Well, that was disgusting.
The Ravens’ completely dominating 35-7 win over the Steelers was the most disheartening loss I’ve witnessed in some time, and I think most Pittsburgh fans would agree with me. For a team that many were anointing as favorites to get back to the Super Bowl before the season, such a devastating defeat at the hands of their most hated rival has to serve as some sort of a wake up call that there may be a championship hangover after all.
Although most of the team played pretty miserably, there are a few players and units that I want to discuss more specifically.
- The Offensive Line: The line is an easy target for criticism, but their shortcomings were especially highlighted on Sunday. The Steelers have always had trouble blocking the Ravens, particularly Terrell Suggs, but this game was more disturbing than usual. While Suggs’ three-sack performance is about the norm for a loss to Baltimore, Haloti Ngata’s dominance is the bigger cause for concern. He repeatedly batted passes down, or forced Ben to hurry his throws, leading to incompletions. He made both Doug Legursky and Maurkice Pouncey look terrible, especially on passing downs. In their wins against Baltimore, Pittsburgh had largely been able to neutralize Ngata, but he absolutely abused the line in this game. Similarly, Willie Colon looked slow and timid in his first game back, which is hardly surprising given his year off, but still hardly a good sign for a line that will play a huge role in the team’s success.
- The Linebackers: Normally the linebacking corps is a constant for the Steelers, but this game made them look downright terrible. James Harrison was largely ineffective, as he was able to hit Flacco once and draw a holding penalty, but clearly seemed slowed by his recovery from back surgery. Otherwise, LaMarr Woodley was the only Steeler to record a sack in the game, and the situation at middle linebacker looked shaky. Not only did they all struggle in coverage, allowing both the tight ends and Ray Rice to break off big gains over the middle, but also there seems to be some controversy involving stalwart James Farrior. Although it was initially reported that Farrior was removed from the game due to injury, Tomlin stated after the game that he was merely trying to give Larry Foote more playing time. Farrior is 36, and although he’s seemed to largely resist the aging process, he may have finally reached the end of the line, and could prove to be a major hole in the team’s defense.
- Ike Taylor: It’s rare that I have positive words to say about Mr. Taylor, but he was one of the very few bright spots in yesterday’s game. He was largely assigned to cover Lee Evans, and held the speedy receiver to zero catches and only four targets. Granted, Flacco had plenty of room to throw against Bryant McFadden on the other side of the field, and really highlighted exactly how dire the second cornerback spot is. Curtis Brown is currently sitting out with an injury, but he really can’t come back soon enough. William Gay certainly isn’t adequate to fill in, as he can barely hold down the nickel corner spot, so there needs to be a change there, and quickly.
There’s not a whole lot of positive news to take away from Week 1, but there’s two thoughts that will sustain me through the swirl of negative press that’s sure to follow the Steelers this week:
We’ll be facing the Seahawks and hapless quarterback Tarvaris Jackson at home this Sunday, and will be free to take out their anger from the last game on them.
And more importantly, we will see the Ravens again, eight weeks from now. In Pittsburgh.
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