Holy crap! That was a barnburner.
I was sure we were going to blow that one in the 4th again, and they pretty much did, except this time, Ben was actually the Ben of old, or at least the Ben of last year. Here are my thoughts on the game:
* I can think of worse ways to start a game than hitting a 60-yard TD bomb on the first play. The defense must have been thinking, “Dude, what’s the hurry? We just sat down…” William Mike Wallace found so much Freedom behind the secondary, he came to a stop and waited for the ball and still had time to elude the cornerback and scamper into the end zone.
* Lawrence Timmons looked good early, rocking Green Bay QB Rogers a couple of good ones. Rogers was off target the rest of the quarter.
* How good did Mendenhall look getting into the end zone from the 2, on 3rd and 4th efforts. That’s what we’ve been missing in the red zone. This kid is really looking like something special.
* Green Bays outside linebacker Clay Matthews beat tackle Max Starks all game long. Matthews got around end on him like Starks was a 350 lb traffic barrel. Starks allowed 2 sacks on the day and almost 3, if Ben hadn’t gotten that incompletion call when he was hit while his arm was going forward. Add to that a false start penalty and a holding penalty on the last drive, the latter of which wiped out a nice gain.
* All the receivers came up big. Both Heath and Hines had over 100 yards receiving. Heath had a long rumble to set up their 3rd TD. He, Hines and Santonio all came up with big 1st down catches. On the final drive, Santonio went for 32 yards on 4th and 7. Heath grabbed a clutch ball on 3rd and 15.
* The Pack gift-wrapped a number of plays on that last drive, none bigger than wiping out their own game-ending interception with an illegal contact penalty. I even had in my notes, “obvious call” after seeing the replay. This is funny because when I woke up this morning, the sports guy on the radio, when talking about this game, immediately started squawking that Hines “bought a call”.
This is why I hate Ravens fans and media so much. Hines was running his route and got blasted. If this happens more than 5 yards downfield, it’s a penalty. There is no “buying” necessary. The defensive back, Brandon Chillar, even said the following: “I didn't see Hines," Chillar said. "I was going to a different spot and a different receiver and just ran into him. And they have to call that."
See that? The player says it’s a penalty. But all the Ratbird apologists can do is whine and complain and find conspiracies where there are none. And guaranteed, if it was Rattie receiver Derek Mason that bought a call, they’d be calling him a crafty veteran.
* While I understand the logic now, I hated the onside kick call in the 4th quarter, even before I saw we didn’t recover it. I saw it bouncing short and it was like I was yelling in slow motion… “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…”
I’m a proponent of just kicking it as far as you can and busting ass down the field to make a freakin’ tackle. If a professional team can’t master this basic procedure, they might as well pack it in.
That said, the play was there. There were 4 Steelers around the ball and one lineman for the Pack. Unfortunately, Ike Taylor was too busy “swaggin” to engage his brain and wait until the ball went 10 yards, before he reached out and grabbed it, thus nullifying the play and handing over the ball in Steelers territory. Fortunately, the fact that our defense immediately collapsed had the side benefit of giving Ben a full 2 minutes to move 80 yards. Which he did, with not a moment to spare.
* How cool was that last drive, huh? Also remember that by this time, all the other games across the league were over and the whole nation was watching this one. Maybe that’s what Ben needs to work that late-game magic. Who else is watching the Steelers play the dregs like the Browns or Raiders? Once all the football fans in the country are watching, Ben decides to show up. And with the Ratbirds game over, the whole bar was hooting and hollering like Ray Lewis just scowled at someone.
You can always tell when Ben is going to complete a pass. When he has time, he’ll square up, plant that foot, and Zing! Ball arrives on a line at the receiver, usually right between the numbers, or in this case, right where it had to be, away from a reaching defender. When Ben hit Wallace on that last pass with no time remaining, the bar just went quiet. Well, except for me, who was laughing like a mad scientist.
Had to cut that short though, until I could they showed a replay and see if those toes were down. But you could tell immediately that the feet were down. It wasn’t even close. If the Steelers somehow manage to wrangle their way into the playoffs, this game will be legendary. If not, it’s just one highlight from a dismal year.
If the Steelers had managed to win one prior game this year, they would control their own playoff destiny. One field goal against the Bears… one TD catch not dropped against the Bengals… one touchdown against the league’s worst defense up in Cleveland, and the playoffs would be in reach.
But really, I can’t complain. In 2009, the Steelers won the Super Bowl and the Pens won the Stanley Cup. How greedy do I really want to be?
OK, don’t answer that.