers.  In the first game, Roethlisberger threw for one interception.  It was Joe Flacco that would throw for two interceptions in their last matchup. 

The question for the Steelers will be in the play calling.  Will Bruce Arians become overconfident in his play calling against a defense, though exhausted and beat up, pulls from their very soul to find a way to make the stops when necessary?  Will the Steelers offense become one dimensional, or will he use the running game to help wear the Ravens defense down?  This game will be a defensive battle, as Ravens/Steelers games always are.  Can the Ravens defense sustain the energy to last 60 minutes and will Joe Flacco maintain his cool against a defense he had already met up with twice before? 

This will be a game where a “never” will be answered.  A rookie quarterback never started in the AFC Championship and went on to the Superbowl.  Ben Roethlisberger never won the AFCC at home.  Despite the Ravens being the media darling for this game, I’ll take the Steelers at home.  After all, look at what happened to the other media darlings this season. 
Posted on: December 14, 2008 9:39 pm

One Goal Realized, Others to Achieve

It would be clinched in a game that lived up to it’s promise, a defensive battle fighting for the reigns of the AFC North.  For both Ravens and Steelers fans, it would lead to ulcers and, as usual, for me, my perfectly manicured nails, now jagged and bitten off.  It would be a game that ended in a controversial call and my husband telling me to relax, the tip of the ball passed the goal line before Holmes fell forward.  Of course, the win will be controversial and amongst fans and analyst will be discussed for a week or two longer.  

In the end, the Steelers offense would drive from behind to set up the score that would potentially tie the game, unlike last week though, they chose to go for the win.  Perhaps that call was controversial.  Fans would only have the replays to go off of.  Of course, there was no guarantee that they would have or wouldn’t have gotten the win without the call.  Regardless of the controversy, the division was sealed with the Steelers touchdown and an interception by William Gay that kept the Ravens from scoring at the end.  

I could go into what was bad in this game.  It could have been the referee’s calls and non-calls.  Ravens fans could argue about two calls that were overturned as being bad calls.  Steelers fans could argue about the non-calls, especially on a punt return that led to a tackle by punter Mitch Berger, which eventually led to Ravens touchdown.  I could mention the choke hold on James Harrison, but I won’t.  I prefer to gripe on things that players have control over.  Ike Taylor thinking that he was a Raven and allowing Raven’s quarterback Joe Flacco to run for a first down, when he was the one in perfect position to tackle him.  Not sure why Ike decided to block a Ravens wide receiver.  Speaking of wide receivers, the failure of the Steelers wide receivers to catch balls thrown to them have been hurting this offense during the season more then Ben Roethlisberger turning over the ball.  

I could discuss what I liked in this game, the catches by Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger getting the ball down the field, once again driving from behind to keep the Steelers in the game.  The team playing for a full 60 minutes.  The Ryan Clark and William Gay interceptions.  The defense keeping the Ravens to under 300 yards.  No interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger, and his keeping faith with his receivers and the change up in Bruce Arians play calling.  The best thing though, is the win and the division title.  Oh yes, no injuries.  

It was a road in which the Steelers were given no chance when they came into the season.  Touted as having the hardest schedule in the NFL at the beginning, the experts and non-experts had the Steelers sitting at home for the playoffs.  Some even had them having at best, an 8-8 season.  But the season played out and what was predicted, it never panned out.  The Steelers offense would come out as lackluster and their defense would prove to be stifling, seeking a spot in history.  Somehow, they came out though as a team, and now, control their own destiny going into the playoffs.  

Perhaps controlling that destiny isn’t a good thing, because, they seem to step up and give of themselves just a little more when their backs against the wall.  But for now, for tonight, it’s the division title.  Tomorrow, hopefully, they’ll see themselves as having their backs against the wall again for next Sunday, and the Sunday after, and so on, and so on.
Posted on: December 11, 2008 6:19 am

Black/Gold, Black/Purple=Black and Blue

The last time these two met, it was brutal, no not the score, but physically brutal.  The matchup at Heinz Field would end with Rashard Mendenhall out for the season with an injury that doctors would later equate to the kind of injury that comes from being hit by a Mac truck and Kendall Simmons also going out for the season for an injury to his Achilles tendon.  By the end of the game, both teams would be pulling from their backups due to injuries.  It would be a game that was won in overtime by a Jeff Reed field goal. 

This week promises, well, who knows what it promises, except another defensive battle.  There will be no side stories to this game.  No text messages promising to run all over a defense, no bounties out for the opposing team player.  No, the only thing dominating the news regarding this matchup is the mutual hate – and respect both teams have for each other.  No, there wouldn’t be side stories coming out this week to give their opponents fuel, it’s too important of a matchup. 

When the Pittsburgh Steelers meet the Baltimore Ravens on their turf, more is at stake then the Ravens defense protecting their field.  It’s not only just the matchup of the top two defenses in the NFL, this week could decide the AFC North, or could force the season to play out, to determine who is going to take the north and if the other team gets the wild card.  

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they’ll be playing for all the cards, the AFC North title and a bye in the playoffs.  A win will not be easy there, in M&T Bank Stadium, it never is and is rare for the Steelers.  The last five match ups in Baltimore have led to Steelers losses.  The Steelers defense wants to make sure it doesn’t become six.  And it’s possible, of course, anything is possible.  After all, the Steelers were able to overcome the “history” between both the Jaguars and New England and win those, but then, neither have the defense that the Ravens have.  No doubt the Steelers offense is getting a bit better against tough defenses, some what.  We saw last week where the Steeler offense came back from a ten point deficit against a Cowboy defense that was stifling, to tie the game. 

Thankfully, for the Steelers, they’re coming into this game healthy (and hopefully, they’ll leave that way too).  Of course, that may not mean a thing though.  All you have to do is look at the Ravens and how beat up they are.  Given their long season with an early bye, plus their walking wounded, you’d think they’d be running out of steam and not playing their best football down the stretch, but here they are, playing their best games despite the odds.  No doubt the Ravens defense is as psyched as the Steelers defense about this game. 

This game is going to be about the defenses.  Offensively, well, there’s no doubt that it’s the defenses of both teams that are their strength.  Running game?  What running game?  Neither team have given up 100 yards to a single running back yet.  The closest, well the Ravens to New York Giants Ahmad Bradshaw, but that was an aberration.  Even when the Steelers had a top ranked rushing offense, the thorn in their side, the Baltimore Ravens. 

Offensively, this game is going to be placed on the arms of the quarterback and their ability to avoid the turnovers.  In terms of turnover ratios, the Ravens have the edge +8 to the Steelers +7.  Edge to the quarterbacks?  If there is one, it’s to Roethlisberger, only because of his experience.  For the season, the Steelers quarterback has 14 touchdown’s to 12 interceptions versus the young Ravens rookie’s 13 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.  Of course the rookie had been sacked ten less times then the veteran. 

There’s no way to call this game and anyone looking for anything other then a defensive battle should make plans to watch the Lions/Colts game to see a high scoring game. 
Posted on: September 30, 2008 10:30 am
Edited on: September 30, 2008 2:25 pm

14-0 at a Cost, but it got Done.

Last night I figured out the real reason why I don’t play fantasy football.  While others are jumping up and down during high scoring, finesse offense games, I get excited over low scoring, brutal defensive battles.  Games where offenses are forced to try to overcome the juggernaut of the rush in front of them to make something happen.  Give me a game that keeps me on the edge of my seat all night along with a defensive onslaught and I’m a happy girl.

Monday night’s game was a classic Ravens/Steelers matchup, where it would be emotional and physical and it started from the first play.  There would be casualties in this battle for supremacy in the AFC North.  When the ESPN announcers stated blood would be drawn, they didn’t realize how right they were. 

On the opening kick-off Steelers backup linebacker Andre Frazier was hit hard and for a time, the crowd was quiet and players on both team sent positive energy to the injured player.  The crowd erupted though when Davis gave a thumbs up as he was being taken off the field.   By the end of the game, both teams would be playing their third and fourth string running back, with Ravens RB Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain both leaving the game.  Unfortunately for the Steelers, the rookie Rashard Mendenhall would find his season ending with his first NFL start after a hit left him with a fractured shoulder.  Steelers right guard, Kendell Simmons would find himself being placed on injured reserves. 

The first half of the game would leave us shaking our head at the inability of the Steelers offense to get anything accomplished.  Although it had started out with promise, the offense reverted back to it’s vanilla, conservative play calling, and although Ben Roethlisberger did a little bit better at avoiding the rush then last week, it wasn’t by much.  And I believe a collective groan went up, when we realized, that unlike Willie Parker and Hines Ward, Ben cannot make plays without a shoe. 

Something happened after the half though.  I’d like to think it was my yelling at the tv, threatening to make Bruce Arians a member of the “Ice Cream of the month club – no vanilla in this batch”, that had done it, but we would find out later that it was Ben, who gave his offense a butt chewing.  A personal foul (the first in the game that didn’t have an offsetting penalty) and a no huddle offense that we knew Ben could execute well.  Add a defensive touchdown by Steelers Lamar Woodley and the Steelers offense made it a game.  With no sacks in the 2nd half and some offensive drives we knew the Steelers were capable of, we were seeing the offense that Steeler fans came to know. 

In the end, a Jeff Reed field goal would leave the Steelers defending their undefeated streak at home on Monday nights to 14-0, and perhaps, have found a piece of the puzzle to answer the issue with an oline that eventually showed up by the end of this game.

Posted on: September 27, 2008 5:36 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2008 5:40 pm

Homecoming, Throwbacks, A Rookie and Monday Night

So their throwback uniforms aren’t the prettiest uniforms in the NFL, but they’re 2-0 when they wear them.  It’s a Monday Night home field advantage game, where they’re 22-5 at home on Monday’s and haven’t lost a Monday night game at home in their last 13 times.  The crowd will be stoked, the towels will be flying and a rookie running back will be making his start in front of a national audience, not to mention some home team greats like Yancy Thigpen and Carnell Lake. 

It’s homecoming weekend and a big game for both the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  And there’s questions on both sides…or at least there better be questions on both sides.  On one side, you have the Steelers offense which allowed 9 sacks on the quarterback in last weeks game.  On the other side, a rookie quarterback who relies a lot on the strengths of his running backs.  This game should be a very defensive game for both teams. 

Fantasy football freaks, sit your running backs in this game.  One thing we can expect, the Baltimore Ravens not to allow a 100 yd rushing game by the Steelers offense.  They’ve managed to stuff the running attack last year and forced Ben in the air.  The last time the Steelers allowed a 100 yd running game was when? 

I’m a little more secure in this weeks play by the oline and don’t expect the Steelers offense to allow 9 sacks on the QB this game.  Why?  Because, even as bad as that oline was last year, you didn’t have 2 consecutive games where the oline played atrociously.  Of course, analysts will tell you differently.  No doubt the Ravens defense can create havoc for the Steelers oline and for Ben.  Eagles style defense-don’t expect it.  After all, the Ravens met up in their first game with an atrocious Steelers oline and the Steelers played very well against it.  In fact, in his example of how the Ravens have the ability to get to Ben, during a segment of “Playbook”, Sterling Sharpe had to go back to a 2006 game when the oline was very good, to show how the Ravens defense could get to Roethlisberger. 

Both the Steelers and Ravens defenses will match up well in this game.  Both teams have playmakers who are able to create take aways and capitalize on the turnovers.  They’ll both stop the runs and force the game into the air.  Both offenses rely on the running game.  The difference is going to be, which rookie makes the worse mistake?

Monday will be Rashard Mendenhall’s first start of the season, it will be Joe Flacco’s first Monday night game – and first game against a defense then can stop the run.  With Ben no longer on the injury list and pro-bowl corner Samari  Rolle being out for the game, it’s possible for a big game for Ben.  But before ya’ll start putting in the Steelers WR’s in your fantasy starting line up, I’d just sit them.  Don’t look for this game to be a five TD game against the Baltimore Ravens, like the last time they met in their throwbacks.  Expect it to be closer.  Expect the defenses to be the mvps for this game. 

Expecting this game to be high scoring, don’t bet the house on it.  However, I give the homers (not really, it’s more of a logical edge) to the Steelers in this game, given home field advantage on a Monday Night, coming off of a bad beating from the guys down the road.  Oh yeah, I give it more to the veteran QB to make less mistakes then the rookie QB.

As far as Bart Scott’s bulletin board material by Rashard Mendenhall.  Ummm, Bart, I think there’s still the threat of hurting Hines Ward that kind of offsets that, don’t you?
Posted on: September 3, 2008 8:08 pm

2008-09 NFL Projections-AFC North - I'm a Homer

If you walked into my cubicle the first thing that you would see would be the Terrible Towel and a Steelers Pennant hanging from the wall.  There are a few things on my desk that denote I'm a Steelers fan also, a Steelers coffee mug, my Steelers pen and then my computer has my Steelers background on it. 

So as I finish up the AFC predictions, this one may seem like a homer pick and I know that there may be alot of gnashing of the teeth on this, calling me bias, perhaps names worse.  So yes, I do have the Steelers projected to win the AFC North.  In the end, I see the AFC North pretty much as last year, however, no tie breaker needed between the Steelers and the Browns.

AFC North.

#4) Baltimore Ravens - Joe Flacco is the starter.  A rookie quarterback in a division that promises to sport the leagues top defense again, and the Ravens will have to meet them twice.  If the Ravens were only a quarterback away from being very good again, then they wouldn't have been 5-11 last year.  No doubt that the addition of Flacco to the team was a major plus, but right now a rookie learning a new team under a new coach.  Baltimore's defense, still very good but have to wonder about their ability to stay healthy.  Don't see this defense taking the Ravens to the superbowl this year.

#3) Cincinnati Bengals - Okay so they have their troubles on defense, but they still have an offense.  Now if only they could sync up.  Carson Palmers too good of a quarterback to not have a good offense. 

#2) Cleveland Browns - Up and coming team, the glamour pick for this years AFC North division winner.  This year they have a schedule almost as difficult as the Pittsburgh Steelers, plus they haven't gotten past the Steelers since 2003.  Derek Anderson has proven to be a good quarterback for the Browns and they did make some good acquisitions on defense.  Question is are they good enough.  Now the Browns will be heading into their first game of the year a little banged up.  Browns will once again barely miss a wild card to the Buffalo Bills this year. 

#1) Pittsburgh Steelers - For the Browns to take the division, they'll have to somehow beat the Steelers.  The major thorn in the Steelers side last year when playing the Browns was Joshua Cribbs, not Derek Anderson.  Steelers return with promises of having a top rated defense again.  Despite the issue with the oline last year, Ben Roethlisberger was within the top 3 to top 5 quarterbacks in the league last year, breaking Terry Bradshaws record.  The offense lost very little (please don't talk to me about Alan Faneca, he was part of the porous oline last year), but gain what may be quite a bit in the wide receiver and rushing fields.  On defense, Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and Aaron Smith will be back and healthy.  Hopefully Dick LeBeau will gag Anthony Smith and help settle the young man down. 

AFC North Division Champions - Pittsburgh Steelers
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com