Week 4 Recap: Mr. Monday Night


Suzy Kolber has a potty mouth.

Then again, I’m pretty sure every member of Steeler Nation who watched Pittsburgh defeat the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in overtime last night directed a few cuss words at their television screens.  Yes, we managed to hand the Ravens their first loss.   Yes, this puts us in a fairly commanding position in the AFC North.  And yes, there were a few individual performances which stood out.

Chief among them was the play of Mr. Monday Night James Harrison.  Harrison absolutely wrecked the Miami Dolphins last year during the MNF Sod Bowl debacle.  Tonight, he played even better.  11 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a caused fumble resulting in a defensive TD.  He was all over the field, causing havoc wherever he went.  I know he drew at least 2 holding penalties but from what I saw, he could’ve easily drawn a half-dozen more.  He was literally a runaway freight train and the Ravens couldn’t hope to stop him, only contain him, which they were barely able to do.

Overall, the defense didn’t quite play as well as in previous games although there are a lot of mitigating factors which I’ll get to in a minute.  The line, minus starters Bret Keisel and Fatboy Hampton, held their own in the running game.  I loved how the Worst Commentators Ever™ criticized the lack of Ravens running plays.  I guess they never bothered to read their own obtrusive graphics which showed at one point they gained 9 yards on 8 carries.  Plus, RB Willis McGahee was gutting it out when he was clearly injured.

They did have some problems with rookie QB Joe Flacco, though.  For a guy who is supposedly a statue back there, he scrambled around like Kordell Stewart on a crucial first half scoring drive.  The secondary, particularly S Troy Polamalu (who had another outstanding game), was one step away from an INT on numerous plays but never came up with the big pick.  Flaccos’s cannon arm really gave them problems as he moved the offense by repeatedly rifling passes into tight spaces.  S Ryan Clark had a tough game in missing a number of tackles and CB Deshea Townshend looked very rusty in his first game back from injury.

Thankfully, the linebackers were like daytraders on Wall Street, an angry, snarling, drooling bunch who almost single-handedly kept the Steelers in the game when it looked like they could possibly be blown out.  I already mention Mr. Monday Night but his partner in crime, Mister Woodley, had another fantastic game.  He chipped in with 2 sacks and returned the poor sad unwanted football Flacco carelessly discarded to the endzone for the aforementioned TD.  James Farrior and Larry Foote also showed up in force.  Even Lawrence Timmons looked good in limited action, although he got absolutely flattened by Baltimore RB Le’Ron McLain from the planet Melmac on the crucial game-tying TD.

So that’s the good.  The bad and the ugly can be summed up by one word:  OFFENSE.   Offense so bad, it led poor Suzy to utter a cuss word on national tv.   Too bad Joe Namath wasn’t around to ask if she kissed her her mom with that mouth…and if he’d kiss her, too.

Watching the Steelers attempt what can only loosely be classified as offensive football was roughly akin to losing your virginity on prom night:   you grasp around blindly hoping to stumble upon something that works but most of the time you just end up with an elbow in your eye and a quick but unsatisfying ending.

We had, no joke, 45 yards total offense in the first half.  The running game was not even given a chance.  Basically, it seems like O-coordinator Bruce Arians wants to see the back rip off a 24 yard gain on every carry.  If he should get stopped for a 2 yard gain, however, that’s clearly a sign all is lost and we should go back to passing every down.  Great plan, except our offensive line has more holes than Nevillewood, although they managed to limit the damage to 3 sacks last night.

Actually, I did notice a lot of the problems in terms of protection were exacerbated (made worse) by poor scheming and poor QB-WR play.  On a few of the jail breaks, the guy rushing in was unblocked because they had more guys rushing than we had O-lineman.  I don’t expect our guys to knock out two men each.  Likewise, on other plays, a clear pocket was formed for QB Ben Roethlisberger to step up and throw.  Instead, he steps up and looks and looks and looks some more…   One time the WR didn’t read the blitz and break off the route, another the RB either failed to stay back to block or didn’t turn around for a dump off.  This is all a sign of poor coaching which needs addressed.

Big Ben was in a funk the entire first half, throwing inaccurately, missing open receivers, making poor decisions, and/or running for his life.  I’d like to give the coaches credit for righting the ship in the 2nd half but they don’t deserve it.  They went to a no-huddle where Ben got to call his own plays and VOILA! we managed to move the ball.  What does it say about your offensive coordinator and/or his playcalling if your QB needs to run the offense by himself in order to get anything done?

Rookie RB Rashard Mendenhall, in his first pro start, had one nice run but didn’t move the chains much beyond that.  WR Hines Ward’s mouth contributed more than his hands as his smack-talking caused a crucial unsportsmanlike penalty on a pea-brained Raven linebacker which eventually lead to a TD.  WR Santonio Holmes scored that TD but, to be honest, it was a little slant play designed for 10-15 yards which the inept Ravens secondary miss-tackled into a score.  Mewelde Moore, the last healthy back on our roster, finally showed something when he was pressed into late game action.  Maybe these injuries will be a blessing in disguise as now they’re forced to use more Moore, giving Ben a chance to familiarize himself with his screen pass catching abilities

The story of this game, beyond Suzy Kolber saying naughty words (which in my book makes her all the more desirable), was the injuries.  To call this game a “war” would be like calling Vietnam a “spitball fight.”  Players were hitting the turf left and right.  Before Skippy Reed had nailed the game winner in OT, the Ravens were down to their 3rd string RB.  The Steelers lost special teams ace Andre Frazier in a scary moment right off the opening kickoff.  RG Kendall Simmons tore his ACL shortly before the half.  Then Sugar Rashard broke his collarbone on the first play after.  Both men are likely out for the season which means the injury situation is getting dire.

But not so dire is our record.  A loss tonight would’ve put the Steelers behind the eight ball early in the year and really opened the door for the division to be up for grabs.   This win solidified our hold on 1st place.  Never forget that last year we would’ve missed the playoffs but for two wins over the Brownies.  Should we find ourselves in a similar battle with the Ravens this year, the heroics of the two linebackers I call MISTER may very well have saved our season.