Steelers/Ravens—Be Still My Beating Heart…

photo via Steelers.com

So far this season I have set my TV thingy to record the game before I go to church. I’m usually out of church by 12:30, so I run some errands, come home, have a leisurely lunch, and then start to watch the game after an hour and a half or so has elapsed. This allows me to fast-forward through the commercials and generally makes for a more wholistic view of the game, you might say.

But this is Ravens week, and I can’t manage to fill the space. So I watched the game in real time, suffering through the commercials like everyone else, and experienced it as it was meant to be seen—in bits and pieces. Does this make sense to you? Not to me either. Here’s what I saw:

After all the fuss this week they could hardly not show the national anthem. Is this usual? Until last week I don’t recall the anthem typically being part of the broadcast (although perhaps it is in the pre-game stuff I don’t watch.) From a musician’s perspective, I thought the trio singing the anthem was good.

But as I watched the many faces the cameras panned across on the sidelines I couldn’t help but think of one of Mike Tomlin’s comments during his press grilling on Tuesday. He asked the assembled press (including reporters from CNN, who don’t typically attend Mike Tomlin’s weekday press conferences) whether they had ever given any thought to what is actually going through the minds of the guys as they stand on the sidelines. In case they missed the point, Tomlin elaborated—they are thinking about what is going to happen after the ball is kicked off. This, as Tomlin carefully spelled out for those who might have missed the point, is because the reason they were there in the first place was to play a football game. Imagine that.

At any rate, this made me look more carefully at the faces. I caught Joe Flacco apparently making a little joke with someone behind him just as the trio got to “O’er the land of the free…” I wonder if that will be in all the headlines this week—FLACCO DISRESPECTS THE FLAG AND VETERANS AND MOM AND APPLE PIE!!!!!!!!! Probably not…

It would appear everyone stood on both sidelines. I wonder if John Harbaugh and Tomlin had an agreement… But the Ravens apparently took a knee before the anthem began, which is an interesting choice which wasn’t shown. But now that I’ve gotten all of this out of the way, let’s talk about ACTUAL FOOTBALL, shall we? I will make my usual Acceptable, Objectionable, and Appalling verdicts, but first some general comments based on the questions I asked in my preview of the game.

1. Is the supposed high-powered offense which has averaged just over 21 points per game so far ever going to live up to its potential? If not, why not?

We still don’t know. The Steelers beat their season average average, although oddly the final score was exactly the same as it was against the Vikings in Week 2. But this was Ravens/Steelers, in Baltimore (where the Steelers haven’t won since 2012), and those games are usually a slugfest won by 3 points. So perhaps this 26 points means more. Not to mention that Baltimore had the best defense in the league, by a very large margin, in the first two games.

And I’m certainly not going to say I’m unhappy about the game plan. Given that the Ravens’ DBs had four interceptions in each of the first two games, and given that the Ravens’ very capable and ferocious nose tackle, Brandon Williams, was out, I was entirely in favor of running the ball until the cows came home. I thought a few 3-and-outs was a small price to pay for no interceptions. (Okay, no REAL interceptions—see rant below.)

Okay, I have one complaint, because that’s what fans do. I’m not sure a deep throw to Martavis Bryant on a 3rd and 4 was a great idea. You have to take those shots to keep the defense honest, but they weren’t working all day.

2. Is Ben just “old, slow, and over,” to quote someone we don’t like very much around here?

I don’t think we have enough information at this point to decide what’s going on. But I suspect part of it is Ben’s new-found resolve not to throw interceptions, which I’m definitely on board with. This doesn’t explain how he would not notice a wide-open Antonio Brown and instead throw an ineffective slant to Bell. Brown would like to hear that explanation too.

3. Is the very expensive offensive line going to disappoint when they should be in their prime?

We have to withhold judgment until they all play at the same time. That said, they were doing way better in the run game, and Ben was only sacked once, in Baltimore, so that has to be considered a win.

4..Did Le’Veon Bell’s most recent brush with the surgeons somehow take away part of what makes him special?

Interestingly, Bell himself said last week that he wasn’t playing like he was special. He looked much more like his old self today. So I guess we have to assume that’s how long it takes to get into “game shape.” He’s gonna be sore tomorrow. He took some fierce hits.

5. What about the defense which seemed so promising at the start of the season?

What about it? Perhaps the lesson we can take from this is “no Tuitt, big problem.” Speaking of special players…

6. What about special teams?

What about them? They weren’t the stars of the show. Chris Boswell missed a 47-yard field goal attempt (although the commentators noted that the wind kicked up right about then, in the direction that the ball was wide.) Of course, his Baltimore counterpart, Justin Tucker, missed one too. It was a 62 yarder. Seems crazy to even try it, but the Ravens were desperate to come up with some points then, and the half was over, so the Steelers couldn’t take advantage of a short field if it failed.

I had some questions about the Ravens, too, and let’s see what the answers look like, according to today’s game:

1. The defense which pulled in five turnovers per game in Weeks 1 and 2 and who sacked the quarterback 4 times in each game in Weeks 1 and 2 had a total of 0 takeaways and 0 sacks in Week 3. Which one is the real Ravens’ defense?

Well, all of a sudden their season average of 5 takeaways per game after Week 2 is down to 2.5 per game. (Sorry, but that “interception” by Eric Weddle was totally bogus, and I refuse to include it.) But considering how long the Steelers kept them on the field, particularly in the first half (the over-10-minute opening drive was the longest in the NFL so far this season) and considering they lost the anchor of their defensive line, I thought they played well. Had their offense not kept dumping them back on the field with 3-and-outs they might have played even better.

2. (The question was about Joe Flacco. Is he merely a shell of the player we are accustomed to, or what?)

Given what we saw today, I’d say Joe is afraid of having his back hurt again. When the chips were down and he had a very short field, thanks to the bogus interception, he looked a bit like the Flacco we’ve all come to love. Or not. But for the moment at least he’s definitely not the same player. If you can take away the run game (which the Steelers pretty effectively shut down, except for that one 50-yarder) it looks as if Flacco is going to struggle.

So on to the judgment seat:

The Acceptable

Most everything, really. It is a win in Baltimore.

Oh, I could quibble about things. What if the defense doesn’t get two interceptions? The game might have come out very differently. (But they did and it didn’t.)

Is Vance McDonald ever going to catch a pass? (Probably one here or there, more or less by accident. But he’s a hell of a blocker, and between that and saving the TD last week, all is forgiven as far as I’m concerned.)

What about the long pass on 3rd and 4? (Not that I’m bitter. But I’ve moved on.)

What about all the offensive penalties? Um, I’ll leave that to Coach T to holler about…

And now the commendations:

Mike Hilton—Hilton had a sack, a tackle for loss, a QB hit, a pass defensed, and an interception. I’ll bet the coaching staff/front office/whoever are feeling pretty smug about that pickup right about now. It was a shame Senquez Golson didn’t work out, but I think we’re doing okay with his college teammate.

Ryan Shazier—he was a one-man wrecking crew—11 tackles, 3 passes defensed, an interception, and probably some pretty fierce trash talk. And it was he who deflected the pass Mike Hilton alertly caught…

Cameron Heyward—What more can be said? I sure hope he stays healthy, and Tuitt stays healthy, because they are a force to reckon with.

Juju Smith-Schuster—I love this kid. I hate to see Eli Rogers lose his spot, but Juju earned it.

A day when Jesse James has better stats than AB has to be noted. And he actually had significant yards after a catch, at least once! He’s learning…

And finally, I would be remiss not to give major props to Le’Veon Bell, who carried most of the offense on his shoulders. Don’t believe me? Bell had 186 yards—144 rushing and 42 receiving. The entire rest of the offense had 204 yards. And he had two of the three touchdowns.

Which still doesn’t mean I think he should get paid like a running back plus a No. 2 receiver, but that’s an argument for another day.

And it’s not very kind of me, but I did enjoy seeing the pained looks on Joe Flacco’s face, and John Harbaugh’s face, and so on. I did also find it quite funny that right near the end of the game, with the Ravens trailing by three scores and about two minutes to go, the cheerleaders were as enthusiastic and perky as ever. Which just goes to show how silly it is. At least have some pom-poms in more sombre colors and a dejected-but-hopeful-for-the-future routine you can pull out at such moments.

The Objectionable:

I covered most of my objections already. There’s just one more—the whole thing of whichever idiot of a fan blew a whistle in the stand during the second Ravens re-punt in the second quarter. If it was a Steelers fan I’m ashamed. If it was a Baltimore fan what can I say? I kind of think it must have been a Baltimore fan, though, because presumably if it had been a Steelers fan there would have been a summary execution in the stands, and they surely would have shown that on the broadcast. Because the nation deserves to know…

The Appalling:

I usually don’t even go here in a win, but I have to complain again about the “interception” by Eric Weddle. If you like conspiracy theories, my eldest son thinks that the failed 2-point conversion by Baltimore was a make-up call, because he thinks the guy had it. I’m just waiting to see whether there is an apology this week. If I were Ben I would totally be mad, because now he has an “interception” on his record, when at the most it was an incomplete pass.

Rant over. Steelers won. Patriots lost. All is right with the world.

12 comments

  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    The whistle in the stands was in play earlier as well. I remember hearing it on an earlier play and wondering what was going on. Hopefully they caught the guy and tossed him from the game.

    I agree, the Weddle “interception” was special. I would like to know exactly when the whistle was blown on that play… before or after Weddle got the ball.

    The two point failure on the part of the Ravens was pretty close. I thought he was in originally but after looking at the replays I began to doubt it.

    Bell’s rebirth should open stuff up for the WR next game.

    Speaking of next game, I was expecting the Jags to be cream puffs before the season started but now I am not certain what we will be facing. I do expect KC to be a very tough opponent. At one point I was thinking we would be 5-0 or even 6-0 to start the season. Now every win is precious.

    Like

  • 3 of 4 games to start the season on the road. 3-1 over all and 2-0 in the division, with both of those wins on the road. Bad loss last week aside, the team is sitting well 1/4 of the way into the season. Am I crazy for thinking of a division sweep seeing how the Bungles are playing?

    Like

  • Overall, I enjoyed the game immensely. The low point was definitely the “interception”. It was the one time i have heard Dan Fouts say something during the broadcast that didn’t make me think he was an idiot. It was very reminiscent to the Polomalu interception in the 05 playoffs. Brown caught the ball, started moving, got hit, had his knee hit the ground, then his elbow, which popped the ball out. Seriously, how much does a receiver have to do after the ball touches his hands for it to be deemed a catch? Granted, the ball never touched the ground, so the refs probably didn’t believe he made a complete catch, which ended up as an interception.

    A win in Baltimore is huge (YUUUGE!). Hopefully we can take care of Bortles and the Jags next week.

    Like

  • I thought of you this week and the way you watch the games. Do you know the score before you watch? I usually watch in real time if I can and consider myself a coward if I even think of walking away and watching later–but that’s because I’d look up the score so it wouldn’t be as painful as it unfolded. Or at least not as tense. But this week I watched by myself, which I really don’t like, and I ended up not watching the whole game, something I rarely do.

    I walked away the first time after fans booed the Ravens for kneeling. * Before* the NA. Really?? Because they wanted to make a statement about justice and equality? How unbearable is that! (Those spoiled millionaire players! Many of whom grew up in families who couldn’t have afforded to take them to an NFL game if they’d sold their every belonging,so who’s really spoiled, but let’s not confuse the narrative of the self righteous.) The Ravens pandered to them in every other possible way–the trio in uniforms, the bombs bursting in air, the players all standing. But they couldn’t bear to see the players kneeling for 60 seconds?? Who did that disrespect? I’ve never been so ashamed to be a football fan and I didn’t console myself by believing they were all Ravens fans. I’m sure there were Steeler fans right alongside them with their mouths wide open. I was so hopping mad I had to walk away from my tv and walk (stomp) around my house.

    (I too noticed Flacco talking and looking around, and thought it was odd. I almost like him for it. Everyone else was doing their best to look ostentatiously patriotic. I’m surprised we didn’t see some of them weeping as they clutched their hearts.)

    When I came back, the Steelers looked good and I felt smug for a while. Earlier in the week, I’d announced to anyone who would listen (a tiny “crowd,” and maybe no one if I can’t count chickens and dogs and goats) that the Steelers would have no problem with the Ravens. The Ravens stink this year and the Steelers don’t and they rebound well. The smugness continued to the end of the first half. Plus, Shazier was being fabulous after being not fab last week, and I announced to the same crowd that he’d correct his over runs this week. Which he mostly did.;

    I spent too much time outside at halftime–sunny day, chickens, dogs (they were all agog at how on the money my predictions were). I came in late and there was Weddle standing around looking happy while a play was under review. I can’t remember why I dislike him so much but I do, so after the miserable ruling and a few more plays when the Steelers were starting to look like their lovely lead might evaporate, I fled. I couldn’t bear to see all the wonderfulness of beating the Ravens disappear. Or maybe I couldn’t bear to be wrong after all that prognosticating and arrogance. Dogs are big forgivers but the chickens…and the goats. I probably bragged to the goats about my football savvy and they’d never stop laughing at me.

    I can’t remember what I did outside but it took me exactly a quarter because when I walked back into the house, the fourth quarter started. On the nose. (A newly discovered talent?) And I enjoyed the rest of the game, smug again. When I looked up the stuff about the third quarter on NFL.com, I found out their own streaming is almost 4 minutes behind what they put up on that little field with the arrows going back and forth. I wonder if you know what I mean. For years, before cable and streaming and blogs, it was the only way I could follow games. As awful as it is, it used to be a lot worse. (Those words are said quite often and they console no one.)

    I am worried about Ben. I say things to myself like: he’s missing something right now. Or: he’ll pick up in a game or two. I can’t even describe what it is about him that seems different and wrong and makes me feel a bit sorry for him. I never felt sorry for Ben before even when he was Bad Ben. Now he seems a little diminished and it strikes me as sad. I hope I’m completely wrong and in a game or two I’ll yell at him with the old fury. Actually, I don’t really yell at him but I often watch games with someone who does. “Why, Ben? WHY?” he wails. I find this hilarious. It means I never get mad at Ben because it’s so entertaining when he’s a blockhead. But he doesn’t feel like a blockhead so far this season. Just smaller maybe.

    Too long, I’m sorry. I spent too much time this week with farm animals.

    Earthling

    Like

    • Here’s the significance of that NFL.com field thing vs. streaming comment. In the future as a drive or even a play or a review is under way, it’s going to be very difficult for me to refrain from just looking it up on their website to find out what happens 4 minutes into the future of the game I’m watching. But that seems so cheap. And cheating somehow.

      Like

    • I have upon rare occasions watched the game when I already knew the outcome. There is a certain peacefulness about this. There is less tension at the bad parts if you know they are going to win and a sort of resignation if you know they are going to lose. Oddly, one of the few times I’ve done that was after the Pasting in Philly last year. I had been out all afternoon, was on my way home to watch it, and couldn’t help peeking at the score. I honestly didn’t believe my eyes at first. I’m afraid I fast-forwarded through a lot of it. It was quite painful…

      And I do mostly prefer to watch by myself. Well, not by myself, because Cato, my faithful Lucky Steelers Cat, is generally by my side. He almost left during the third quarter but fortunately stayed the course. (He left early in the Chicago game and I had a bad feeling about it.)

      I shouldn’t like having goats knowing I had boasted without cause. Rather like John Harbaugh declaring to Michelle Tafoya before the game that they were going to win, because they were a better team. Hmm, who was the goat in that scenario?

      As for the boos before the game, given that the PA announced it as a prayer, I find it quite incredible anyone could boo, much less a substantial number of fans, booing THEIR OWN TEAM. (Although you are almost certainly correct that they were joined by Steeler fans.) But this issue is so divisive. Yesterday my daughter and I found ourselves yelling at each other over Facetime, despite the fact we are in substantial agreement about almost all of the issues. This apparently hits people at a really deep level.

      Like

    • cold_old_steelers_fan

      If possible, I will PVR the game and start watching about an hour after it really started. This is just so I can skip the commercials and anthems and half time analysis. I try not to see the score before I start watching but it doesn’t really bother me if I do it.

      When I watch the Winnipeg Jets (NHL) or the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) I usually watch it on PVR and I like to know if the Winnipeg has won before I start watching. They have let me down too many times for me to waste my time watching another poor effort.

      Like

  • And here’s something that made me happy and made me think : Rebecca will know, or find out, if this is true.

    A friend told me that the later in the day a game is, the better Ben plays. I glanced at the schedule and all the 8:30’s jumped out as me as hopeful.

    If it’s true, I’m with Ben on this. If I’m on the West coast, which I often am, 10 a.m. games aren’t really a lot of fun. And if I’m Europe which I sometimes am, it’s been much easier for me to watch games in the middle of the night than the middle of the day.

    Plus that run of 8:30 p.m. games seems extraordinary.

    Earthling

    Like

    • Funny that the run of 8:30 games seems extraordinary to you. I’m always surprised when they play five weeks in a row at 1 pm, as they are doing this season.

      When I have a chance I will definitely check out the Ben game-time thingy. Offhand it might explain the teams’ typically poor performance on the West Coast, which turns a 1 pm game into a 10 am game. (I will certainly except the Candlestick Park debacle when Ben played with a high ankle sprain.)

      Like

      • I’m impressed with your memory–not only when but where and why Ben was gimpy.

        The 2015 schedule was still hanging on a refrigerator in my barn. That year, 5 games were at 8:30. Weirdly, the Ravens game in Pittsburgh was listed as 8:25 but I’ve included it anyway. 🙂 9 games were scheduled for 1 p.m. and 2 for 4:25. That weird time again. It must mean something.

        I don’t have the energy right now to do more counting but I’d guess they’re about 50/50 most years. It’s my memory of afternoon games as a kid that make me find all the others extraordinary.

        Like

      • I forgot that it was announced as a prayer, but perhaps that put the stomp in my walking. Why is wrong to kneel during the national anthem but okay to boo a prayer? And one for justice. In the city where Freddie Gray died.

        I don’t like much about the Ravens but I thought they were making an attempt to allow the players to make a statement and the “respect the flag” crowd to feel they’d gotten their due. Hence the anger at the booing. It seemed to underline for me that the anger was not about disrespect for the flag at root.

        But I won’t say any more than this. I married into a family in which being career military is the norm. (Not my spouse, though) Perhaps they’re all good at their jobs. I don’t know. I see them as rarely as possible and avoid all conversations, having found none are safe. They are unapologetically racist, sexist and every other kind of bigoted in important and unimportant ways, but they make clear they believe themselves better Americans than the rest of us. I spend a lot of time with teenagers, few of them white. I sometimes think of them out in the world and feel a lurch of fear at what might happen to them,at what sometimes has almost happened to them. I would like to believe it is also their flag, their country and their anthem but I don’t think we’re there yet.

        Earthling–who acts like AB with a water cooler after logging into WordPress

        Like

    • And as I think about it, it is surprising this game wasn’t a late game. Steelers-Ravens is always good television, and it seems like it would be more fair to the Ravens, who were just coming back from London, to give them a few extra hours of rest. I’m glad they didn’t get them, though : )

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s