Posted on: December 11, 2008 6:19 am
The last time these two met, it was brutal, no not the score, but physically brutal. The matchup at Heinz Field would end with Rashard Mendenhall out for the season with an injury that doctors would later equate to the kind of injury that comes from being hit by a Mac truck and Kendall Simmons also going out for the season for an injury to his Achilles tendon. By the end of the game, both teams would be pulling from their backups due to injuries. It would be a game that was won in overtime by a Jeff Reed field goal.
This week promises, well, who knows what it promises, except another defensive battle. There will be no side stories to this game. No text messages promising to run all over a defense, no bounties out for the opposing team player. No, the only thing dominating the news regarding this matchup is the mutual hate – and respect both teams have for each other. No, there wouldn’t be side stories coming out this week to give their opponents fuel, it’s too important of a matchup.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers meet the Baltimore Ravens on their turf, more is at stake then the Ravens defense protecting their field. It’s not only just the matchup of the top two defenses in the NFL, this week could decide the AFC North, or could force the season to play out, to determine who is going to take the north and if the other team gets the wild card.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they’ll be playing for all the cards, the AFC North title and a bye in the playoffs. A win will not be easy there, in M&T Bank Stadium, it never is and is rare for the Steelers. The last five match ups in Baltimore have led to Steelers losses. The Steelers defense wants to make sure it doesn’t become six. And it’s possible, of course, anything is possible. After all, the Steelers were able to overcome the “history” between both the Jaguars and New England and win those, but then, neither have the defense that the Ravens have. No doubt the Steelers offense is getting a bit better against tough defenses, some what. We saw last week where the Steeler offense came back from a ten point deficit against a Cowboy defense that was stifling, to tie the game.
Thankfully, for the Steelers, they’re coming into this game healthy (and hopefully, they’ll leave that way too). Of course, that may not mean a thing though. All you have to do is look at the Ravens and how beat up they are. Given their long season with an early bye, plus their walking wounded, you’d think they’d be running out of steam and not playing their best football down the stretch, but here they are, playing their best games despite the odds. No doubt the Ravens defense is as psyched as the Steelers defense about this game.
This game is going to be about the defenses. Offensively, well, there’s no doubt that it’s the defenses of both teams that are their strength. Running game? What running game? Neither team have given up 100 yards to a single running back yet. The closest, well the Ravens to New York Giants Ahmad Bradshaw, but that was an aberration. Even when the Steelers had a top ranked rushing offense, the thorn in their side, the Baltimore Ravens.
Offensively, this game is going to be placed on the arms of the quarterback and their ability to avoid the turnovers. In terms of turnover ratios, the Ravens have the edge +8 to the Steelers +7. Edge to the quarterbacks? If there is one, it’s to Roethlisberger, only because of his experience. For the season, the Steelers quarterback has 14 touchdown’s to 12 interceptions versus the young Ravens rookie’s 13 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Of course the rookie had been sacked ten less times then the veteran.
There’s no way to call this game and anyone looking for anything other then a defensive battle should make plans to watch the Lions/Colts game to see a high scoring game.
Posted on: December 8, 2008 6:39 am
There was something, perhaps a feeling, perhaps just some nuances that I’ve noticed over the past few weeks. Perhaps it was wishful thinking and at first, I thought it might be that, but now, I’m more sure that I’m not imagining things and Pittsburgh Post Gazette sports columnist Bob Smizik sees it too.
It was noticed after the Steelers loss to the Colts. My husband, a Colts fan didn’t rub the win in, instead he sat quietly. All I said was, “that’s okay, remember the last time the Steelers lost to the Colts in regular season”. Actually, I remember it well. It was 2005 and Steelers would end up doing something that was rarely done. Run the table to get a wild card slot. The odds were against them.
Okay, so this year the Steelers aren’t running for a wild card slot. Barring a total melt down, the Steelers will be in the playoffs, either with the division title or with a WC slot. But lets rewind a few years.
It was 2005, the Steelers had come off of one of their best years ever with a 15-1 regular season record, but would fail to get to the Superbowl. The next season, the Steelers offense made a promise to get Jerome Bettis to the Superbowl. Their schedule wasn’t going to be the easiest, or so it seemed. Add to that an injury to Ben Roethlisberger’s hand and it started looking like it wasn’t going to happen. Ben would miss a few games and come back, only to lose to the Indianapolis Colts. After that loss, something changed and the Steelers would run the tables. It would be a Cowboys win that would cinch the Steelers with a sixth seed wild card berth. It was the heart of an offense and the determination of a defense that led the Steelers to their fifth Superbowl win.
They said they had no chance, no, not in 2005 but in 2008. Facing the toughest schedule in the NFL in, oh, how many years based on 07 results, the Steelers weren’t supposed to have gone this far. The year before, they’d be knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the Jaguars.
Of course, it’s a little different now. The Steelers are beating the teams they should be beating and staying in the games with the good teams. Three losses against good teams led critics questioning the Steelers offense. In 05, it was the Steelers offense getting the headlines, in 08, it’s their defense.
Since losing to the Colts, the Steelers have won their last four games. Offensively, most weren’t pretty, but defensively, they were things of beauty. Bob Smizik would call their last win “magical”. And perhaps it was, after all, how could an offense who failed to make anything happen for almost three full quarters come back to tie a game against a defense that had sacked Roethlisberger five times and shut down the running game.
No, the Cowboys game, offensively was not pretty for the Steelers, but the offense did what it needed to do, they played 60 minutes. What was next, was a thing of beauty, the Steelers defense.
Perhaps in a sense this is a déjà vu. Too many things correspond to 05 to be taken lightly.
The major difference is, it’s the Steelers defense playing with heart this season. Could it be that the Steelers defense wants to win the ring for Dick LeBeau on his 50th season in the NFL? After all, it’s not a secret that the defense corps believe that LeBeau belongs in the Hall of Fame, after this season, who could argue against it?
And with the comeback on the Steelers offense against a Cowboys defense that some doubted that they could get past, could prove that the offense is going to help the defense do what needs to be done to get there.
Playing with heart got the Steelers there in 05 and it’s the same heart that’s driving them towards it this year. With this defense and the offense getting better with each game, how can I not believe?
Posted on: December 7, 2008 9:13 pm
The field conditions weren’t what Steelers fans were hoping for at the beginning of the game, but it was cold and it was windy. It would be a game that left fans of both teams crowing about their defense and still questioning their offenses. In the winter, it becomes about the defense. When the game finished, there would be a total of 8 sacks and 7 turnovers. The offenses would look rather mediocre, but then, good defenses tend to do that to offenses.
After week 14, the Steelers defense would still have not given up 300 yards in a game and would make a huge defensive play that would bring about the win over the Dallas Cowboys, which wasn’t an easy task, given how the Dallas defense stepped up and showed the “improved” oline of the Steelers, hadn’t actually improved as much as we hoped, with 5 sacks on Ben Roethlisberger. What can be said about this Steelers defense that we haven’t already lauded on before? Oh yeah, Steelers cornerback, Ike Taylor finally caught one. Week in and week out, the Steeler defense has been playing as if they were trying to make a case as to why defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau should be in the NFL Hall of Fame.
However, what was more impressive was, well the offense. No, not fantasy football impressive, not statistically impressive. With the Dallas defense, for the most part, shutting down the Steelers offense for the majority of the game, the questions that surfaced about the Steelers offense not being able to compete against teams with good defenses again. Although the Steelers took the lead only to be tied going into the half, the Cowboys offense managed to go up ten points. It was a struggle, especially when a 71 yard drive to the 4th and 1 was stopped, denying the Steelers a touchdown in the 3d quarter. And for a moment, we were wondering, given the inability to get anything going, would the Steelers be able to come back from this deficit.
Then a spark, a 47 yd pass to Santonio Holmes on a 3d and 16 would start a drive that would lead to a field goal by Jeff Reed. A three and out by the Dallas offense and the Steelers offense would drive for 67 yards and come away with a Roethlisberger pass to Heath Miller. Jeff Reed’s extra point tied the game. So it wasn’t pretty and may not be impressive, but the Steelers offense finally found the answers to get past the defense that was stifling them. Oh yeah, and Ben had no interceptions.
In the end though, it would be the Steelers defense that would win the game with a Deshea Townsend interception on Tony Romo for a defensive touchdown. Romo would not be able to overcome the Steelers defense to make a drive down the field.
Of course it’s not everything we would have hoped for. A rookie running back did get past the Steelers defense for 88 yds, the most a single running back has run against the Steelers all season. The oline did give up five sacks and failed to create the holes for the running backs, which only ran for a total 53 yds combined.
A win is a win though, no matter how pretty or ugly, and with this win, the Steelers maintain their lead in the AFC North and Roethlisberger would take the lead in the quarterback with the most wins in his first five years in the NFL. Oh, and yeah, it came down to a classic Steelers/Cowboy games where the big play, where one score decided the outcome.
Posted on: December 2, 2008 6:54 am
Edited on: December 2, 2008 12:23 pm
It was once a storied rivalry in the NFL, going as far back to when there was an only an NFL and the AFL was starting out. A rivalry that would end up providing a true “hatred” against the others team and spark passion with their fans each time they meet up. It would lead Sports Illustrated to declare the quarterback rivalry of Bradshaw and Staubach as the top quarterback rivalry in the history of the NFL. No doubt, when you talk about rivalries, this one will top all rivalries to come.
Historical Reference : Due to the thought there may have been a reference to the Steelers being in the AFL, I should clarify. The reference to the NFL and AFL was to establish a timeline. It would be 1960 when the Dallas Cowboys would enter the NFL and play their first professional football game against...the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams were part of the original NFL. That same year, the American Football League had been formed. .
Posted on: November 30, 2008 9:39 pm
It was a statement game for both teams. The Patriots, who had the Steelers number since 2001, needed the win to stay in the hunt for the playoffs, the Steelers needed this win to, not only get the monkey off their back, but to also quiet some critics.
So it would occur, on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Foxboro where a first year backup quarterback would face his first major challenge after two back to back 400 games, and a veteran quarterback with an offense that was questionable.
It was a statement game, but started off as anything but that. A muffed kick off, a penalty and then an interception gave the Patriots good field position, which they were able to run in for a touchdown. Then, as if the Steelers had made us think they wanted the Patriots to win, the Patriots seemed to want to give the game right back to them.
Dropped passes and missed opportunities would seem to send the first half would leave fans of both teams scratching their heads and somehow, it was no surprise that the game was tied by half time. The positive is that the Steelers offense was able to come back from a deficit, even if it was one score, which occurred in a beautiful catch by Santonio Holmes.
It didn’t turn out to be the shootout that was expected by many. The deep balls to Moss never came about. Instead, the Steelers defense would basically make Moss a non-factor (or can we say that Moss had something to do with being a non-factor also) with only four receptions for a total of 45 yards. It would be Kevin Faulk who would burn the Steelers, both in rushing and passing. But it wasn’t enough to counter the mistakes made by the Patriots, combined with an offensive play of the Steelers, who began to control the ball and get down the field.
Having protected well in the first half, somehow the Steelers front line became sack hungry and was able to get five sacks on Matt Cassel, forcing two fumbles. James Harrison would be the defensive stud of the game. Add two interceptions, one by Troy Polamalu, another by Lawrence Timmons and it was apparent that the Steelers defensive line began to rattle and unnerve Matt Cassel.
The Steelers offense not only was able to eat the field, but also took advantage of the turnovers and turned them into points. Tight end Heath Miller would lead the team in receptions. Although no one receiver would reach the 100 yd mark in this game, both teams were able to rush for an accumulative total of 100 plus yards, something surprising given both defenses were strong against the rush.
Can't say the monkey's off their back, but 30 unanswered points by the Steelers is a good way to start shaking him loose.
Posted on: November 30, 2008 7:25 am
Edited on: November 30, 2008 7:38 am
It was the words of an old gypsy woman, who muttered an ominous curse in revenge of...oh wait, wrong curse. Perhaps it seems like a curse, having lost 6 matchups out of their last seven meetings. Somehow, the Patriots have seemed to have had the Steelers number since the Bill Belicheck era.
Today, the Steelers will venture into Foxboro in hopes of reversing the curse, getting the monkey off their backs, per say. The last matchup got ugly. With Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and Aaron Smith on the sidelines due to injuries that game, the Patriots offense was able to light up a young safety by the name of Anthony Smith, the whole second half of the game. Definitely something that shook up the young mans confidence.
Perhaps this year will be the year that the monkey's off their back. Why not, the Colts had been able to shake that monkey, and this year, the Chargers have also. Yes, perhaps this is the year. There won't be a young safety to exploit, but two seasoned veterans who have shown it's pretty hard to knock them off their game. In fact, the three forementioned defensive players are healthy and anxious to play this game, and they've seen this Patriots team before.
No doubt, the Steelers defense will have to be on their game, with so many weapons on the Patriots offense. The difference this year, no Tom Brady. Last time the Steelers were able to beat the Patriots, they broke the Patriots winning streak with a rookie quarterback. Tom Brady has seen this healthy defense many times before, however, Matt Cassell hasn't. Not personally. No doubt Matt Cassell has come into his own this season, as the Patriots fight for a playoff berth. His most impressive games were the last two, where he had thrown over 400 yds in each. Of course, keeping things in perspective, though the passing numbers are impressive and should no way take away from Cassell, they were obtained on teams that rank 26th and 28th in passing defense. To believe that Cassell is going to be able to throw for 400 yards easily is like saying that the Steelers are going to run all day on the Patriots defense. Although the Patriots secondary is suspect, even more so with Adalius Thomas out, their front line has been able to stuff the run and no doubt, that's what they'll try to do for the Steelers running game.
The biggest factor is going to be the confidence of the quarterback and the play of the wide receivers. If the Steelers wide receivers keep dropping the ball like they did in their previous games, then it's going to be a long day for the Steelers offense. There's a question of the pass rush on the Patriots though. Both offensive lines have given up a total of 35 sacks to their opponents, the numbers lessening in recent games. Can the Steelers blitz get to Cassell enough to keep him from getting the ball deep to Moss? Of course, there's the threat of Wes Welker, who has the ability to create plays and get away from defenders. Though the Steelers have their own weapons up the center too with Hines Ward and Heath Miller. Both quarterbacks are able to get out of the pocket and make plays happen with their feet.
This season the Steelers have had mixed results in getting that monkey off their back. They couldn't overcome their history in Lincoln Field, but were able to shake the one that plagued them against the Jaguars. I won't add to the Cowher curse by declaring a winner for the game today. I'll sit quietly back and keep my fingers crossed because both sides know the playoff implications in this game, and silently wish that monkey dead.
Posted on: November 26, 2008 8:28 am
It was in October when the names of 133 players, coaches and contributors who were eligible and nominated for induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. This morning, the day before Thanksgiving, this list narrowed to 25. Included in this list, three well known names for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and NFL.com, former Steelers Rod Woodson, Kevin Greene and Dermontti Dawson have made this round of selections to advance in the nominations. Dawson and Greene are no strangers to this list, for Woodson, it would be a different story. Rod Woodson who played corner and safety for the Steelers from 87 to 96 and then went on to play for the vaunting Ravens defense that won Baltimore their SB ring, would not only have been nominated for the HOF in his first year of eligibility but would advance past the first round.
Donnie Shell and Art Rooney Jr., nominated earlier this season, did not make it into this round.
Others to advance to this stage of the selections are:
Posted on: November 25, 2008 12:56 pm
Spending time in the military and being stationed overseas can be beneficial. Not only do you get the opportunity to see the sight, experience a place you may never, otherwise have an opportunity to experience, meet new people, and for better or worse, get to know the customs and the culture.
I had been lucky to travel many places at the behest of Uncle Sam. My first trip overseas, sent me for a year to an Air Force base in South Korea from 1982 through 83. During this time, along with the shopping, the partying, the sight-seeing and just hanging out (not to mention working), I also volunteered my time to help at a nearby orphanage. This orphanage didn’t accept just any child, it was an orphanage for Amer-asian children. Children often born from American fathers and unwed Korean mothers. At the time, life wasn’t easy for multi-racial Korean children and a lot of the children in this orphanage, were given up by their mothers and almost hidden from society. The prejudice against these children was extremely strong at the time.
It had been a little more then 20 years later, when I kept up with the news on Hines Ward’s travels to Korea and had seen, not much had changed in those 20 years. After winning the Superbowl, and using the prestige of being the first Korean-American to win the Superbowl to try to bring about a change in the culture status of multiracial children in Korea. In 2006, Ward would create the “Helping Hands Foundation” to help try to eliminate the discrimination that has for so long been so strong in that country.
In 2007, the Steelers would vote him to be their Walter Payton Man of the Year, for not only his achievements on the field in football, but also his contribution to the community. Ward would end up being one of the final three men in the standings for the NFLs Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, along with Jason Whitten of the Dallas Cowboys and Jason Taylor, then with the Miami Dolphins. Taylor would be recipient of the award in February 2008.
Once again, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Hines Ward has been selected as the Steelers 2008 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Ward leads the team with 54 receptions, 718 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. His work with the “Helping Hands Foundation” continues, not only with his trips to South Korea to continue to keep the dialogue open, but also with hosting weekend visits from those children he’s trying to help.
Ward will join 31 other team Walter Payton Man of the Year recipients, where, during the Superbowl, one will be recognized as the NFLs Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Congratulations to Ward for the team recognition, and to all players who’ve received their respective teams recognition for their contributions both on and off th