Who saw that coming?
The [intlink id=”141″ type=”category”]Baltimore Ravens[/intlink] handed the [intlink id=”21″ type=”category”]Pittsburgh Steelers [/intlink]one of the most humiliating defeats in franchise history yesterday afternoon. The final score of 35-7 doesn’t even begin to accurately describe the level of domination the Ratbirds displayed in humbling the defending AFC Champions. This was the team’s first opening day loss since 2003 and their worst opening defeat in 14 years. The Steelers had seven turnovers, the most in any single game going all the way back to September 24, 1995.
This was the Ravens’ Super Bowl and they played like their season depended on each and every play. I’m only shocked they didn’t dump Gatorade on their coach when the final whistle blew. Speaking of head coach John Harbaugh, what a shameful display of showboating. Refusing to call off the dogs when the game was comfortably in hand is one thing, fist pumping and acting the fool is absolutely uncalled for. When he dialed up a fake kick/2 point conversion when an extra point would have sufficiently put them ahead by three scores, the message was clear. Then, late in the fourth quarter with the game clearly over, he had Joe Flacco throwing bombs in to the end zone in an obvious effort to run up the score.
I’m not going to complain about that or the thuggish Ravens going after Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor inciting a near brawl in the third quarter (which somehow ended with only Ike getting a penalty although I’m sure the Ginger Dictator will find some way to fine the entire defense). The word “class” is associated with Baltimore about as often as Justin Beiber is associated with masculinity. The Ratbirds swagger and boast when the Steelers are dominating them, what should we expect when they actually win for once?
I’m more ashamed of the piss-poor effort on both sides of the ball put forth by our Pittsburgh Steelers. It was like deja vu all over again as watching the team get physically pushed all over the field brought to mind the nightmarish Super Bowl Hangover season of 2009. Know how I’ve railed for the past month on the meaninglessness of preseason games? This looked like a team that maybe should have taken a few of them a little more seriously.
Let’s talk coaching for a moment. With the game well out of hand, [intlink id=”45″ type=”category”]Mike Tomlin[/intlink] continued to run Ben Roethlisberger out there for reasons known only to him. If he had taken a season-ending hit in what amounted to garbage time, that would have been unforgivable. Dick LeBeau’s defensive strategy never changed despite the Ravens burning them time and time again on the same half dozen plays. Baltimore’s game plan was to match up Ray Rice and speedy TE Ed Dickson with linebackers over the middle. They combined for 9 catches for 105 yards and 2 TDs employing this strategy while LeBeau stubbornly stuck with the same ineffective defense. And then we have [intlink id=”31″ type=”category”]Bruce Arians[/intlink], who mixed run and pass with no rhyme nor reason.
I weep for the Steelers D. Amazingly, the secondary was NOT the weak link we thought it was. Sure they gave up a long TD to Anquan Boldin on the first pass play of the game but Bryant McFadden actually had good tight coverage, he was simply beaten by a good throw and a great catch. B-Mac and Face Me Ike shut down the receivers for most of the afternoon. It was the linebackers and line which were totally ineffective, allowing Rice and Ricky Williams to run up 163 yards on the ground while affording Bert Flacco enough time to wax his unibrow whenever he dropped back to throw. One garbage time sack? Zero turnovers? Unacceptable.
Did LaMarr Woodley even play yesterday? The Steelers gave [intlink id=”114″ type=”category”]Lawrence Timmons[/intlink] a mint and yet this supposedly super-athletic linebacker repeatedly left his jock on the field trying to tackle Rice. [intlink id=”52″ type=”category”]James Harrison[/intlink] looked like an old beat-up warhorse, having to be replaced on numerous occasions by ineffective youngster Jason Worilds. James Farrior also looked old and slow. You know what they do to gimpy horses, don’t you? GLUE FACTORY! Aaron Smith got blown off the ball on several plays, most notably a 1 yard TD plunge by Rice in the 1st quarter. Ziggy Hood should be starting. Period.
Not that the offense fared much better. Rashard Mendenhall ripped off some nice runs on the team’s first drive but was a non-factor. Redzone Redman also had a couple decent runs but whenever the team threatened to build momentum on the ground, the offense would stall thanks to Arians dialing up ill-conceived pass plays. ENOUGH WITH THE SIDELINE LATERALS. Those work maybe once out of every ten attempts but most of the time the guy is tackled for a two yard gain. You’re better off just running the ball, especially behind a line clearly better suited to run blocking than pass blocking.
As bad as the defensive line played, [intlink id=”85″ type=”category”]Sean Kugler[/intlink]’s offensive line may have one-upped them. Just an absolutely pathetic effort by all involved. Doug Legursky whiffed on several assignments, most notably the play where Haloti Ngata tipped a Roethlisberger pass into Ray Lewis’s waiting mitts. Jonathan Scott is lucky the refs called a loose game as he was desperately clutching and grabbing at Terrell Suggs all afternoon. And Willie Colon, whom the Steelers and their acolytes in the media claim is one of the best RTs in football, took several dumb penalties when guys weren’t running around him like a human traffic cone.
Bad coaching. A total inability to make necessary adjustments to what the Ratbirds where doing. Big Ben, charged with a scattershot offensive game plan, making idiotic decisions while under duress from a line unable to protect him An aging and/or injured defense unable to generate pressure on the opposing quarterback while also being unable to keep up with younger faster players in the open field. Add them all together and you have a recipe for disaster.
A disaster we hope won’t be repeated when these two teams meet again two months hence.