Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Almost Game Day Already

The Steelers have beaten only one good quarterback this season and, on Thanksgiving Day, thank heaven, they get the chance to beat him again.

Joe Flacco, reigning Super Bowl MVP and owner of a $120.6 million contract, hasn't had a great season. He's thrown as many interceptions (14) as touchdowns, plus he's taken 37 sacks and coughed up six fumbles. Flacco's chronic inconsistency has prompted grumbling and second-guessing in Baltimore.

Fingertips: Jacoby Jones's 66-yard TD catch 
vs. Ed Reed and the Jets last Sunday
Still, though, Flacco throws the deep pass as well as any quarterback in the NFL, and his two long touchdown passes on a windy day in Baltimore were picture-perfect, never mind that he was fortunate to have Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith make excellent finger-tip, over-the-shoulder grabs in extended stride. It's a game of inches, and such are the plays on which games turn.

By the same token, it should be noted, Ben Roethlisberger was fortunate to have Detroit's Rashean Mathis and DeAndre Levy drop possible interceptions a week ago Sunday, just as Ike Taylor dropped two passes from Matt Stafford. That's part of the reason why guys like Mathis and Taylor are defensive players, and guys like Jones, Smith and the Steelers' own Antonio Brown are wide receivers. The receivers actually catch the ball, more often than not, when it hits their hands.

Back to Flacco: As The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston wrote,
"Flacco has his issues, but he is still in the Top 10 as far as quarterbacks, a notch below Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, but right up there with quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers."
Flacco's been up-and-down and off-and-on this season, so nobody can be sure which Joe Flacco will show up on Thursday. For no reason at all, we expect it will be the good Joe Flacco.

While the Steelers this year have beaten only one really good quarterback (Flacco), they've also lost to just one really good quarterback (Tom Brady).

The Steelers have lost to the following quarterbacks this season: Jake Locker (?!), Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler, Matt Cassell (?!!), Terrelle Pryor (?!!!) and Tom Brady.

Hopefully, on Thanksgiving Day, their resurgent defense will make a turkey out of Joe Flacco and the Ravens.

For the record, the motley collection of quarterbacks the Steelers have beaten this year are: rookie Geno Smith, Flacco, rookie E.J. Manuel, Matt Stafford (four more picks last Sunday) and the Browns' grotesque combination of Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden.

Cleveland QB Brandon Weeden fumbles.
Speaking of which: Cleveland fans must rue the memory of April 24, 2004, when the Browns used the sixth overall pick of the NFL draft to select tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. instead of Roethlsiberger, whom the Steelers selected with the 11th overall pick.

Roethlisberger is now 16-1 against the Browns and has helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls. Cleveland has not had more than five wins in a season since 2007, Winslow is hanging on with the Jets, and the Browns worked out Caleb Hanie as yet another backup-quarterback candidate off the street.

As Cleveland columnist Chris Fedor observed on Monday, "Yesterday's loss against Pittsburgh seems to have been the breaking point. Any hope that still remained, any excitement that was leftover from the Baltimore win three weeks ago has been zapped away."

All of which makes us thankful this Thanksgiving, once again, that we were born Steelers' fans instead of Browns' fans. 

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