First, it is impossible to ignore some current events. Over 50 persons shot dead in Las Vegas in a senseless act; recovery efforts continue in Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico after a series of hurricanes have disrupted the lives of millions of people. Many thanks to the first responders and support workers trying to help the victims of the man-made and several natural disasters. Sometimes the worst of times bring out the best in American’s instinct to help those who have met adversity.
Steelers Depot regular Darth Blount 47 captured a lot of our feelings stating, “Steelers Win. Ravens lose. Patriots lose. I mean, what more can you ever ask for?!” That was one of the top comments among the 963 offered in the Steelers vs Ravens Live Update and Discussion Thread – Second Half. We’ll learn more on Tuesday, but it seems that the Steelers not only beat the Crows at M&T Stadium for the first time since 2012; but escaped with no significant injuries.
I got back from Tunisia on Wednesday and had a house party Saturday so had little time to prepare for Sunday’s game. That’s excusable for an average Steelers fan; sometimes work and other distractions take precedence. Some of you may have seen the Steelers fan who took his family to all 16-regular season and the three playoff games last year. Now that is dedication. Turns out that he lives less than three miles from my house here in Maryland. We’ve never met but it’s nice to know that the Black & Gold has stronger representation in this area than just me.
For Sunday’s game; I returned to the Outta the Way Café in Derwood, Maryland. That’s my hangout for Steelers game when at home. This time, an old college buddy joined me. Perfect since, I could order my drinks, food then slip on my ear buds for Steelers Nation Radio and open the laptop to follow Steelers Depot and the official Steelers website to keep track of the inactive list and any other developments. He accepted all this as normal – not many folks I could get pull this on.
The inactive list was interesting. As had been reported earlier in the week, Justin Hunter was, indeed, active. The question posed by Dave Bryan Friday night was who would be the wide receiver to sit. Darrius Heyward-Bey had played very good special teams last week, forcing fair catches which eliminated any significant returns. Eli Rogers fumbled a punt which gave the momentum to the Chicago Bears early in that debacle. With JuJu Smith-Shuster available for the slot; not much of a decision for this game. Marcus Gilbert was not ready to go so Chris Hubbard got the start. The last spot on the inactive list caught a lot of attention since it was Mr. James Harrison who filled it. Some speculation about his jokes about not playing being semi-serious indications of disgruntlement. The fact is he was ill and sent home Friday. Craig Wolfley said that he saw him and he was truly under the weather. We won’t know if Deebo would have been a healthy scratch since he was decidedly unhealthy for this game.
Honestly very nervous about this game. John Harbaugh has built this team to beat the Steelers and they have owned the Black & Gold in Baltimore the last few years. I was at the 2015 game at M & T Stadium with several thousand other Steelers fans. Pittsburgh was heavily favored and we were ready to rock the stadium bit never really got the chance. The underdog Ravens team put a licking on the Steelers that year and the cheers grew faint and the terrible towels limp as the upset ensued. Steelers were not a heavy favorite Sunday, but the Ravens have had a bevy of injuries. The offensive line a patchwork of free agents; Joe Flacco suffering with a bad back. The defense was supposed to be outstanding; but the Jacksonville Jaguars had pasted them 44-7 just last week. Yet there were those past results in Baltimore. That frustrating mystique that left us fans sadly angry that such a team could own our team.
For me the defining point in the game came very early. Baltimore received the opening kickoff but is forced to punt. They have what is one of the best kicking duos ever in kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch. Their formula has been maintaining good field position with Koch’s foot; keep it close and then have Tucker kick the game winner from just about anywhere on the field. The Steelers begin their first drive at the 3-yard line thanks to a 36-yard Koch punt. A 17-play drive followed including 10 runs. Le’Veon Bell figured heavily but to my surprise both Terrell Watson and James Conner saw action on this drive. On a 3rd and 1; Ben didn’t throw long. Instead Watson plunged for 1 yard and a first down. I like it. Conner also had a couple runs; including a 23-yard scamper. He appears to be the same size as Bell but a very different running style. The change of pace seemed to take the Ravens by surprise. Two penalties including a phantom hold call against David DeCastro pushed the Steelers out of the red zone so Chris Boswell got the Steelers on the scoreboard with a 30-tard field goal. I thought the Ravens had the left side overloaded like the Bears had done; but it was a clean kick. Jeremy McClurg’s comment in the first half Live Update and Discussion thread said it best: “Touchdown or no touchdown, that was our offenses best drive this year.”
The defense held Baltimore to a 3 and out and in a later drive forced and recovered a fumble. The Steelers were controlling the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense. Bell running well and the Baltimore offense going nowhere.
This game would have been even easier but for the freak interception to begin the second half. Mike Tomlin claims it was self-evident that it was an interception but not to this average fan. It sure seemed like Antonio Brown had taken at least three steps with the ball before going to the ground. The explanation given was that he had never secured the ball and it did not hit the ground before ending up in Eric Weddle’s hands. The defense stepped up for perhaps its best set of downs and the Crows could only get 3-points after starting on Pittsburgh’s 18-yard line.
The Ravens got within 10-points but pressure on Joe Flacco and a swarming defense led to two interceptions; a fumble recovery and 4 sacks. The offense while not fully in gear put up 173 yards on the ground and another 216 passing. A very nice feeling; as the Ravens were simply unable to match up to the Steelers.
Now, will try to hold onto that feeling so that I Can’t Get It Out if MY Head (ELO).