Know Thy Enemy: Baltimore Ravens

Nice to know Dino Tomlin was as confused by the onside kick as most of Steeler Nation.

If the Pittsburgh Steelers wish to defend their Super Bowl championship in the postseason, they must win their two remaining games.  Step one of that plan puts them on a collision course with the Baltimore Ravens .   People forget that in 2006, even with the horrid 2-6 start, the Steelers rallied in the second half of the season to have an outside shot at the playoffs.  Those dreams were soundly crushed by the Ratbirds in the second to last game of the season.  Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself on Sunday.

Since we’re all too familiar with the Ravens, I’ll give a brief offensive/defensive breakdown.   Defensively, Baltimore is a perfect example of why I caution people not to blame injuries for the Steelers poor play.   They’ve had numerous players go down in their secondary to the point they just resigned Corey Ivy, who was a Steeler for about thirty seconds about a month back.   Considering the Ratbirds played almost an entire season without their best defensive player (and Hines Ward‘s favorite victim), Ed Reed, it’s amazing they’re still a top ten pass defense.  In fact, despite losing a number of key players, they’re second in the league in fewest points given up per game.  Injuries are never an excuse for sucking.

Offensively, Baltimore depends heavily on emerging superstar RB Ray Rice.  Rice is a dual threat running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield and when he gets on track, the Ravens usually roll.  QB Joe Flacco hasn’t exactly had a sophomore slump but he’s still more of a game manager at this point.   Of course, it doesn’t help that the Ravens are very thin at wide reciever with only old man Derrick Mason as a major gamebreaking threat.

When these teams last met, it marked the beginning of the death spiral which derailed the Steelers entire season.  Ben Roethlisberger came down with “concussion related headaches” out of nowhere, prompting him to bail on his team at the last minute.   Hines was interviewed by Hobbit Costas and threw his QB under the bus on national television.   First time starter Dennis Dixon came off the bench to perform above and beyond the call of duty.  Behind a running game that rushed 38 times for 156 yards, Dixon played well enough to pull the team ahead 17-14 with about five minutes left.  Of course, the Origami Curtain pissed away the lead and Dixon’s only stupid mistake cost them the game in OT.

This time, Big Ben will be on the field, fresh off his epic 500 yard passing performance against the Green Bay Packers.  Somehow, I doubt we’ll run the ball 38 times on Sunday.   Actually, despite the statistical evidence, I may be in favor of rolling out the Flying Circus since the Ratbird secondary appears to be their most vulnerable area.  Ben will once again be without the protection of LG Chris Kemoeatu, who is nursing a variety of ailments.  He’ll also have a new target in veteran Joey Galloway.  Galloway, who played well for Tampa last year but was cut by the Patriots earlier this season when he ended up in Brady’s doghouse, takes the place of uber-bust Limas Sweed.   Sweed is gone for the season with a “non football-related illness.”

Good job, Limas.  Dude can’t catch a pass but somehow manages to catch swine flu.  Or the clap.

Defensively, FREE AT LAST!!  Yes, Mike Tomlin has finally figured out that Will.i.am Gay is possibly the worst CB ever to wear the Black and Gold and has removed him from the starting lineup. Only about twelve weeks too late in my book.  Surprisingly, the man taking his place is ninety-seven year old Deshea Townshend.   I guess Joe Burnett still needs a little more time in the oven.  Somebody get Dick LeBeau a microwave, please!  Anyway, Gay will go back to playing in nickel packages, where he appeared semi-competent last year.

Finally, my Christmas wish went unfulfilled as Troy Polamalu will not be suiting up for this game.  He underwent an MRI hoping to be cleared but it appears the results were not as positive as we all had hoped.  He remains determined to get back on the field for the Miami game, although I’m beginning to doubt we’ll see his Head ‘N Shoulders fortified locks again this season.  Perhaps that’s for the best.

I know many of my loyal readers live outside of the ‘Burgh.  As such, you may not have the chance to watch this game because of the NFL’s stupid coverage rules.  However, you can still contribute to the Steelers cause by rooting for the teams they need to win to help their playoff chances.  We caught a break on Christmas when San Diego dropped coal in the Titans stocking, eliminating them from the race.   Here’s what else we want.   Miami knocking off Houston.  The Patriots beating the Jags.  Indy dumping the Jets.  And, hold your nose for this one, Philly defeating the Broncos.  Yes, we must root for those illiterate mouthbreathers back east.

I know…  I feel dirty, too.

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