Week 13 Recap: Steelers Bend, Do Not Break

Ben, Ben, Ben!!!

Despite suffering the second most famous broken nose in football history, Ben Roethlisberger manned up to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a thrilling 13-10 come-from-behind victory over the despicable Baltimore Ravens.  Those expecting a war of attrition weren’t disappointed.  It was an absolute battle with Steelers falling by the wayside left and right.  When all was said and done, Big Ben and the defense both emerged with not only a crucial win but perhaps their finest performances of the season.

The tone was set on the third play of the game.  The Steelers unveiled their Pistol Offense in order to protect Ben’s broken-sprained foot.  Issac Redman caught a screen pass and took it 14 yards for a first down.  The Ratbird who pushed him out of bounds made sure to twist his ankle in an obvious attempt to injure his opponent.  That was just the first of a series of illegal acts as the Ravens played the most disgraceful brand of football I’ve seen in years.

A few plays after the Redman cheap shot, Haloti Ngata delivered a reckless palm strike to Ben’s schnozz on a drive-killing sack.  Ben’s magnificent nose was broken in grotesque fashion.  Now, I don’t own a striped shirt but I believe there is a foul known as “hands to the face.”  However, the ref’s flag stayed snugly in his pocket as the NFL’s obvious vendetta against the Black and Gold continued in full force.

The only score in the first half occurred two drives later.  Starting from their own 8, Joe Flacco hit Anquan Boldin with a 61 yard bomb over Ryan Clark‘s head.  A handful of plays later, Joey found Boldin standing all alone in the end zone for a 14 yard touchdown.  With the exception of two long passes, the Steelers defense continued their ownage of the vastly overrated Flacco.

Bryant McFadden was absolutely brutal on this play.  The Steelers smartly bracketed Boldin with B-Mac and Troy Polamalu.  Boldin cut right into the the double coverage but as Flacco rolled away from pressure, Boldin ran to an open spot.  McFadden just stood there with his thumb up his ass.

B-Mac was B-ad last night.  Some will blame his piss poor showing on a sore hamstring but his running didn’t seem to be that affected.  He was just making idiotic decisions all game long.  After a Big Ben INT gave the ball to the Ravens at their own 2, McFadden let them off the hook by covering the wrong man on a 67 pass play to convicted murderer Donte Stallworth.  Field position in a game like this is huge and that play flipped the field to Baltimore’s advantage even though it didn’t wind up costing the team on the scoreboard.

The Steelers mounted their first nice drive of the game to close out the half.   Starting from their 15, Ben moved them all the way to the Ravens 38.  On third and 10, Ben hit Hines Ward right between the numbers and Hines dropped it.  I wonder if Hines will tweet the lord’s name in vain like that whining heathen Stevie Johnson did after his blunder last week.

Ben picked up where he left off to start the second half.  A 23 yard catch-and-run by Mike Wallace set up a 45 yard Shaun Suisham field goal.   Sure is nice to have a sober field goal kicker for a change.  It’s a lot easier to put the ball between the uprights when you only see two of them.  Suisham, it should be noted, was also punting at this point after Danny Sepulveda suffered an injury to his plant leg.

Their next drive contained a play which will long live in infamy among Steeler Nation.  Utilizing a quick short passing game, the Black and Gold began moving the ball much more effectively.  Ben rolled away from pressure and attempted to hit Heath Miller down the seam.  Baltimore LB Jameel McClain CAME IN LATE and LAUNCHED his body HELMET FIRST into Heath, laying him out with a helmet-to-helmet hit.  With the exception of Richard Seymour’s criminal act a few weeks back, this was without a doubt the filthest play perpetuated by an NFL player since the so-called “new rules” went into effect several months back.

Of course, he wasn’t flagged.

Naturally, I expect McLain to receive a $5,000 slap on the wrist and a statement from the Ginger Dictator basically saying, “Oops.”  No excessive fine, no suspension.  Never mind if this was James Harrison, he would’ve been flagged for looking too mean.  Never mind if it was ANY STEELER, the ref would’ve not only flagged him, he would’ve been tossed from the game.

Shortly after Miller was assaulted, Flozell Adams hobbled off the field.  He got caught in the wash and had his ankle rolled up from behind.  For those keeping score at home, the Steelers were down to their third string tight end (Matt Spaeth was scratched before the game), their third string RT, and had no punter.  On the next play, Ben rolled away pressure again as his foot seemed to magically heal as the game progressed.  He hit Emmanuel Sanders, who had a bad drop earlier in the half, for 28 yards to the Baltimore 2.  Two runs netted negative yardage.

The running game was lousy yesterday.  Rashard Mendenhall is clearly afraid of the Ravens.   In the first half, he totally bailed on a screen pass in one of the more cowardly acts you’ll ever see.  On rushes, he’d tap his feet like he was expecting Cheryl Burke to come out of the stands and invite him on Dancing With The Stars.  Somebody clued him in later and he eventually started to just pound it straight ahead but it was a pretty forgettable effort from Mendy.

Despite battling injuries, cheap shots from Raven thugs, and biased referees, this was a fantastic nine minute sixteen play drive which not only shortened the game but gave the defense time to rest.  Regardless of whether you think they should emphasize the pass or run, the bottom line is long time-consuming drives on offense are necessary if you want to see this defense play at a top level.  It’s no accident the D got stronger and stronger as the night wore on.  Ordinarily, settling for three points after a nine minute drive would be a let down although, strange as it may sound, they did well to salvage a FG out of that mess to pull within 4.

The Steelers D, who finished with 4 sacks and did a great job harassing inept Flacco into making mistakes, forced two consecutive three and outs on the pitiful Baltimore offense.  With less than five minutes left, the Ravens took over deep in their own territory.  B-Mac had another brain fart, getting called for pass interference on a ball Flacco skied 10 feet over Mason’s head.  Two plays later, Troy came flying in on a blitz and tomahawk chopped the ball out of Joey’s hand.  LaMarr Woodley scooped the fumble and returned it to the Baltimore 9.

On the Steelers first snap, Ben pulled off a play for the ages.  Terrell Suggs, who had a monster game, had Ben dead to rights.  After grabbing him by the helmet (NOT CALLED), Big Ben managed to rip himself free and, with T-Sizzle draped all over him, shot-putted the ball out of bounds to save the sack.  After an incompletion to Hines, Ben hit Redman with a screen.  Redzone earned his nickname by breaking three tackles and muscling his way into the end zone.  It was an outstanding effort by a player who shows week after week he deserves to be here.

With Baltimore only a FG away from a tie, the game was still far from over.  Boldin had catches of 16 and 19 yards to move the Ravens to mid-field.  B-Mac threw in one last pass interference penalty to make things uncomfortably interesting.  After an incompletion and two short screens for minimal yardage, the Ravens faced a 4th and 2 from Pittsburgh’s 31.  The swirling winds in godforsaken Baltimore made a 50 yard FG attempt an iffy proposition so coach Jim Harbaugh elected to go for it.  James Farrior managed to get his hand up enough to force Flacco into a difficult throw which fell incomplete for the turnover on downs.

And just like that, the Steelers vaulted into sole possession of first place in the AFC North.  Despite battling crippling injuries, biased officiating, and absolutely disgraceful play by the Baltimore Ravens, the Black and Gold managed to pull out a decisive victory.  It was the kind of signature win this team needed to get momentum late in the season.  With three of their last four games against inferior opposition, this win could very well gain the Steelers a much needed first round bye which with the mounting injuries may prove crucial to having any kind of playoff run.

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  • Ben


    I thought this game was another great installment in the best rivalry in the NFL. Were the Ravens dirty? Maybe a little, but all of that stuff used to be called football. Sure, the Steelers have been called for stuff more minor than a couple of those hits, but there are two ways to deal with hypocrisy. We could: 1) say the Ravens should be penalized for the shot to Roethlisberger’s face, the hit on Heath, etc., or 2) we could say the Steelers should not be called for such things in the future while refusing to criticize the Ravens for playing tough football.

    I am happy about this win, but I’ll admit a couple of things which are obviously true. The Ravens are a tough team and Terrell Suggs is an absolute monster. The Ravens are becoming a much better passing team with Anquan Boldin and a developing, even if still overrated Flacco. And the Steelers are still searching for a second (third and fourth as well) corner.

    Despite the lack of a consistently good running game, I thought that it was good the Steelers never completly abandoned it. The Steelers are just not very good when the other team knows what we are trying to do. This isn’t Cowher Power football when we could tell you we were going to run and then do it anyway.

    The defense looked stellar most of the game and Troy Polamalu came up huge. Ed Reed is great in his own way, but Troy seems to have this almost Jordanesque way of raising his game in key moments.

    Great win, but this does not guarantee the division is ours. The Steelers have a trap game against the Bengals, and a big game against the Jets. The Panthers and Browns should be wins, though the Browns have been playing very well as of late. I just think we match up well against the Browns because there is no way some hulking white dude is going to consistently gain yards up the middle against our defense.

    • Tim

      You’re right – but the point is it’s absolutely not consistent. Either play where the Steelers get to make the same hits, or flag the Ravens for the hits that you flag the Steelers for.

      • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

        Exactly, Tim. I’d love for football to go back to being football (as Ben says) but the NFL seems hellbent on changing the game. So if they want to do that, fine, just stop enforcing one set of rules for the Steelers and one set for everybody else.

        And the Ravens were far more than “a little dirty,” Ben. People excuse the NFL’s conspiracy against the Steelers as “the Steelers are a dirty team.” Well, if we play dirty, what I saw guys like McClain, Suggs, and Ngata getting away with yesterday belongs in The Longest Yard.

        • Ben

          Haha you guys know I don’t disagree with you. But, when I watch videos of the 70s Steelers and see Jack Lambert body-slam someone, then stick his finger in his face and say “that’ll cool your ass off” and then fight two other players seconds later, I can’t really see a simple punch in the face as particularly egregious.

          • Bill

            Neither do I in comparison. However in today’s regime such acts would be punishable by fine or suspension. What we in Stiller country are sayins is that if James Harrison is going to be fined 75K for the exact same hit on a defenseless player then the hit on Miller should be at least worth 50K. What we are saying is that if roughing or hands to the face is now going to be called then call them all. Not just the ones on non-Steeler players. Comparing what went on in the 70′s is apples to oranges.
            I’m not going to waste my time arguing that Harrisons hit’s are legal or not legal or borderline or good solid tackling. What I will argue is that the identical hit should be fined identically.

            How about them apples?

  • Todd

    Chris, this game was giving me heartburn. Ben started off launching the ball 8 feet over our receiver’s heads…maybe the adrenaline was pumping a little too much, but we’ve got to tighten up our passing accuracy before the playoffs. Brady won’t make those kinds of misses.

    Our secondary seemed to have overcompensated for the 7-yard cushions they’ve been giving opponents’ receivers by playing tighter underneath but giving up the deep ball…what would we do without Ike Taylor? I was actually not too upset that B-Mac got called for interference. It’s about time he was close enough to a receiver to even warrant a call…although, I think that was a sketchy call. Very close, not like all the in-your-face egregious penalties of the Ravens that weren’t called.

    I was in disbelief at how blatant the three (I counted three instances of grabbing, batting, and hitting of Ben’s helmet) hands-to-helmet no-calls were…I haven’t been this mad during a Steelers game in awhile. Yet the refs are noticing every little nuance the Steelers aren’t getting right. Call the game, you blind idiots!

    Polamalu was our ace this game…what a play. And yeah, when Suggs couldn’t get Big Ben down…that was epic!

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      I wouldn’t worry too much about what happened in the first half, Todd. Big Ben was hurting a lot early in the game and I think that was what led to the poor passing game. You’ll notice in the 2nd half, they abandoned the Pistol formation (which, frankly, was a disaster because Mendy couldn’t run out of it and they couldn’t pass protect either) and Ben started moving around a lot better.

      Good point about Ike. I haven’t even started thinking about the off-season but they really have to do whatever it takes to re-sign Ike. He’s the only decent CB they have. They either need to trade up in the draft for a DB or somehow acquire a good veteran next year because I don’t know how much more evidence you need to see this group is not getting it done.

      Then again, we moaned about the poor O-line for years before they finally drafted a stud center.

  • Todd

    Oh, and I forgot to mention the Raven laying out Heath Miller out cold. How do you NOT call that? I had to walk away when that happened. If I were a Steeler, I wouldn’t have rushed the Ravens’ bench…I would’ve plowed over a ref who wasn’t looking! “Are you going to call THIS ONE?!?”

  • Smoking Tire

    You are spot on as usual. I think you bring up an excellent point on the officiating. Anybody remember the 15-yard flag for accidentally touching the back of Drew Brees’ helmet? Anybody remember all of the reversed sacks and bad calls on clean hits by Steelers this year? That’s the point. The punch to the face may have been accidental, but it should have been a penalty based on how the Steelers have been punished all year. If it were enforced, it would have been Pitt ball at the Ravens 35 with a fresh set of downs. Who knows, maybe we would have punched it in and the game would have been completely different.

    Same with the terrible no-call on Miller. It would have been another drive-extending play deep into Ravens territory. Maybe that pass after that to Sanders would have been a TD instead of just to the 2.

    Call those 2 penalties correctly and fairly – and the game would have likely been very different. Despite all the adversity, the Steelers pulled out the win. That’s why they are a great team and will always be better and classier than the Ravens. They can put bad breaks behind them, get angry and finish their opponent off.

    Go Stillas!

    Suck it mouth-breather Suggs and the rest of the Ravens!

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Accidental isn’t supposed to matter, Tire. I guarantee 90% of the helmet-to-helmet hits (including the one Harrison was docked 75k for) are accidental. I mean, guys are moving at high speed and aren’t stationary targets. You can aim at the chest and all it takes is a receiver stumbling or lowering his head and BOOM.

      Honestly, I’m getting sick of talking about penalties. For years I’ve seldom talked about zebras because I didn’t want to sound like a crybaby Ravens fan. But this year it can’t be ignored because, as you point out, it really is affecting the games in a major way.

      Either they call things too strictly (Oakland) and it turns things into a joke. Or they don’t call anything at all (yesterday) and it’s complete chaos. Strangely enough, either way they call it, the Steelers always end up with the short end of the stick.

      And people wonder why I’m paranoid…

  • Joe

    Very good article. One more note I would like to add. Chris Kemoeatu recovered a fumble in the 3rd quarter and was horse collar tackled by Tavares Gooden. I guess the call wouldn’t have mattered because there was a call for defensive holding on the Ravens, but it is just another example of how blind/biased NFL officiating has become.

  • Steve

    The way I look at it, all these penalties not being called just builds up our karma for the playoffs!

  • McCallister

    Chris, I enjoy the hell out your writing. I find myself laughing my ass off while reading your stuff. The inconsistencies of the NFL officiating crews are leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth and the piracy of James Harrison’s hard-earned money by the Jolly Roger is really pissing me off. I actually e-mailed Goodell a few days ago and left this message…”Hey, Roger, wonder how you’d feel if for every $1000 you fine the Steelers, if 1000 DirectTV Sunday Ticket subscribers canceled their packages? Bet you would re-think your stance on “illegal” hits, then.” I
    got no response of course, but it makes me feel good to know that somebody might have at least read it.

    On another point, I’ve always supported Mendenhall, but if I see that chicken-sh*t act again where he didn’t catch the ball because he was afraid of being hit, I will have no respect for him at all. If it happens again, I am going to start calling him “No balls” Mendenhall.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Thanks, McCallister. Despite the people who seem to think a blog should be written like a newspaper, I try to make this fun. My entire philosophy is to write like a fan you’d strike up a conversation with at a sports bar or something.

      Anyway, good on you for writing the Ginger Dictator. I don’t think he really cares what fans have to say but the more people who are vocal about his ridiculous actions, the better.