Thursday, September 8, 2011

Steelers Game Day 1 - @ Baltimore Ravens

Steelers/Ravens. The best rivalry in all of football and it is coming to us in week one of the NFL season. The rivalry goes all the way back to the first meeting on September 8, 1996 when the Steelers won 31-17 on the back of a 116 rushing yards from Jerome Bettis and a strong performance from quarterback Mike Tomczak. Yes, Mike Tomczak. Since that time the series has been the best in football with the Steelers holding the advantage with 21 wins in the 32 games played including a perfect 3-0 record in the playoffs.

The most recent history of this head-to-head battle has the Steelers winning seven of the last 10 including an AFC Championship game and a division playoff win last season en route to both seasons being Super Bowl appearances for the Black and Gold. So is the life of dominating the Ravens.

This is going to be a great Sunday of football. I will actually be back in Pittsburgh for this game which is going to be even better. Saturday night go to a wedding and Sunday wake up to watch the Steelers kick the ever living shit out of the Ravens. The best part about it is I will be among a Ravens fan so that will make things either really really good or really really bad. I will go with the former.

When I sit back and think about the Ravens I actually realize that I have a lot of respect for them. They are a great team and they have given the Steelers plenty of good games over the year. Since Ben Roethlisberger was drafted in the first round of the 2004 draft the Steelers have gone 9-7 in those games. Seems pretty even and all things considered you can say that on the surface. Look deeper and you will find something different. One of those games was the first game the two teams met in 2004 when Roethlisberger was brought in after the game was out of hand and Tommy Maddox was hurt in his rookie year.

Maddox stepped in for an injured Roethlisberger in one of the losses in 2005 where the Steelers only lost by three and then Charlie Batch filled in for Roethlisberger who didn’t play in December of 2007. Dennis Dixon and Batch filled in for Ben in the 2009 season and 2010 season so overall, in games that Ben Roethlisberger starts the Steelers are 9-2 since he was drafted in 2004. I am not sure if that is real good, but I think that is real good.

The Steelers defense has a lot to say about that in the process as they just have been monsters getting to Joe Flacco and making his life miserable since he’s been in the league. I will get into that a little bit later.
All things told this is a great rivalry and if you need something more to get you up for this game then you might want to go get your pulse checked. This is smash mouth footaball and it will not be for the weak at heart. These teams hate each other. The fans hate each other. Both teams are good and this will set the tone for the division race this year and that is what it’s all about.


Now for the stats:


2010 Meetings:

Week 4: Baltimore 17, Pittsburgh 14

Passing
Pit: Batch: 12/21, 141 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Bal: Flacco: 24/37, 256 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing
Pit: Mendenhall: 25 carries, 79 yards, 2 TD
Bal: McGahee: 14 carries, 39 yards, 1 TD

Receiving
Pit: Randle El: 2 rec, 50 yards, 0 TD
Bal: Mason: 6 rec, 80 yards, 0 TD

Week 13: Pittsburgh 13, Baltimore 10

Passing
Pit: Roethlisberger: 22/38, 253 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Bal: Flacco: 17/33, 266 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT

Rushing
Pit: Mendenhall: 19 carries, 45 yards, 0 TD
Bal: Rice: 9 carries, 32 yards, 0 TD

Receiving
Pit: Wallace: 5 rec, 76 yards, 0 TD
Bal: Boldin: 5 rec, 118 yards, 1 TD

AFC Divisional: Pittsburgh 31, Baltimore 24

Passing
Pit: Roethlisberger: 19/32, 226 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bal: Flacco: 16/30, 125 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing
Pit: Mendenhall: 20 carries, 46 yards, 2 TD
Bal: Rice: 12 carries, 32 yards, 1 TD

Receiving
Pit: Brown: 3 rec, 75 yards, 0 TD
Bal: Heap: 3 rec, 43 yards, 1 TD


Offense (rank in NFL)

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

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

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

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


Defense

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

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

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

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


Let’s take a look at the Ratbirds, I mean Ravens. Hit the jump.


[For all the stats in the following preview they will be from the 2010 season. Deal with it]

Quarterback



Under center for the Ravens is the savior of football, Joe Flacco.



No, no, no, I meant Joe Flacco!



Wow, pretty good look there for Joe. I wonder if that is his media guide picture for this year.

Flacco seems to plan for when he plays the Steelers. He goes to bed the day before a game and think of which way he wants to turn the ball over in the most crucial situation. In the 2009 AFC Championship Game he felt the best way was to go to Troy Polamalu for a pick six in a one score game.



If Troy was the intended target that was a pretty damn good throw.

Last season he just forgot that Troy played football and was in the process of posing for some award that he won for continuously being hyped up as a big time quarterback. Too bad, for him, Troy was actually playing in the game:



Good for you Joe.

Don’t think Joe discriminates though. He doesn’t ONLY like to throw to Troy:



Killer throw, Joe.

When Joe isn’t making team crippling turnovers in crunch time he is just losing to the Steelers in the regular way. I know these Ravens clowns will come tell me that Joe Flacco has beat the Steelers before, which is true, but Joe has not beat the Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger is playing. I mean he beat Dennis Dixon and Chuck Batch last year. C’mon man, Dixon and Batch. Congrats.

FLOLaco is 0-6 when Large Benjamin starts in a game and when the Ravens play the biggest games, like, you know, the playoffs, he is an awe inspiring 0-2. Good for you Joe, glad to see all that hype isn’t getting to your head and throwing you off your game. Actually, I guess you would actually have to some resemblance of game before that could happen. Whatever.

Flacco is a career 2-4 against the Steelers in the regular season and his numbers are not pretty. He completes only 55% of his passes for a 6.79 yards per attempt average. Not good Joe, not good. In those six games he averages exactly one touchdown per game. When you play against the Steelers you know they are going to stop the run. It’s what they do and you better be able to put up more than one touchdown per game against them if you want to win. No wonder he can’t beat them. Let’s not even get into his playoff performances against the Steelers. I won’t even go that far, this time.






Holy shit.



You just keep being you, Joe. When I say that I mean keep being a tool and being terrible at your job against my team. Thanks.

Running Backs


As much as I hate the Ravens I must say that I have a lot of respect for Ray Rice. Dude isn’t big but he can do work. Too bad the Steelers are REAL good at stopping the run or we might have to worry about Ray Rice. I hope all you homer Raven fantasy football owners have him on the bench for this one.

When Rice isn’t doing his best Ray Ray impersonation, he can be effective



Get it. Rice was KILLING the drive. Get it. Ray Lewis. Killing. Didn’t get it? Whatever.

Rice is actually good at catching the ball out of the backfield. I mean I guess when you aren’t going to run the ball (67 carries, 281 yards in five regular season games) you have to do something besides take up space. I mean you could just take up space but his boy FLOLacco is doing enough of that for the whole team.

In all honesty the Steelers will have to watch Rice out of the backfield because he is an excellent receiver. In five regular season matchups with the Steelers he is averaging 12 yards per catch on nine catches so when he gets the ball in the open field he can make something happen.

This is the Ravens OTHER running back they can turn too



Oh man, Ray Rice better not go down. Not that it would matter though.

Receivers



Here is a GREAT idea if you are the Ravens. Take your only two weapons that can do anything with the football through the air and get rid of them. Yes, I am talking about Todd Heap and Derrick Mason. Even though they were about as durable and young as an ice cube in hell they were still *somewhat* productive in their time

Well, the Ravens still have glorified possession receiver Anquan Boldin. Awesome. If there is one thing that Flacco needs to do more of is dumb the ball off to check downs and three yard out routes.



Even he knows that he is worthless at wide out with Flacco at the helm.

The big news in Baltimore is their big off season acquisition. Lee Evens. Yes, the same Lee Evens that was supposed to break out about every single year when he was in Buffalo. Or was that in Montreal. Maybe it was London. Well, wherever the Bills are located at, he was supposed to break out. I guess he did in 2008 with 1,017 yards but I guess when people say break out they want you to continue to produce, not completely fall off the face of the Earth and barely catch that many yards in the next two years, combined. But hey, he’s supposed to break out again! Wooo.

You know when you’re just not that good? When you type in your name into Google and this is the second picture that comes up.



A hint, Lee Evans the football player didn’t come up until picture number 22. Ha ha.

Rookie Torrey Smith is on the team. He went to Maryland so Lord knows every Ravens fan thinks this kid is the best rookie ever and he is the next Jerry Rice. I am sure the kid makes a mean crab cake which is probably all the people in Baltimore care about.

Ed Dickson is their tight end and he is a decent threat, I guess. The people of Baltimore are p retty high on him, but I guess you can say they are also high on Joe Flacco so what does that say about their judgment?

Overall when you look at the receiving stats I posted above you will see that the Ravens have lost three of their top five threats. Mason, Heap and Whosyourmama combined to catch 131 passes for 1,799 yards and all they are left with in their top five from last year is Boldin and Ray Rice, a running back. You also have to wonder how Flacco is going to survive without Mason. They were basically butt buddies and any time the Flacco got scared, I mean in trouble, he looked for Mason. Not anymore.

Offensive Line



The Baltimore offensive line just isn’t that good. Now I know a lot of people that support the Rat Birds are going to come back and say that the Steelers line isn’t very good and I know that, I am not stupid. The Steelers love to get to the passer and last year it worked against a pretty bad offensive line.

The Ravens finished the 2010 season allowing 2.7 sacks per game, the exact same number as the Pittsburgh Steelers. They also allowed a sack on 8.11% of Joe Flacco’s drop backs which was sixth worst in the league and in their final three games they let up a sack on 13.53% of his pass plays which was far and away the worst in the league. Ouch.

You might say that they have Ray Rice and that they can run the football when they need to in order to take some pressure off pass blocking but the Ravens finished 30th in the league last year gaining 3.7 yards per attempt. Yikes.

Not really sure if Mike Oher has realized yet but when Troy is around the line of scrimmage it might be a good idea to pick him up. Oher hasn’t been all that was advertised when they took him in 2009 but some would point that to him playing out of position. Oher’s natural position has been right tackle but they were forced to move him to the left side, Flacco’s blind side, and it wasn’t pretty last year. Consistently getting beat and poor play had the Ravens thinking he could go back to the right side but I guess that was nixed. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley thank you Baltimore.

Matt Birk is pretty old. He has played in a lot of seasons, his first coming in 1999 with the Vikings, but he is a solid player I guess. Turns out the Ravens didn’t think he was good enough as they signed former Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode. He should start.

The Ravens also signed Bryant McKinne. He hadn’t been signed because he was too out of shape before the season started. Who cares if he plays. Woodley would make him look foolish.

Reid, Yanda and Grubbs are jokes. Good luck.

Defense



The Ravens defense has been good for a really long time. Although they are statistically not as good as Pittsburgh they are still a top flight defense, which is what makes this rivalry so good. They finished fourth in the league last year allowing only 307 total yards per game and finished 2009 allowing less than 300 yards per game. They only gave up a little over 93 yards on the ground per game, a staple for both of these teams.

I can take jabs and make fun of the Ravens all day but there are a few players that I just can’t do that to. Haloti Ngata is one of those players. He is the best nose tackle in the game and I don’t really think there is anyone that could give you a straight face and tell you any different. He changes games and can dominate the line of scrimmage and even cause havoc when he is double teamed. Beast.

The Ravens linebackers are the ones who get all the fame and accolades but their defense line is easily the best part of their team.

Now we can talk about one of the biggest jokes in the NFL, Ray Lewis.



Lewis led the team in tackles last year but only registered two sacks. Maybe if he spent a little more time conserving his energy for the actual game instead of his ridiculous pregame, well, whatever the hell it is that he does, maybe he would be able to play late into his 50’s or however old he is.

If this doesn’t embarrass you then I don’t know what will:



There was some top 100 countdown that ESPN did about the most intimidating players in the NFL right now and Ray Lewis finished at number one. I don’t know about anyone else but I would agree with this, six years ago. When I think of the Ravens now I honestly don’t even think of Ray Lewis anymore. Ray Lewis is no longer that guy you have to game plan around. He is still a good player, but most intimidating? Please, as a fan he does not scare me one bit.

Terrelle Suggs is the guy the Steelers have to look for. Dude can flat play the game and get after the quarterback. Last season Suggs had 11 sacks which was far and away the most of the team. I actually worry about Suggs when he is on the field. He is talented yes, he will probably get a sack or two, yes, but he might win the trophy for the ugliest player on the field. I mean I might not be the best looking guy but I know I am better than TS.



Yikes.

The secondary is about as pedestrian as they come. Foxworth will probably get hurt in the first series and Chris Carr is the equivalent of garbage and the next coming of Jesus, first round pick Jimmy Smith, I guess might see some play. Ben should have some fun if the line can keep Suggs somewhere not in Ben’s grill.

The Baltimore secondary actually gave up more passing yards per game than the Steelers secondary, which most people, including Rat Birds supporters, will say is that the Steelers can easily be beat by just attacking their secondary. Well same is true the other way. Only difference is that the Steelers pass rush is much better than Baltimore’s therefore putting more pressure on that average at best secondary. The Ravens are also sixth worst in the league with almost 65% of pass completions turning into first downs and letting teams complete over 58% of their passes. I will take that if the was the Steelers.

Overall this is a weird time for this game to be played, as I talked before, but is there really a better way to start the season than against the Rats? I honestly like how the Steelers match up in this game and if they can get some pressure on Flacco then they should be alright. Ben has a little more proven weapons this year and he will use them, especially if the trend still holds true that there will be little of either running game playing into this.

Prediction: Steelers 23, Ravens 20



Hit it.

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