Ravens vs Steelers: Sober Observations
By Ivan Cole
At what point is it appropriate to acknowledge a team and their season is special, even magical? Yes, there is the CONFRONTATION this week with the Patriots, as well as the hoped for happy ending in Minnesota. But forgive what might seem like lowering the bar by saying this—there is no way that what has transpired to this point could be viewed anyway other than a triumph of the collective spirit of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization.
Like the Immaculate Reception, the story of this season deserves to be shared for decades hence as a salute to soaring feats of achievement, dogged determination and resiliency in the face of both competitive challenges and straight up tragedy. If it were easy it would be a more unambiguously pleasant experience, but would lose the true and deep resonance of its impact. This is a spiritual event authored by an organization that has unapologetically embraced the spiritual—they hold training camp at a monastery.
Let me suggest that, like the Immaculate Reception, we have moved beyond the point where the ending or anything that follows can do anything but enhance this. Spoil it? No. Only if you the miss the larger point of it all.
A community is experiencing uplift. Just like our, now, weekly bouts of heartburn, the suffering soon fades, and a better residue remains.
I have seen the Steelers celebrate in victory before, but I don’t recall having seen the child-like glee of T.J. Watt and Stephon Tuitt literally hugging and jumping up and down as the game ended. Cam Heyward ranting at his teammates when things looked really dark in the third quarter. Ben’s message to Ryan Shazier during his post-game interview.
We have seen Steelers/Ravens before. The rivalry, the December confrontations with division titles and playoff positioning at stake (Just last Christmas!). This was something of a different order.
Going slightly off topic for a moment—do you realize that the Chicago Bears swept the AFC North? While Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit got smacked. How strange is that? This leads to a mention of the utter appropriateness of the Bengals meltdown. They have been consigned to their special level of hell until their tiger stripes appear on the radar sometime next Fall.
The greatest competitive moment of the game: Ben’s thirty-yard pass to Antonio Brown on the drive to the game winning field goal. One of those ‘No, no, yes!!’ kind of plays that brought to mind sitting with Rebecca and Homer in the stands of Saint Vincent and making the observation that Ben and AB just do whatever they want, whenever they want. And now we know it wasn’t hyperbole.
The greatest non-competitive moment: JuJu Smith-Schuster’s tweet showing him watching the game with popcorn and his helmet on.
Other random observations:
- Beginnings and endings. This season marks the beginning of some remarkable stories. T.J., JuJu (in absentia last night), James Connor, and who would have thought that Cameron Sutton would be making any contributions of significance this season at all. On the other side James Harrison.
- The networks have to be delighted. The Killer B’s and the Steelers have delivered what they crave the most; reliable, high caliber performances at critical moments, and high drama on a national stage. You don’t think CBS isn’t salivating about Sunday?
- Speaking of which: What were the chances that this game would materialize in its highest potential? In theory it sounded great when scheduled, but in September neither of these teams looked like giants. Now it will be the Super Bowl of the regular season given their records, the personnel available and their organizational pedigrees.
- How about a game where both the Steelers and Ravens eviscerated each other’s defenses? 39-38? Was that some NFC South match up we were witnessing? And who want to meet either one of them in the playoffs? I don’t want to see them again this year. But you know…
- Sean Spence. Who would have thought he would be part of this story? Poignant in that his presence is a consequence of both Shazier’s and his own misfortune playing the game. If the game had been lost, his limitations would have been a contributing factor. But it is unclear what his ultimate role in this fairy tale might be.
- I mentioned in the Third Quarter report that Mike Tomlin was being seen as a solid coach of the year candidate. At this point, all things considered, who would you place above him? No team has a better record, or had to overcome more to get there.
- We think the Steelers are trying to win one for Dan Rooney. I think Dan and the Chief might be behind all of this. Its their kind of story.