Round two. At the sound of the bell come out fighting!
I have to say, after the severe beating the Rat-birds issued to the Men of Steel in week one, I thought we were in for a very long season, fellow Citizen.
Now, with the Steelers having played half their games, they are currently atop the entire conference! That’s right, Citizens. If the playoffs started this Sunday, your beloved Pittsburgh Steelers would be the number one seed and would have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Up next is the second game of the year against their hated divisional rival, the Baltimore Ravens.
Things Sure Have Changed…
Ever since the Ravens took the Steelers behind the woodshed, the Steelers’ defense has had a resurgence. After allowing Baltimore to put up 35 points in week one, they have not allowed a single team to score more than 20 points in any game. They have gone 6-1 during that span.
After looking slow and old against the Ravens, the Steelers have seemed to have found the fountain of youth. Lamarr Woodley had been playing like a man possessed, racking up nine sack in the first eight games. He’s had to play that well because of the injury to former Defensive POY James Harrison.
Harrison left the Steelers’ game against the Texans (which happened to be their last loss). Of course, he returned to the game only to discover that he had a broken orbital bone. For those of you without medical degrees, he had fractured the bones in his head surrounding his eye. How tough of a guy do you have to be to play with a broken freaking face?! I cry like an infant when I have an ingrown toenail.
Seemingly, the only thing missing is the turnovers we are used to this defense producing every week. The Steelers are currently dead last in fumbles recovered on defense, last in turnover differential, and tied for last in interceptions.
Plus, where the hell is Troy Polamalu? Does he still play for the Steelers? Your reigning defensive POY has a single interception, a single sack, and no fumbles forced. Hell, he only has six passes defensed for the year. This would seem to indicate that opposing offenses are not challenging him, or he is being used in different ways than we are used to seeing. It seems like more of the latter than the former.
I suspect Coach Le Beau and Coach Tomlin are keeping Troy back, away from the line of scrimmage more often. My suspicion is that this is because of the injuries Troy has suffered over that last few seasons, as well as a desire to improve the pass defense by keeping the play in front of Troy at all times.
It seems to be working. The Steelers are tops in the league for passing defense. (Curiously, no one is throwing the ball on the AFC North this year. Each team in the Steelers’ division is in the top 10 in pass defense through week eight. The Steelers, Ravens and Browns are the top three teams against the pass in the league.)
After locking down the high-powered, high-flying Patriots and their number 2 ranked passing offense, one would think the Ravens would be less of a challenge.
That kind of thinking is dangerous. What the Patriots lack is Ray Rice. Rice is the key to stopping the Ravens. If you can stop him, you have a very, very good chance of beating the flying-crap-houses.
In games against the Titans, Jaguars and Cardinals, Ray Rice was held to 43, 28, and 63 rushing yards. The results of those games were two losses and a deficit of 21 points that the Ravens had to overcome to win.
The way they completed that comeback was by finally getting the ball to their one semi-reliable receiver, Anquan Boldin.
The Ravens are a middling offense with a single great player and an above average quarterback who cannot improvise and needs time to find someone to get the ball to. Even then, there is no guarantee the receiver will catch the ball unless his name is Ray Rice.
If you stop Rice, keep him under 100 yards rushing, and can pressure Joe Flacco, you have a very good chance of winning the game.
In the weeks since week 1, the Ravens have proved that they have weaknesses in the receiving corps and along the offensive line. They are still not the class of the league, or even of the division and anyone who says they are hasn’t been watching.
Here We Go, Offense, Here We Go!
In the first four games of the year, the Steelers didn’t score more than 24 points in any game, and committed turnovers like you receive seven points for letting the other team have the ball.
In the last four games, however, they have scored 25 or more points three times.
Mike Wallace continues to cement his status as one of the best young receivers in the game. He is averaging 100.0 yards per game and has five touchdowns.
Antonio Brown and Heath Miller are very reliable, and Manny Sanders filled in nicely in Hines Ward’s absence last week against the Pats.
Continuing the trend of the season, where everything we know is upside down and backward, like we are living on Bizarro World, the Steelers are only the 14th best rushing attack in the league, but are the eighth ranked passing attack.
Big Ben has the fifth most passing yards and is tied for fifth most touchdown passes in the league through week 8. Many pundits are saying Ben might be the second best quarterback in the league behind only Aaron Rogers.
As I mentioned before, the Ravens possess the second best pass defense in the league. Add to that their number three ranking in rush defense, and they are still a formidable team.
Need proof? After allowing the Cardinals to jump out to a 24-3 halftime lead, the Ravens’ D held the Cards to only three points for the remainder of the game. That must have been some kind of halftime talk Coach John Harbaugh gave the Ravens.
This game should be more like games we have grown used to over the last few years.
I expect a much lower-scoring, closer game than week one.
On top of all that, the Steelers are going to be highly motivated to beat the team they lost so badly to. The game will be in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers are undefeated this year.
The purple a-holes are coming off two very poor games, including an embarrassing loss to a team that is only being saved from the basement of their division by the Peyton Manning situation.
I wasn’t very confident after the first game of the year, but I feel really good that the Steelers are going to take the next step toward cementing another division win and a first-round bye this week.