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The Steelers tried everything they could to lose this game. They fumbled the ball. They took stupid penalties. Offensive linemen stood around not blocking people (ok, that happens a lot) while a live ball lay unclaimed on the ground. Shaun Suisham missed a field goal, something no one thought could ever happen. Mike Tomlin looked shellshocked. Troy Polamalu had one of his worst games since his rookie year. And, of course, the Steelers gave up a punt return touchdown.
But on this day, one hero emerged and stood taller than all others. Not the refs who called back the punt return for holding (Ravens fans: yes, the guy flopped, but watch a longer replay and there was some holding there). Not Antonio Brown who made a David Tyree-esque catch. Not Ryan Clark, who forced a fumble and had an interception. Not Little Joey Flacco, who inspires the opposite of confidence in his team. No, on this day, the hero was a familiar 260 pound redneck quarterback with a past rocked by "poor decision making" but a cannon for a right arm.
|Family. Band of Brothers.|
Some other thoughts on this game:
- Sometimes it is difficult to underestimate the intelligence of professional football players. After Roethlisberger was crushed by T-Fizzle in the second quarter and the ball popped loose, no one, including Roethlisberger himself, thought it necessary to pick up the football despite there being no whistle. I'm sure there is some confusion on the field at the time, but come on. Someone I was watching with suggested that coaches should not be able to call timeouts, and I asked if he really wanted people like the 21 guys who stood around a live-ball to be responsible for clock management as well.
- Speaking of things that aren't intelligent, the NFL's rules on coaches' challenges need to be changed. The current rule is that each team has two challenges, and if you get BOTH of them right, you get one extra challenge. I had never really thought about this until it became an issue for the Steelers last night, but this makes no sense. Why do you have to get both challenges correct to get an extra? If you challenge a call, and you win the challenge, you shouldn't lose your ability to challenge - after all, if you are winning challenges, it means that the refs are screwing up, not you.
- The proposal to fix it: each team is only allowed two incorrect challenges all game - once you miss on two, you're out for the whole game. If you keep winning challenges, then you can keep challenging. The only counter argument I can see to this is that it will slow the game down.
- The proposal part 2 to fix that: First, the NFL shouldn't care about a slightly slowed down game. Coaches' challenges = commercial breaks = money. Second, there is no reason that the ref on the field needs to decide the challenge. Just have an official in the booth make the decision and save the charade of a 69 year old ref running 80 yards across the field to tuck his head into a tiny peep-show booth.
- Mike Tomlin sounded like he was shot with adrenaline after the game in his press conference, but the reality is that he appeared to be shellshocked as the Heinz Field postseason demons were descending during the second quarter. Also unimpressive was the decision to go for 4th and 1 at the Ravens 12 yard line with the score tied 21-21 with 14 minutes left in the 4th quarter. It looked like total confusion on the field - thankfully, our QB weighs 260lbs.
- A huge performance by two of the youngest Steelers - Maurkice Pouncey and Ziggy Hood. Hood has capably stepped in for Aaron Smith after his 11th torn triceps muscle.
- And finally, a note on the Ravens. Ray Lewis can talk all he wants about "my defense" but the fact is that "his defense" has only three good players - Ngata, Suggs, and Ed Reed. Not surprisingly, those are the only three Ravens who seemed to show up at this game. On the offensive side of the ball, Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmandzadeh sparked flashbacks of Limas Sweed. And John Harbaugh gets credit for ejecting spit all over the 35 yard line when trying to call a timeout at the end of the game, but is otherwise known for not being able to decide whether to be conservative or aggressive and, therefore, sucking at both options. We don't often turn our blog over to Hines Ward, who is a tenured professor at the Don King University of Self-Promotion, but it is called for in this case.
"They always pride themselves on bullying guys, bullying people," said Ward. "They always do all the trash talking. They've been trash talking all week. Talking about how they want to break Ben's nose again, stuff like that. Sometimes when you're fighting a bully, you've got to just hit them in the mouth and shut them up.''Well put, Hines.