By Michael K. Reynolds
The evening began with the honoring of all-time Pittsburgh Steelers great Joe Greene and finished with one of the most satisfying victories ever over the Baltimore Ravens.
Although it started off of the Steelers script in the first quarter, by the end of the game all Terrrell Suggs could do is play air guitar while eating crow as the stadium speakers blared out Renegade.
And with such a fine delicacy being served up here too is your full helping of Rapid Fire Conclusions:
How Do You Like Us Now?
After the Ravens dismantled the Steelers 26-6 in Baltimore earlier this year quarterback Joe Flacco suggested he no longer feared the Black and Gold and didn’t even know who many of the players were. Well…Joe…welcome to the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers. He got several personal introductions while lying on his back. One of the most enjoyable elements of this victory is that the Steelers may have effectively knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs. Not mathematically, but it left them on a very difficult road. The win puts the Steelers in the driver seat and with 12 touchdowns in the last two games against elite defenses, that’s exactly where Pittsburgh deserves to be.
When The Steelers Started Breaking Pool Sticks
There was no question a bully had come to town dressed in the uniforms of the Ravens. Threatening to spoil Mean Joe Greene’s big day, Suggs and his posse came ready for a bar fight and punctuated their early domination in the game with a trifecta of sacks all in one series. Fans certainly feared their party would be spoiled by a heavy downfall of purple rain. No gentle encouragement or head slaps by offensive line coach Mike Munchak seemed to get Ben Roethlisberger’s protection unit up to the challenge. That is, until the next series when Courtney Shaw delivered Big Ben with a late hit and a cheap shot to the jaw. Right then, everything changed. The Steelers offensive line manned up and gave their quaterback the kind of protection he would need to go 20 for 30 with 303 yards and 6 touchdowns from that point forward. Despite relentless pressure from the Ravens the Steelers didn’t give up a sack the rest of the game. If there were questions about the toughness and character of this offensive line, they were answered powerfully on Sunday.
Best 15 Yards Spent This Year
After the Pittsburgh defense could only stand by and watch as Shaw’s helmet drove into Roethlisberger’s jaw, you had to wonder what their response would be once they got on the field. The response came promptly on the next series when Steve McLendon got to Joe Flacco on a hard rush and summarily drove him to the ground. The officials deemed the hit over ambitious but that was a message delivered that was well worth the 15 yard penalty. The runner up in this award category was Cody Wallace who drew a late unsportsmanlike penalty on a point after play. When you saw the scrum and knew there was some whooping going on by a Steeler, didn’t you know it was Wallace?
Deebo Greene With Envy
Was there really a question of who most emulated Joe Greene on today’s Steelers defense? James Harrison continued his “Blast From The Past” tour with two more sacks (that’s four in two games now) by channeling a bit of Mean Joe. Perhaps his newfound importance to the team wasn’t emphasized any more than when he was down on the ground with an apparent injury. Fortunately, the gasps from the faithful were soon replaced with cheers as the old warrior returned to the field of battle. But all of Harrison’s resurgence proves a larger point by the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Wasn’t he right two years ago in telling the Steelers front office he had too much left in his tank to be working for reduced wages? The Steelers refused to reduce Troy Polamalu’s pay grade out of respect and in retrospect, perhaps Harrison should have been treated likewise. Wouldn’t his contribution last year been enough to edge the Steelers into the playoffs? No need to dwell in the past, but the chants are rising for both Brett Keisel and Deebo to plan on keeping their lockers next year as well.
Bryant The Next Bell
It took Le’Veon Bell several weeks last year to get off of the injured list and onto the playing field and as soon he did the talented running back made an immediate impact on the offense. This year Martavis Bryant is replicating this feat. It took Bryant six weeks himself to get a helmet but as soon as he did, the Steelers offense soared. Not only has his 5 touchdown receptions in three games been a revelation but he’s managed to light a fire under Markus Wheaton as well. With Antonio Brown still only 26 years old, the Brown, Bryant and Wheaton combination is on a path to becoming the top young receiving trio in the league.
Under The Radar Awards
Isn’t it time to start thinking of William Gay as a Pro Bowl cornerback? Currently he is doing much what a shut-down cornerback is asked to do. That is, primarily to be invisible. Gay has shown consistently game in and game out to be the most dependable corner on the team and should be talked about as one of the better ones in the league. And as great as James Harrison’s performance was, it should be noted that Arthur Moats enjoyed his best game of the year as well in sharing the position. With a forced fumble and a sack, Moats is providing quality minutes on the field. Should he be rotating on the left side of the field as well?
With Apologies To Pollyanna
Hating to be a buzz kill with all of this happiness flowing there are a few important concerns to be uttered. First of all, Jason Worilds continues to be a liability on the left edge against the rush. The Steelers will need to find a way to fix this leak or teams will continue to find easy yards in that direction. There also may be some concern the Ravens found the formula to slow down Le’Veon Bell. Bell wants to be patient? The defense just needs to wait him out. Bell will need to find an answer when defenses play him this way against the run. Finally, there should be real worry about Brad Wing as a placeholder for Shaun Suisham. Wing’s impromptu two-point conversion made for great prime time television but that’s the second time this year already he’s botched the hold. What happens when it’s a game winning field goal attempt with two seconds in the game? And on the subject of Suisham, why does he seem to be the only kicker in the league that can’t kick the ball out of the end zone?
Tomlin’s Time For Redemption
There is no question that Coach Mike Tomlin and his colleagues have more than made up for their slow start to the season with these past two massive victories. It’s not an excuse for being poorly prepared at the beginning of the year but the coaches deserve credit. However; Tomlin’s big Achilles Heel has been losing the easy games over the past few seasons. With the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans next on the docket, this is his opportunity to right that wrong. Don’t tell us, “The other guys get a paycheck too” or “There are no easy wins in the NFL”, just make it happen. The Steelers have the firepower to blow these teams out and now is Tomlin’s opportunity to show he can get the job done.