Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Beware the Silverback

Tweedle-dee Ed Reed … calling Ed Reed … Ed Reed, is there anybody in there?

The echoes in Ed Reed’s cranial cavity this morning, courtesy of ding-dong pancake hits from James Harrison and Hines Ward, are likely the loudest noise out of Baltimore’s locker room today. Other than the usual finger-pointing and complaining, presumably there won’t be much bluster or braggadocio today from Bal’more linebacker Ray “Scissorhands” Lewis or the rest of the Cleveland Browns of Baltimore, as The Christmas Ape over at D.C. Steeler Nation calls them.

No, not when the quiet and menacing James Harrison — Silverback — did his best impersonation of a Ray Lewis at his best, or in his best dreams, without a knife. If anything, Harrison’s performance suggested the best of a morphed, hybrid combination of Joey Porter and Ray Lewis in their respective heydays.

“It's a little more satisfying because it's Baltimore.” Harrison said afterwards of his monster game against the team that cut him before the 2004 season. (Actually, that would be one of the teams that cut him, as the Steelers’ Bill Cowher also cut him — twice! Nice talent evaluation there, Bill).

The Silverback set the tone early and wreaked mayhem all night: Nine tackles, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, one recovered fumble, one interception, one pass defensed and six quarterback hurries, one of which produced an intentional grounding penalty on the Ravens’ Steve McNair, who looks even more shot than he did at the beginning of the season.

About Harrison, linebacker Clark Haggans said,"They should have put him in on offense and let him run the ball or throw a touchdown."

"I want to know what he ate,” said linebacker James Farrior. “I want to know what he had for breakfast. I want the same thing. He had all of them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, everything. That was one of the most amazing performances I’ve seen out of a linebacker, probably ever.”

added one extremely emphatic flattening of Reed on a punt return that produced a Pop-Tart fumble recovered by Lawrence Timmons. Later, Hines Ward knocked Reed flat with a devastating block, which forced Reed to the sidelines with parakeets chirping in his head.

Reed, whom Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians called the best safety in the NFL (no disrespect to Troy Polamalu), is a great player. Why was he returning punts?

Genius head coach Brian Billick put Reed on punt-return duty because the Ravines’ regular return specialist, Yamon Figurs has three fumbles already this season. You’d think Billick could have put somebody else back there, say, a backup wide receiver or anybody else. No, Billick had to put Reed, arguably their best player, back to return punts, in the rain, on a slick field. The Baltimore coaching staff sure outsmarted the Steelers on that one, didn’t they?

Nearly Perfect
Billick and his staff also had no answers for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had his own monster game. Roethlisberger completed 13-of-16 passes for five (!) touchdowns, 209 yards and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. For all the pregame talk from Arians that the Steelers planned to run the ball, the Ravens’ depleted secondary, playing without starting cornerbacks Chris McAllister and Samari Rolle, proved too tempting a target for Roethliberger. The aggressive and opportunistic Roethlisberger converted each of the Ravens’ four first-half turnovers into touchdown to bury the Ravens long before the halftime ceremony honoring the Steelers’ 75th anniversary team.

Three of those touchdowns might not have happened, though, if not for Harrison’s role in forcing the turnovers that preceded each. For all of Roethlisberger’s heroics, Harrison put on a show that should shut up, once and for all, anybody who doubted whether he would be a suitable replacement for the now-departed Joey Porter.

Of his performance last night, Harrison said, “I would hope it's just a start.” If so, look out, NFL.

Next victim: The franchise currently known as the Cleveland Browns of Cleveland.


Dissa ‘n Datta

  • Roethlisberger’s five touchdown passes obscured the fact that the Steelers did in fact run the ball. Not very effectively, but they did run the ball for 90 yards on 39 rushing plays for a mere 2.3 yards per carry. Well, at least they tried.
  • Still, they dominated time of possession (more than 36 minutes), as the Steelers defense limited the Ravines to 104 net yards for an average gain of two yards per offensive play. Let that sink in for a second: The Ravines' inept offense, masterminded by the genius Brian Billick, averaged 2.0 yards per offensive play. That ain't good. Can we anticipate even more finger-pointing in Baltimore?
  • Steve McNair had the fewest yards passing in NFL history (63) by a quarterback who completed at least 13 passes.
  • The Ravines tied a team record for the fewest first downs in team history with five, and they set a record for the fewest net yards in team history with 104.

  • As noted over at Pittsburgh Sports & Mini Ponies, "San Antonio" had more receiving yards (110) than Baltimore had total yards (104).
  • Curiously, the Ravines last night racked up a mere 45 yards on a whopping 11 penalties.

  • Ben Roethlisberger is nominated for the "FedEx Air Player of the Week." FedEx awards a $5,000 check to the local children's hospital in the winning player's city. Click on the link below to vote for Ben and maybe score some dough for the local pediatric hospital:
  • Not to look past Cleveland or anybody else on the schedule, but over at MSNBC.com. there’s a nice column by Mike Celzic, who says the Steelers are the best hope — no, the only hope — to topple The Evil Empire that is the New England Patriots:

“It’s a tall order. Pittsburgh looked terrific against the Ravens. But stopping Baltimore’s offense was as hard as stopping a runaway tricycle, and the Ravens’ depleted defense could no more stop Roethlisberger than a cocker spaniel can solve quadratic equations. In other words, beating the Ravens isn’t what it used to be.”

“And as good as the Steelers looked, it’s impossible to forget that the two games they’ve lost have been to the Broncos and the Cardinals, two teams whose combined record after Week 9 is 6-10. And their wins have been against these powerhouses: the Browns, Bills, 49ers, Seahawks and Bungles. Of that list of opponents, only Cleveland has a winning record. So it’s not as if they’ve been tested by whatever passes for the NFL’s best this season.”

“But the Steelers are all there is standing between New England and perfection. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi was to the rebels, they’re our only hope of stopping the NFL’s Evil Empire.”

“The game will be in New England, which will make it even more daunting for the Steelers. But, if there’s any team you’d want to stop the Patriots’ assault on perfection, who better than Pittsburgh?”

“It should be the Dolphins’ job to stop teams who would join the 1972 Fish as the league’s only undefeated team. They’re so protective of the record, let them stop the Patriots. But Miami is so bad, it might have trouble beating Notre Dame.”

“So it falls by default to the Steelers, and Roethlisberger is the key.”


Afternoon Addition:

“That was as good of a one-man-wrecking-crew performance as you'll ever see. ... If the Ravens offense played him 11-on-1 last night, I'm guessing the final score would've been about 38-12, Steelers. He was just like Joey Porter in his prime for Pittsburgh ... except 735 times better.

"In fact, if Joey Porter was watching that game last night, I bet even he was sitting there thinking, "Wow, they made a good decision to get rid of me."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Steelers Suck