It’s hard to swallow a loss to the Ratbirds. But, because of the heated rivalry and the fact that the Steelers share a division with them, it’s going to happen and is a fact of life. Most consolations from losses to this team are great close games played and the longing to play them again. The only way a loss to the Ravens becomes unbearable is if they were to get spanked yesterday. And spanked they were. I’m not jumping on the wagon with the group who says all is lost and you can kiss this season goodbye. I believe the Steelers will be able to right most of these wrongs rather quickly. But, there are two glaring points from yesterday’s loss that have huge question marks at the end of them with no answer in sight.
Ben Roethlisberger has won seven straight games against the Baltimore Ravens. Considering how close these games are and the back and forth manner at which these two teams play – that is one hell of a stat. That means Ben is a Ravens killer. Not in the huge blowout statistical way (like Joe Flacco did yesterday), but in the way he will make the big plays to put the team away and the game out of reach. Roethlisberger has become a master of scrambling and extending plays in order to find the open man down field or slide for a first down all on his own. At least up until the playoffs, Ben threw five interceptions in 12 games – his lowest total in his career. It was a vast improvement. However, he threw 2 picks a piece in the game against the Jets and the Packers. The trend has seemed to continue.
Big Ben looked lost out there against a Raven’s defense that didn’t really do much too impress. Most could argue that the offensive line is to blame due to their lack of pass blocking . But, is that anything new? Ben scrambled for a rush once, gaining nine yards on the play. Other than that, there was no life in his legs and no vision in the pocket. All of his turnovers were a result in either staying in the pocket too long, or making ill advised throws – something he was more akin to in 2006. Even the touchdown pass to Sanders in the second quarter looked like he was hanging in the pocket too long before he took a few steps forward and lobbed one into the endzone for #88.
Now I’ve defended Big Ben on here numerous times. I even agreed with my colleagues and Steelers fans who say he is poised for a big year. He is an elite QB. Even elite QB’s have ‘off’ days. But yesterday was a complete lack of hunger and leadership from Roethlisberger. Ben wants more control of the offense and Arians wants to give him more of that control and ‘let him loose.’ I would love to know if that happened at all yesterday. Down 21-7 in the 3rd quarter, Ben lacked the intensity to lead his team to any semblance of a comeback. Three interceptions, two fumbles and sacked four times. Abysmal numbers. For someone who has lots of Super Bowl XLV memorabilia around to inspire him to play better, I think he needs to stare at those pieces a little longer. There’s no chance in hell, Ben, you’ll get to find redemption against the Packers if you can’t seriously improve from this week against the Ravens. Perhaps there’s been too much staring and not enough preparing.
Speaking of preparedness – the Steelers did not look prepared for this game at any time. They deferred the coin toss and got beat on the first drive by the Ravens. It looked entirely too easy. It was like the practice squad was out there doing reps on the last day of practice. Mike Tomlin completely failed to have his team ready to play against the Ravens. Which is pretty damning considering that IT’S THE F&%$ING RAVENS! Every aspect of the team looked flat footed, uninspired and slow. Only the punting looked good. Down 21-7 going into the 3rd quarter, you would think that he would light some fire under the players’ rear ends. Instead the Steelers turned the ball over in three straight possessions, and the defense allowed the Ravens to score on those turnovers. I was so pissed during his press conference after the game. Someone from the media asked why Farrior was taken out of the game early and Foote put in. Tomlin’s response was that he felt that Foote earned a right to play during the preseason. He further elaborated that was why there were certain D-line and corner rotations. There were players that ‘earned the right’ to play and they were sticking with that game plan. Does that not sound like Senior Day in high school or college? You are playing your heated divisional rivals. Shouldn’t you put in your starters and leave in your starters? Foote looked like crap out there letting players get by him in the open field. I need to go back to the game footage again and now look and see who was out there on these ‘rotations.’ It’s infuriating to think that Tomlin blindly stuck with a game plan of playing second stringers on defense.
It does not sit well with me that the game unfolded the way it did. The team was completely unprepared for this game, and it’s all on Tomlin with that regards. You let a team that’s been sitting around since January waiting at their chance to punch you back in the mouth, and you not only let that happen, but you let them hit you over the head with a bar stool too. Ben Roethlisberger said, ‘I guess they were waiting for this one.’ No kidding. Casey Hampton said, ‘They obviously had a better game plan than we had.’ You don’t say. That’s a bit understated.
The season is not at a loss. And I don’t believe for a second age has anything to do with what we saw yesterday. It’s the same defense as last season. Seven months won’t make you go from being the #1 defense in the league to looking like The Replacements. It’s about coaching and preparedness for this team. The team has Seattle at home this upcoming weekend. Let’s hope that Tomlin can get them prepared and Big Ben can step up so that headlines in Seattle won’t read ‘Hawks Defeat Steelers in Super Bowl XL Rematch.’ I’d rather not have any more teams in this league exercise their demons on the Black & Gold.