Week 14 Preview: Baltimore Owes It All To Pittsburgh


Reminder:  Get your guesses in for the NPC Crocs Giveaway Contest. They’re sweet looking shoes for you to wear or re-gift them to the Steeler Fan in your life.  Best of all, as of now, you stand a 1 in 4 chance of winning.

I love football.

I can sit down and watch any game any time.  High school, college, NFL, CFL…  I even went to an Arena game back when Pittsburgh still had the Gladiators.  So I’m not surprised when I receive emails me asking why I don’t cover the University of Pittsburgh.  Many of you probably don’t remember way back in September when I wrote my one and only post on Pitt, it was the day after I went to Heinz to see them play Bowling Green.

Yep, that game.

Don’t misunderstand.  It’s not that I don’t follow Pitt because I only follow teams that win.  I don’t follow Pitt because they’re like the smokin’ hot girlfriend who keeps promising tonight will be the night but when the date is over you always go home sad, angry, and incredibly frustrated.  They’re the ultimate tease.

If Pitt simply stunk, I could live with it.  But they always acquire a decent crop of talent which one expects to produce on the field.  Pretty much every year Pitt has a player taken in the first round of the NFL draft.  The best wide receiver in the league (Larry Fitzgerald) went to Pitt.  One of the best young shutdown CBs went to Pitt (Darrelle Revis).  A rookie (Jeff Otah) starting for one of the best OLs in football (300 total yards rushing last week), you get the picture.  This year they featured a future first round RB (Shady McCoy) and WR (Jonathan Baldwin) while playing in the weakest conference in the NCAA.  Yet the best they could manage was 9-3.

Dave Wannstedt is a terrible coach.  I realize the alumni love him because of his sexy NFL credentials but failing at a high level is not an accomplishment because failure is still failure.  He was wretched as head coach of the Chicago Bears.  He was even worse as head coach of the Miami Dolphins.  And then there’s Pitt.  I’ll give him credit for recruiting well but his glossy credentials should entice good players to come here.  His enduring failure is his continuing inability to coach the talent he puts on the field.  He and Bill Cowher are both local boys who made good, but where Bill always got the most out of players, Wannastache routinely gets less.  He’s the Anti-Cowher.

Which brings me to this week’s showdown with the Baltimore Ravens.  Since 2000, the Ravens have been known for two things:  a devastating defense and an inept offense.  Even when they won the Super Bowl back in 2000, it was in spite of their offense.  By all rights, that defensive unit should’ve won more than one Super Bowl.  Of course, good offense starts with a good quarterback and any team under the leadership of the likes of Tony Banks, Trent Dilfer, Anthony Wright, Elvis Grbac, Steve McNair, and Kyle Boller doesn’t fill that requirement.

However, it appears Baltimore’s decade long drought has ended this year when the Ravens became one of the prime beneficiaries of Wannstedt’s stupidity.  They’re currently led by a tall, strong-armed kid named Joe Flacco.

Flacco was drafted in the latter half of the first round, mostly because scouts questioned if he had big time ability coming out of a small time program at Delaware.  It didn’t have to be that way, though.  Flacco, you see, began his college career at Pitt.  Unfortunately, the thrilling heroics of Tyler Palko and Bill Stull were too much for him to overcome leading him to transfer out.

Had Wannstedt not been absolutely inept at constructing a winning football team, he might’ve played Flacco.  And maybe Pitt, with some decent QB play for once, might’ve won a few games.  Maybe even went to a real Bowl and not the Summer’s Eve Maxi Bowl or wherever mediocre teams end up.  Most importantly, if Flacco had played well for Pitt, he might’ve been a top ten (perhaps even top five) draft pick, where the Ravens couldn’t get him.  So in a beautiful non-Wannstedtian world, Flacco is slinging passes for Detroit right now while the Ravens are 6-7 under the leadership of Troy Smith.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.  In our world, Flacco is a Raven.  And his Ravens are 9-4, one game behind the Steelers in the AFC North.  In their first meeting this season, it was a brutal affair which resembled the opening scene in “Saving Private Ryan” more than a professonal football game until coming to a merciful end in OT.  This will be a similarly hard-hitting affair, although whatever the outcome the Ravens appear to have reestablished themselves as a force to be reckoned with.

You’re welcome, Baltimore.