Tuesday, December 7, 2010

STEELERS WIN, BUT ANOTHER PYRRHIC VICTORY IN TWICE-ANNUAL RAVENS BLOODBATH?

The Pittsburgh Steelers may have won part two of their annual Roman gladiator contests against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night with a gut-wrenching 13-10 victory... and if Ben Roethlisberger didn't already have a reputation for being the toughest quarterback maybe ever in football, he certainly is well on his way to it now. It was one of those types of games that forever can be etched into a fan's mind. But was it a Pyrrhic victory? Did the Steelers win the battle but could they lose the war because of ever-mounting casualties? Yes, the NFL season is certainly a war of attrition.

ABOVE: When he's not rearranging our quarterback's face, the Ravens' Haloti Ngata hawks motor oil. Don't buy Lubriguard Steeler fans!

After deferring the opening kickoff and stopping the Ravens on a three and out, Big Ben was sacked on third and seven by the Ravens' behemoth lineman, Haloti Ngata. Ngata took a swipe to the helmet of Roethlisberger and the result was an ugly, badly broken nose for the Steelers quarterback and blood, blood everywhere. Of course there was no foul called as this was a blow to the nose of the Steelers quarterback as opposed to the head of any other quarterback in the National Football League.    

Why is this?

ABOVE: Just three minutes into the game and already a rearranged face for Ben. Fortunately for the Ravens, injuries such as this one are not spelled out verbatim in the NFL rule book. Ben, as any village idiot could clearly see, took a blow to the nose and not the head, another clearly-different body part not covered in the extremely complex NFL rules.

Why is it that quarterbacks around the NFL are treated like the most delicate of Christmas ornaments, yet because the Steelers happen to have the biggest and strongest quarterback in the league, opposing teams are allowed to manhandle him to their hearts content such as last week's foot mangling? Do the rules say, "If a quarterback is big and strong you are free to maim him to your heart's content"?

ABOVE: Once again, the refs were doing their zebra impression while Steeler fans would have loved to have been able to rip into them, just like these fortunate lions did.


 ABOVE AND BELOW: Tough guy Jameel McClain plays with the same wreckless abandon as his Nakatomi Plaza brethren, John McClain. Neither McClain ever gets flagged although Jameel just had to fork over forty grand to "Raja" yesterday. Chump change.


Later on, in the third quarter with Baltimore up 10-3, Pittsburgh's tight end, Heath Miller nearly had his neck broken but did suffer a serious concussion in as clear-cut of a case of helmet to helmet contact as you'll ever see in your entire lifetime. Watching this play, no more than 5 yards away was a side judge with his hands on his knees peering intently at the play. Unbelievably no flag was thrown.

What was he looking at?

GOOD QUESTION!!!

In the case of the Roethlisberger injury, the lack of a flag forced the Steelers into a punting situation that never should have been. Instead of punting from near midfield, the Steelers should have had a first and 10 at the Baltimore 30. The game at this time was still scoreless, so this lack of a flag was of gigantic consequence. Ngada was fined a measly $15,000 for this hit by the league office yesterday, the cost of a Big Mac to you and I, but I'm sure that Ben Roethlisberger would have preferred the 15 yards instead of the league collecting $15,000.

Later, the puzzling lack of a call on the Heath Miller hit was only offset by another heroic play by Big Ben. The Steelers had the ball on the Baltimore 40 when Miller was knocked into "La La Land". The phantom personal foul would have given the Steelers the ball on the 25 with a fresh set of downs. Mystically, no call was made. Since Miller, after all, did regain consciousness, it couldn't have been that bad of a hit after all. I mean, he walked off the field, right?


ABOVE: Heath Miller visits with some of his friends along with birds, puffy clouds and lollipops in "La La Land". After you return from "La La Land" and back to reality, the lollipops are replaced by a nightmarish headache that just won't quit for days on end.

If it hadn't been for Big Ben scrambling and then finding Emmanuel Sanders at the two, this drive would have also been stifled once again by the zebras.

As tough as the Ravens are...and they are tough...once again the Steelers found themselves not just playing against the Ravens, but the referees as well. During this amazing stretch of recent games, the Steelers have repeatedly found ways to win (as good teams will) despite one poor call (or non-call) after another. In fact, Sunday night's non call in the Heath Miller incident was so bad that the league office called the ranting NBC broadcasting team of Al Michaels and Cris Collingsworth to tell them that it should have been a penalty! When have you ever heard of that happening before???

Clearly, the NFL had another severe case of "Egg McGoodell on its' face" brought on, once again by their incompetent officials and the most cryptic set of rules ever known to man. I'm sure their switchboard was also short-circuiting on Madison Avenue.


ABOVE: The NFL switchboard gets swamped with calls..."I'm sorry, Mr. Goodell is in a meeting, may I take a message?...You said he's a what?"

Sunday night's win was a game for the ages as far as regular season games are concerned, that's for sure. But while I was thrilled with the win and the toughness and grit that the Steelers showed, I came away from this game more furious with the NFL than I was elated over this wonderful victory.

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Something is very, very wrong with this picture. The NFL right now is broken and spinning out of control, as far as this writer and life-long fan is concerned.

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GAME NOTES: With the game scoreless in the first quarter and the ball on the Baltimore 36, Mike Tomlin, facing a 4th and one, elected to punt instead of going for the first down. The punt was downed on the eight, but just three plays later Anquon Boldin had pulled in a 61 yard catch leading to the opening touchdown of the game for Baltimore moments later. The 92 yard drive was the longest of the season given up by the Steelers defense. The Steelers would not get the lead back until 2:51 of the fourth quarter...Bryant McFadden, battling a hamstring problem, was obviously the prime target of the Ravens offense. After an already-dreadful game, McFadden topped it off on the Ravens' last drive by incurring a stupid penalty by shoving Boldin out of bounds on a pass that was clearly uncatchable to everyone in the country...Troy Polamalu's monster sack of Flacco late in the fourth quarter has all of Baltimore now in an uproar. Why were the Ravens passing on second and five this late in the game? Why not run the ball twice and use up the clock and Pittsburgh's timeouts? Good to see that Bruce Arians isn't the only offensive coordinator who gets second-guessed! After Polamalu's interception two years ago in the playoffs, Ravens fans must despise him as much as we loathe Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis. Yes, there's no better rivalry in the NFL than this...Isaac Redman's phenomenal touchdown run was one of the most improbable plays you'll ever see. After catching the ball in heavy traffic over the middle, Redman proceeded to run to his right and not directly towards the end zone. It was mond-boggling to me that against this defense that he was able to pull this off...Big Ben's lefthanded throwaway while being assaulted by Suggs had to rank as the greatest incompletion for no gain in NFL history...Kicker Sean Suisham, who continues to impress (he's now 6-6 in kicks attempted and made) had to serve as the emergency punter as Daniel Sepulveda suffered another torn ACL. Sepulveda, torn up knee and all, hobbled into the game to hold on the field goals and extra point attempt. It was that kind of game...George Stephanopolis, reporting on "Good Morning America" from Afghanistan on Monday morning, reported that every large screen television on the U.S. military base in Kabul was tuned into the Steeler-Ravens game. After all, what better outlet for our military heroes could there be than to tune in to some real violence between the Steelers and Ravens...It was great seeing Hines Ward laying a great crack-back block on an unsuspecting Ray Lewis on the NFL Network. Lewis jumped up immediately and was in Ward's face...If the Steelers were ever to play themselves, what do you think that game would look like? The Ravens just answered that question on Sunday night. There is no other team, save for perhaps the New York Giants, that plays the physical type of game that these two teams pride themselves in playing. That's why while they may greatly dislike each other, they also have a tremendously-deep respect for each other as well. They know deep down inside that they're looking at their mirror image every time they play...Tight end Heath Miller (concussion) and offensive right tackle Flozell Adams (high ankle sprain) are expected to be out for next Sunday's game against Cincinnati. Ben Roethlisberger (broken nose and subsequent surgery) is expected to play but punter Daniel Sepulveda has been placed on injured reserve because of a second torn ACL...Sunday's kickoff is at 1:00. How'd that happen? 

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