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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