Sunday, November 06, 2011

Steelers-Ravens Game Day: Squashing Grapes? Chewing Meat? Sharpening Iron?

Squashing grapes.
As if  the Steelers didn't have enough motivation, professional pride and self-respect, they still have to live down that season-opening 38-7 debacle in Baltimore, along with all the knee-jerk "punditry" of assorted jerks, blowhards, talking heads, bloggers, opponents, observers and fans across the country. 

That fiasco in Baltimore, which prompted speculation the Steelers are "old and slow," is on tape for all the world to see. 

As head coach Mike Tomlin said in his press conference the Tuesday following that Sept. 11 debacle: 

"There's a fine line between drinking wine and squashing grapes.  Obviously, last week, we were grape squashers. ... We got beat convincingly.  However tough the meat is, we'll chew on it."

Evidently, they've been chewing on it, having won five of the six games since then. This week, Tomlin said of the Steelers-Ravens rivalry:

"I'm a proponent of the iron sharpens iron theory. Anytime you compete against someone that's as committed as you are, it makes you stronger."

Let's hope the Steelers are steeled, sharp and strong for this one.

The Steelers cannot possibly turn the ball over seven times, as they did in Week One -- can they?

Lest we forget: Bryant McFadden and Anquin Bolden.
As noted earlier in the week, we wonder whether the Steelers will have answers for all that the Ravens threw at them Game One.
  • On defense: Especially disruptive on defense for the Ravens were nose tackle Haloti Ngata (two forced fumbles), safety Ed Reed (two interceptions), and linebackers Terrell Suggs, Jarrett Johnson and Ray Lewis, etc.
  • On offense, following the lead of fullback Vontae Leach, running backs Ray Rice and Ricky Williams ran wild all day; tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta roamed free in the secondary; Anquin Boldin victimized Bryant McFadden for a touchdown on the opening drive; and the offensive line just swallowed up the Steelers' pass russ, allowing Joe Flacco to stand relaxed, poised and unthreatened in the pocket.  
It was embarrassing.

The very next week, however, the Ravens laid an egg against the Tennessee Titans and have struggled off and on since then, most recently against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday and in an embarrassing display of offensive ineptitude against the New York Jets on a Monday night game a couple weeks back. It's fair to ask, which Ravens team will show up tonight?

Iron, not Iron City.
For that matter, it's fair to ask which Steelers team will show up. At least the Steelers seem to be getting better -- the latest evidence being last Sunday's dismantling of the New England Patriots and the previous week's convincing win over the Arizona Cardinals.

As much as the Steelers seemed to dominate those games, however, a few plays in each could have made for different outcomes. The Patriots were within one score at the end, and if Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb had completed a few key passes that he misfired badly, things might have gone the other way.

So much for that. At the end of tonight's game, we will know whether the Steelers or Ravens are sharpening iron or squashing grapes.