Pittsburgh Steelers: The Good, Bad, & Ugly Of Week 13 With Video Highlights
The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated their hated division rival Baltimore Ravens 13-10 in a primetime game in Baltimore Sunday Night.
Going into the game knew the importance of this game in terms of playoff standings and the future of the AFC North. The Ravens had already pulled out a last minute win against the Steelers at Heinz Field during week four without Ben Roethlisberger, and now the winner of the matchup in Baltimore was sure to determine the division as both teams stood at 8-3.
Coming into the game both teams were gaining a major playmaker that was absent from the first meeting. The Ravens gained All-Pro Ed safety Ed Reed, and the Steelers their two time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
As with all Ravens v. Steelers games there is sure to be more ugly moments than anything else as the hatred these teams feel for one another runs deep, but that’s what most fans have come to love about this matchup.
With a 13-10 game featuring two of the best defenses in the NFL everyone watching got exactly what they expected, “the good, bad, and ugly” of a late season matchup between the elite of the AFC North.
The Good: Defensive Medal
If the Pittsburgh Steelers do one thing well, it’s their ability to bend but not break.
Despite getting abused early and often by Baltimore’s passing game, or should I just say Anquan Boldin, the Steelers managed to keep the Ravens out of the end zone all but once Sunday night.
The black and gold defense that spent most of the game covering for a black and blue offense rose to the occasion during primetime yesterday. The Steelers defense held Ray Rice and the Ravens running game to just 43 yards rushing, while accumulating four sacks, six tackles for loss, five pass deflections, and eight quarterback hits.
While all each of these stats added to the end result perhaps none more than the sack fumble forced by Troy Polamalu and recovered by LaMarr Woodley late in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers continue to struggle against the pass, but their overall ability to keep capable opponents from reaching pay-dirt cannot be understated with a banged up offensive unit.
The Good: Troy Polamalu
Five tackles, one for a loss, one pass deflection, two quarterback hits, and a sack fumble is always a great night for a safety.
While these numbers have become rather average for Polamalu, the one thing that will never be average is his ability to make the biggest plays at the biggest moments in the game.
No doubt the sack fumble he made late in the fourth quarter against the driving Baltimore Raven’s saved the game and possibly the Super Bowl hopes of a team desperately seeking a defining win amidst an injury plagued season.
The Steelers would most likely be two losses or worse in their win-loss record without NO. 43, and they are going to need him for the duration if they hope to make any noise in the post-season.
The Good: Ben Roethlisberger
The numbers weren’t big for Big Ben, especially in the first half, but if the nation saw nothing else Sunday night they saw the toughness, determination, and flat will to win that Ben Roethlisberger provides his team on display.
Whether it was playing through a broken foot, a broken nose that most boxers don’t experience, or forcing Terrell Suggs off long enough to get the ball out of bounds on a play that could have stunted the game winning drive, NO. 7 overcame when he had to.
After barely reaching 90 yards of passing and an interception in the first half, Roethlisberger threw for 163 yards and the game winning touchdown in the second half behind an offensive line that continues to lose players to injury every week.
With little to no help from his receivers on third down in first half, it could have been easy to see the battered quarterback lay down, but to the contrary he seemed to get better as the game went on.
The Good: Shaun Suisham
When the Steelers released kicker Jeff Reed two weeks ago, they hoped that his replacement could make more than 68 percent of his kicks.
After an off-season full of free agent additions, Shaun Suisham could possibly be the free agent signing of the year for the Pittsburgh Steelers if he continues his act.
Since his signing all Suisham has done is come in a kick the football through the uprights each and every time he has been asked to do so, making good on five kicks of 40-plus yards.
No one ever expected to see him punt the football, but when punter Daniel Sepulveda tore the ACL in his right knee during the first half of Sunday’s game, Suisham came in and averaged almost 40 yards a kick and pinned the Ravens almost on command.
While the Steelers are likely to sign a punter by Tuesday afternoon, it has to be a great comfort to know that Suisham is a capable leg if needed.
The Bad: Injuries and The Pain That Comes With Them
The Steelers have faced injuries all season long.
At some point you hope that you can hang in there long enough to see the skies clear, and that your team can get healthy at the right time.
Unfortunately for the Steelers the injuries, and major ones at that, keep coming.
The Steelers who have already lost the bigger part of their starting offensive line, and the replacements are certainly not immune to the injury bug either.
Starting right tackle Flozell Adams, who was brought in to replace Willie Colon after he tore his achilles tendon in OTA’s, suffered a high ankle sprain in the second half Sunday night.
With Jonathan Scott already being exploited on a consistent basis replacing Max Starks at the left tackle position, the Steelers are forced to turn to Trai Essex as a replacement for Adams on the right side.
Scott’s slow feet and short arms made Terrell Suggs the latest of a long list of opposing pass rushers to abuse Ben Roethlisberger for 60 minutes. Roethlisberger’s immobility perhaps emphasized just how little time he is being give on a down to down basis by his offensive line as it is.
The loss of punter Daniel Sepulveda may be the biggest loss of the night. A torn ACL in his right knee is the second time in his short career that he has finished the season on the IR due to ligament tears in the knee of his plant leg.
The Steelers will audition two punters Monday and Tuesday. Former Penn State standout Jeremy Kapinos, and Ricky Schmidtt will both have an opportunity to make the team, but Kapinos is the likely replacement for Sepulveda who was having a Pro Bowl type season for the Steelers.
Finally tight end Heath Miller was knocked out of the game by an unpenalized helmet to helmet hit Sunday night. Miller sustained a concussion and his status for next week is doubtful at this point. Not good when considering the fact that backup Matt Spaeth has been out with injury as well.
Coach Tomlin was quick to say that they would “line up the healthy players next week and keep moving forward”, but the Steelers have got to find a way to stay healthy, especially on the offensive side of the ball, if they are going to have a chance come post-season play.
The Bad:I nconsistency of Rules/The Effects On James Harrison’s Play
Unless the NFL is feeling sentimental and decides to send James Harrison a fine for old time’s sake, the Steelers finished the game Sunday night without a hit that should warrant any mail from the league office.
While Harrison seemed to play a much more controlled game yesterday, his statistical output reflected a player much more subdued in his mentality.
With just four tackles, one for a loss, a single quarterback hit, and a pass deflection he pulled up shy of delivering several hits Sunday night, and despite commanding consistent double teams on the line of scrimmage the results were unusual for Harrison.
Hines Ward, James Farrior, and team president Art Rooney II all weighed in on what they feel has been unfair treatment by the league.
Perhaps no one had more of a right criticize the league than James Harrison. After the game when asked what he thought of the lack of laundry on the field after several foul plays by the Ravens. Harrison, who likely would have been penalized and fined, was not shy about pointing out the inconsistencies in officiating, and he hasn’t been the only one.
The league fined both Haloti Ngata and Jameel McClain today after their hits broke the nose of Ben Roethlisberger and knocked tight end Heath Miller out of the game with a concussion respectively, but not without criticism.
While the league did fine the players at fault, the questions of what is illegal and legal in terms of hitting and conduct remains arbitrary at best, and it is truly affecting the game.
The Ugly: Bryant McFadden
Bryant McFadden has not been what the Steelers had hoped he would be after trading to bring him back from Arizona in the off-season, but he has certainly not been the worst defensive back on the Steelers’ roster this season.
Perhaps no one, Ravens’ players included, benefited more from McFadden’s horrific performance Sunday night in Baltimore than the much-maligned William Gay who has held most of the poor performance attention since 2008.
McFadden not only got beat by the likes of Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh repeatedly, but found himself the recipient of two interference flags that cost the Steelers the difference between getting off the field on third down and giving the Ravens new life.
The Ugly: Ben Roethlisberger’s Nose
After seeing Ben Roethlisberger’s face following the Steelers’ third offensive play of the game I had just one question as I searched for the runaway tool chest running down the field…
When did the Baltimore Ravens sign Kevin McCallister?
The Steelers’ quarterback had surgery on his broken nose this morning after having it turned sideways by Haloti Ngata Sunday night. While TMZ might not be waiting outside his door to see the latest version of his reconstructed honker, Steelers nation waits with bated breath to see what will emerge from the operating room.
The Steelers expect to see Roethlisberger miss some practice time this week leading up to their game against Cincinnati, but he is expected to play when their division rivals come to town this Sunday.
This won’t be the first reconstructive facial surgery Roethlisberger has had to undergo. Roethlisberger had to endure surgery following his motorcycle accident in 2006 as well.
While the Steelers managed to pull off a win in the biggest game of the season so far, they are from safe with regards to an easy path in the playoffs.
The team has four remaining games this season, two divisional games against the Bengals in week 14 and Cleveland to wrap up the season in week 17. While neither have been formidable opponents on a consistent basis this season, both bring their best when they strap it up against Pittsburgh.
The biggest test remaining will come in week 15 against the New York Jets, a team that could easily be a post-season roadblock depending on the outcome of the game next week against Cincinnati.
With the lack of consistent running game the Steelers are experiencing with their makeshift offensive line, and the continuation of questionable play calling in the red zone, the Steelers are going to have to rely on their defense to make a big play per game.
Unfortunately, Pittsburgh is not going to be able to rely on Isaac Redman breaking a few tackles on an ill-advised pass in the red zone to win every week. They are going to have to find a way to get healthy, and fast, if they hope to make a splash in the post-season.
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