Maybe Ryan Clark wasn’t so bad after all…
After a week dominated by the Ray Rice controversy, the Baltimore Ravens came out and crushed the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-6 on the inaugural edition of CBS Thursday Night Football. Towards the end of the game, commentator Jim Nantz said the Ratbirds were “galvanized” by recent events proving nothing brings a team together better than a wife-beater. Then the players themselves did Nantz one better by dedicated yesterday’s performance to Rice, poor unfairly maligned soul that he is.
Stay classy, Baltimore.
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So, anybody know what’s been going on with the Baltimore Ravens?
I kid, I kid.
As if preordained by the Football Gods, the team that has been at the center of a media firestorm this past week happens to be playing in one of the league’s featured prime time contests. When CBS chose Pittsburgh Steelers vs Baltimore Ravens for their inaugural telecast of Thursday Night Football, I imagine they did expected another epic chapter in one of the NFL’s most heated rivalries. They surely didn’t expect the Ratbirds to be one of the central players in an ongoing drama that spilled over to the mainstream media.
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If you’re reading a football blog – particularly one dedicated to the Pittsburgh Steelers – chances are you’ve heard plenty about the Ray Rice fiasco the past couple days. The fact Rice has had his career nuked due to his reprehensible actions doesn’t interest me. Maybe some day he’ll be welcomed back by the Baltimore Ravens – perhaps they’ll even erect a freakin’ statue in his honor like they did for the murderous thug who played linebacker for them - as nobody really expects better from a low class organization like the Ratbirds. But for now Rice is simply a lowlife scumbag who got exactly what he deserved.
What does interest me about the Ray Rice fiasco is the number of eyes it opened to the corrupt administration of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. In recent days, everybody from Keith Olbermann to former governor Ed Rendell have called for Goodell to resign. And those who haven’t gone quite that far are still taking Goodell to task for his absolutely inept handling of the entire situation. Nobody has to tell Steeler Nation, though, as we’re a fanbase that has long been familiar with the slimy little weasel who sits in the commissioner’s office.
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The Baltimore Ravens must be the luckiest team in NFL history.
They should’ve been one and done in last year’s playoffs only for Rahim Moore’s epic blunder to set them on course for a Super Bowl run. They defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in a pivotal division match-up on Thanksgiving night thanks to five field goals by Justin Tucker. Last night, in an equally crucial Monday Night game, they somehow beat the Detroit Lions without scoring a single touchdown. Six more Tucker field goals was all the offense “elite” Joe Flacco and company could muster.
Maybe they should’ve given Tucker the $120 million dollar contract.
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Back and to the right… Back and to the right…
The controversy over what Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin did or didn’t do in his team’s Thanksgiving night loss to the Baltimore Ravens has reached new levels of absurdity. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. It was a national showcase in front of one of the largest audiences of the year. And with the year winding down and so many sites devoted to NFL coverage, these kind of “stories” are a perfect way to generate hits.
Although at this point, they’ve all but accused Tomlin of hiding on the grassy knoll.
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The Pittsburgh Steelers playoff hopes sustained a crushing, possibly fatal blow on Thanksgiving with a 22-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Of course, the big story coming out of the game – at least outside of Pittsburgh – are the actions of head coach Mike Tomlin. The Ratbirds won so their trademark whining has been mostly replaced by jokes and sarcastic comments about Tomlin standing on the field just long enough to interfere with Jacoby Jones 73 yard kickoff return early in the third quarter.
Although it didn’t stop Terrell Suggs for providing me the title of this post when asked his thoughts on the Tomlin Two-Step: “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying to win.”
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The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. There really isn’t much to add to that. It has already become one of the NFL’s most heated rivalries. While the departure of guys like Hines Ward and Ray Lewis has taken away some of the on-field animosity, the rivalry will continue to burn as long as these two teams continue to face each other in big games.
And make no mistake, this is a huge game. About a month ago, the joke going around was NBC probably wishes they could flex Ravens-Steelers out of the coveted Thanksgiving night prime time slot. Both were mired at the bottom of the standings and looked like a couple of teams going nowhere. Thanks to modest winning streaks and the mediocrity of the AFC, both Baltimore and Pittsburgh now find themselves in the thick of the Wild Card race.
As if Ravens-Steelers isn’t important enough. As if a showcase on Thanksgiving wasn’t important enough. Now we get to throw in major playoff implications. With seven teams basically tied for the second Wild Card, head-to-head victories and Conference Record are going to be the difference between a trip to the playoffs and an early off-season.
While I fully expect another close game, let’s just hope it doesn’t go to overtime. We all remember what happened last time the Steelers played an OT game on Thanksgiving.
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I’m not sure we can say the Pittsburgh Steelers are all the way back. But they’re getting there. Yesterday afternoon, the Steelers took a giant step toward digging out of the 0-4 hole that began their season by pulling off a last second victory over the Baltimore Ravens 19-16.
Last week, the Steelers finally broke out of the turnover slump by picking off Geno Smith twice. This week, they finally found a running game. Rookie Le’Veon Bell just missed his first career 100 yard game (93 yards) as five guys combined to pile up 141 yards of rushing offense. Bell averaged 4.9 yards a rush which was particularly impressive when you consider his longest gainer was only 11 yards.
Speaking of impressive, the running game got on track despite the offensive line suffering yet another setback. Marcus Gilbert was injured early on leading to Guy Whimper taking his place at right tackle. Whimper had been used exclusively at guard since coming here but is a tackle by trade so that’s not a huge shock – that they’d rather insert Whimper into a game than Mike Adams is. Adams did see some action when LT Kelvin Beachum was briefly shaken up but it appears he’s buried deep inside Mike Tomlin‘s non-existent doghouse.
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One NFL agent has already been fired due to free agency incompetence. Another may soon join him.
Linebacker Elvis Dumervil was happily employed by the Denver Broncos, who were scheduled to pay him $12 million next season. After signing some name free agents (Wes Welker and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), the Broncos found themselves over the salary cap. Under NFL bylaws, after any new signing, a team has a window of 48 hours to get in compliance with the cap or they risk forfeiting a first or second round draft pick. Dumervil agreed to rework his contract to help Denver out but thanks some sort of fax machine shenanigans, the papers weren’t signed in time and the team was forced to release him.
Dumervil quickly became a hot commodity as no fewer than five teams were bidding for his services. The Pittsburgh Steelers were among his suitors as were the Baltimore Ravens. The Ratbirds ultimately won the Dumervil sweepstakes, signing him to a five year deal that will pay him $8.5 million this season although only $2.5 of it counts against the cap (the bulk of his first year salary comes in the form of a signing bonus). Why can’t supposed salary cap sooper-genius Omar Khan work out these kind of deals?
The addition of Dumervil is quite the coup for the Ravens, who have lost five defensive starters this off-season. At 29 years old, Dumervil is an accomplished pass rusher having posted 17, 9.5 and 11 sacks the past three years. Paired with Terrell Suggs, they should form one of the better OLB duos in the AFC.
When word broke of Dumervil signing with Baltimore, Steeler fans immediately went into sour grapes mode, pointing out Doom’s limited experience as a 3-4 OLB (he began his career as a 4-3 DE) and his so-so ability to stop the run. Anybody who doesn’t think Dumervil would’ve been a huge asset to the Steelers is completely insane. Had they signed him, he immediately would’ve been the team’s best pass rusher as he’s infinitely more talented than Jason Worilds and has grossly outperformed LaMarr Woodley the past few seasons. What’s more, at 29 years old, he’s got at least three or four more prime years left before age and injury start to catch up with him.
With Dumervil off the table, rumor has it the Steelers have turned their sights to former Colts DE Dwight Freeney. At this point, Freeney is nothing more than a poor man’s Dumervil. Sure he might come cheaper but in football as with smoked ham, you get what you pay for. Freeney is older (33), has a more worrisome injury history, and appears to be a horrible fit for our defense. Where Dumervil shifted from DE to OLB without missing a beat, Freeney moved to OLB last season and recorded a career-low 5 sacks. Freeney isn’t an upgrade over Dumervil, he’s not even an upgrade over the man he’s ostensibly replacing, James Harrison.
Ah, poor Deebo. The agent I mentioned who may soon find himself unemployed (if not naked in a gutter with dog bites and “BMF” tattood on his left butt cheek) is the assclown representing James Harrison. Harrison was scheduled to make $6.57 million this season but the Steelers asked him to take a 30% pay cut down to roughly $4.5 million. He balked thinking he could easily command his original salary on the open market. How sadly he was mistaken.
According to reports, the market for Harrison’s rapidly declining skills is tepid to say the least. In fact it’s so icy that Harrison’s agent has already started floating the idea that James would be open to returning to the Steelers, presumably for the salary he idiotically turned down in the first place. For their part, the Steelers have leaked word that they have no interest in bringing a grovelling Harrison back at any price. Ouch.
The thing is, yes, Harrison is in the twilight of his career. And yes, he was dumb for not agreeing to take the pay cut when it was offered. At the same time, Harrison was the team’s best pass rusher last season and until Woodley discovers the Stairmaster, would still be so heading into this one. Even with eroding skills, Harrison is a better option than either Jason Worilds or Dwight Freeney. Of course, there are still players left to be signed and the draft can change a lot of things so it’s not imperative the Steelers decide on the lesser of three evils. However, they better do something or risk falling even further behind their AFC North rivals.
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The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl Champions. Pardon me while I empty out my vomit bucket.
Okay, where were we? Oh, right. The unthinkable has happened. The Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII. If Steeler Nation thought that team of thugs and loudmouths were insufferable before, we’re never going to hear the end of it now.
To add insult to injury, Joe Flacco was named Super Bowl MVP. For those scoring at home, Tyler Palko’s back-up now has more SB MVPs than Ben Roethlisberger. Oh it was well deserved as Bert played the game of his life. I just hope everybody is prepared when Flacco is ranked equal to or above Ben on those “Best Quarterbacks in the NFL” lists we’re inundated with every season.
Then again, they are basically tied with one championship apiece. Technically, Ben has two but Antwaan Randle El accomplished more with one pass than Ben did during the rest of the Seattle game. And Flacco is only now reaching his prime while Ben’s skills are in decline.
Yesterday’s win capped off perhaps the luckiest run by any team in recent memory. Going into the final month of the season, the Ratbirds were in full free fall when Charlie Batch engineered a win for the ages. People forget that Baltimore backed into clinching their division as with decent quarterbacking and decent coaching, the Steelers could have overtaken them. Baltimore had an easy first round playoff game against the overmatched Colts then should have lost to the Broncos if not for a blown coverage that led to the game tying TD followed by yet another choke job by Pey-Pey in OT. Sure every championship run requires a little luck (Ben making The Tackle on Roman Harper) but the Ravens seemingly had a rabbit’s foot up their ass all through this post-season.
That luck held up through the final whistle of last night’s game. Flacco underthrows his receiver by three yards but Jacoby Jones is so wide open he has time to come back (I wonder if Mike Wallace ever thought about trying that?) for what will go down as a 55 yard TD bomb. The Niners fall asleep on the second half kick-off and gift Baltimore a 108 yard return TD. After a power outage which I’m sure Roger Goodell is already planning on fining James Harrison for, San Fran staged an epic comeback which fell short when Michael Crabtree got mugged on 4th and goal but the refs kept their hankies in their pockets.
Anyway, the Ravens are your 2012 NFL champions. I promised silver linings so here are two. First, since San Francisco lost, your Pittsburgh Steelers are still the only NFL franchise with six Lombardi Trophies. And second, last night was the final time we’ll ever have to see Ray Lewis in an NFL uniform. If karma is a really a thing that exists, hopefully one day we will see him in a bright orange jump suit as karmic justice for the murder he already got away with (and kudos to Phil Simms for having the balls to mention that during the telecast instead of just repeating the company line).
Final lining? Um, the Pittsburgh Pirates report to Spring Training in 10 days.