Friday, January 14, 2011

Steelers Game Day: AFC Divisional Playoffs vs. Baltimore Ravens

The Steelers, and the fans, have been waiting two weeks to play some football. That is what you get when you win your division and get the first round bye. It is a double edged sword because you want to watch your team play but you know they need the break. All that is over. It has been Ravens week all week.

You listened to Renegade and Black and Yellow all week. You tried to do whatever you could to keep your mind off this contest, but you couldn't. All you could think about was those black and purple uniforms coming onto Heinz Field to a chorus of boos from the yellow clad fans at Heinz Field.

You have look at the stats until your eyes hurt. You hear Brian Billick ramble on about how the Ravens were going to win with no resemblance of facts behind what he was saying. You saw Terrell Suggs wearing a shirt telling the Steel City to f off. Your blood was boiling. You were pissed. Guess what, so are the Steelers.  They will never say as much, but they took note. They hear what that team is yapping about.

All of that is true about every single one of us. If you had trouble sleeping at night you weren't the only one. Everyone counted this team at the beginning of the season. Seven or eight wins was the sticking point and this team would be lucky just to make the playoffs. No fear. 12 wins and a AFC North Division title later the Steelers are proving all them haters wrong. It's time.

None of that stuff means anymore. At 4:30 p.m. on Saturday the score will be settled on the field. For the third time. You can't ask for much more than that.

Onto the preview.

Pittsburgh 41, Cleveland 9
Passing: Roethlisberger: 15/22, 280 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Mendenhall: 14 car, 36 yards, 2 TD
Receiving: Wallace: 3 rec, 105 yards, 1 TD

Baltimore 30, Kansas City 7
Passing: Flacco: 25/343, 265 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Rice: 17 car, 57 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Heap: 10 rec, 108 yards, 0 TD

Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 345.3 yards/game (14th)
Baltimore: 322.9 yards/game (22nd)

Pittsburgh: 225.1 yards/game (14th)
Baltimore: 208.4 yards/game (20th)

Pittsburgh: 120.3 yards/game (11th)
Baltimore: 114.4 yards/game (14th)

Pittsburgh: 23.4 points/game (12th)
Baltimore: 22.3 points/game (16th)


Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 276.8 yards/game (2nd)
Baltimore: 318.9 yards/game (10th)

Pittsburgh: 62.8 yards/game (1st)
Baltimore: 93.9 yards/game (5th)

Pittsburgh: 214.1 yards/game (12th)
Baltimore: 224.9 yards/game (21st)

Pittsburgh: 14.5 points/game (1st)
Baltimore: 16.9 points/game (3rd)

The Steelers and Ravens rivalry is possibly the best in the NFL at this time. When people talk about what the NFL was like in the past this is as close as you can get. Smash-mouth, in your face, no backing down may the best and most physical team win. That is what you get every single time. You know how close this rivalry is? Look at the head to head match ups since 2001.

Very rare that this game is going to end in anything more than a one score game. Typically these games are down to the wire and it comes down to has the ball last to see who is going to win this football game. Just look at this season at the two contest. The Ravens had the chance to win or tie the game with the last possession twice. Once they hit for a TD and the win and the other they stalled out in the final possession. In the game that the Ravens lost the Steelers converted a huge third down and goal to go from the nine yard line in order to take the three point lead.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

If you are a Steelers fan and just the thought of this game doesn’t get you ready to run through a wall then you might want to ask someone to check and make sure you are still alive.

Come get some.

Jump it.

Like most of you when I found out the Steelers were playing the Ravens last Sunday you had to just have a chill run up your spine followed by the feeling you get when your blood is literally boiling. Sure if we were playing the Colts or Chiefs it would be a big game. But this just isn’t any ordinary team.

This team has Joe Flacco who is said to be on the same plane as Roethlisberger. It has Terrell Suggs who seems to take more pride in talking shit than he does the actual football game. Ray Ray is still on this team pending he doesn’t try to kill anyone before the game on Sunday. These teams don’t dislike each other, they hate each other. The fan bases hate each other. It is typically hard to put up with Baltimore BS like this during the regular season:

Solid points if you are grasping at straws. I guess we forget about Ray Ray. I am sure he is a great guy when he isn’t stabbing people.

Besides some delusional Ravens fans this has been all business.

Lets take a look at those Rat Birds:

I know I used this last time but holy shit Joe. You get to be anything you want for Halloween, but you want to be even a bigger tool the Terrell Suggs? I mean I know you impersonate a real NFL QB every Sunday but everyone has this limits. I guess you don’t know yours.

There isn’t much about Joe Flacco in terms of being a quarterback that I didn’t really go over on Monday when I went on an in depth look at Joe as it pertains to Ben Roethlisberger.

Fact of the matter is that, yes, Joe Flacco does have 4-2 record in the playoffs, with all the games being on the road, but there are road signs that were made for the way that Flacco has performed in the playoffs:

Now during the regular season Joe has thrown for 522 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception in two games while completing almost 59% of his passes. Compared to his numbers historically against the Steelers that is better, but lets not forget this:

You know if I was you Joe I wouldn’t want to know where Troy Polamalu is, but just for arguments sake you should probably have some kind of idea so you don’t turn the ball over at the most inopportune time of the game. Just a thought.

The running game begins and ends with Ray Rice. I know you can say that Willis McGahee is running the football, but who are we kidding.

No idea why McGahee is still playing football. What a hack.

Rice finished 10th in the league in rushing, but finished the season with one two games over the 100 yard mark. Actually Rice finished the season with three games where he failed to reach 50 yards rushing. Two of those games where against the Black and Gold where he ran for 20 and 32 yards, respectively. Neither game did Rice get double-digit carries.

Not sure what the Ravens plan on doing for their game plan on Saturday afternoon, but running the football shouldn’t be one of those things in the game plan.

Rice may be better as a pass receiver catching 63 passes on the season. Those 63 receptions are second best on the team. Not sure if that says more about Ray Rice as a receiver or the receiving core as a whole. One thing is for sure is that Flacco and the Ravens will try and use the screen game as an extension of the run game. Whatev.

I just talked about Ray Rice being a threat out of the backfield and being the teams second leading pass catcher in terms of receptions, so that tells you a whole lot about where Joe Flacco looks. Check down city.

When the Ravens brought in Anquan Boldin and T.J. Whosyourmomma in the off season everyone thought this was going to be the best offense since sliced bread. Yea, not so much.


Between Derek Mason bitching about not getting the football and saying he wish he retired and Boldin catching almost half his touchdown passes in one game there isn’t too much going on with the passing game of the Ravens.

To be honest there really isn’t a deep threat on the roster. The lone threat they have to stretch the field vertically is Donte Stallworth. Not even going to make the jokes this time. Way too easy.

The Ravens have a bunch of possession receivers and that is how they have worked the offense, to minimal success. They are going to put up a few points, but nothing earth shattering.

If the game comes down to a series inside the 10 then I will worry about the receivers. Other than that I think Ike can shutdown whatever joke is out there against him.

Todd Heap might actually play. Who cares.

No idea how Oher still has a job. I know he is a feel good story but he gets beat worse than Marty Biron against the Penguins, or any hockey team for that matter.

The Ravens also have Cheese Chester.

I bet the Pirates had no idea that the Ravens would pick him up off the waiver wire.

Yoda is also on the offensive line. No idea how the Steelers are going to get by Yoda. Oh, what? Not Yoda? It’s Marshal Yanda? Who woulda thought?

The Baltimore defense is what it is. Aside from being pretty good they also are one of the best in the league at employing total douchebags.

Lets not try to kid ourselves, this is a pretty old defense and they have taken a step back this season. Blown fourth quarter leads and barely hanging on is basically how this defense has survived this season, but it has worked so I am sure you can’t complain if you actually like to watch that garbage team.

I guess Ray Lewis is still the leader of that team.

Oh yea, that’s right. But I guess that doesn’t count since that stuff didn’t happen this past summer, right Baltimore?

Lewis does lead the team with 139 tackles, but he does only have two sacks and two tackles for losses. He also got worked against Kansas City. He was getting handled on many different occasions and I would not be surprised if the Steelers went after him.

Now, from one complete toolbag to another we have Terrell Suggs.

How do you even live with yourself after an interview like that? What a joke. That is almost as bad as being on the Jersey Shore.

I can respect some members of this defense, namely Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg and Ed Reed.

Ngata is with Casey Hampton as the best two in the game at the 3-4 nose tackle, a defense that a lot of teams are starting to get into. Ngata is going to be a hands full and Markice Pouncey is going to get tested.

Kelly Gregg is as underrated as they come.

Ed Reed is pretty good. Interesting stat on Ed Reed though. In his career against the Pittsburgh Steelers (including playoffs) he only has three interceptions. Compared to the other teams he plays against the most (Cincinnati, Cleveland) he doesn’t have the same impact he does. Ben seems to know where he is and whether it is by game plan or just being a smart passer, but I will take it. Don’t let Ed Reed kill you (figuratively, not literally like Ray Lewis).

The back end of the defense is about as solid as that snowman you built in your front yard in June. I think this says it all:

Yea, I think I feel pretty good about going after that secondary.

General Thoughts:

-If the Steelers can stick to the game plan I really think they can play football. I was on a podcast with some Ravens bloggers on Thursday night and one of them disagreed with me about the Steelers having a better offense. I just don’t see it. Ben Roethlisberger is better than Joe Flacco. I broke it down so much in a post earlier in the week. Mike Wallace is a bigger threat for a big play against a subpar secondary than anyone on the Baltimore receiving core against a decent Pittsburgh secondary. Ray Rice and Rashard Mendenhall are at least a push so you have to think that the Steelers have the more explosive offense and if they can just not turn the ball over they will be fine.

-I can’t see the Ravens running the football. They have given up on the run early in both contests and have kind of made Joe Flacco beat them. That being said I think Dick LeBeau and the defense can get after the Baltimore offensive line and try to attack the Baltimore pass protection. The Steelers are going to try and get matchups they line, such as LaMarr Woodley on Ray Rice one-on-one. If the Steelers can get those kind of matchups then they are going to be very successful. That kind of pressure will force the Ravens to keep an extra player in, therefore taking away a wide receiver and make them dink and dunk on the defense. Make no mistake, Joe Flacco is going to complete some passes, but as long as the defense doesn’t give up the big play the Steelers should be set to go.

-Special teams are going to be absolutely huge in this game. When you have two teams that are so evenly matched up it usually comes down to which team makes the huge play on special teams or which team wins the field possession game. The Steelers special teams have been much, much, better this year than the past couple of years, but you have to be asking how much more comfortable you would be with Jeff Reed? Sure he sucked it up, but who is better at kicking in January at Heinz Field than Jeff Reed? How much are we really going to miss Dan Sepulveda? The replacements for these two have done a nice job, but I think this might be what wins and loses the game.

-Enough talking about this game. It is time to get it on. I don’t know about you, but I have been on high alert ever since I could tell the Ravens were going to win last Sunday. It has seemed like a long week, but the time is finally coming near. The best rivalry in football is about to take place on the grandest stage of them all, the NFL playoffs. This is what you wait all season for as a fan.

A YouTube look at the rivalry

This is pretty funny:

Prediction? I know this is different from my podcast with the enemy, but it is before game time so I can change it. Pittsburgh 17, Baltimore 13.

Lets get after it

Hit it

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