Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Stache Report: Ravens vs. Steelers

- We like to throw around the term “meast” around these parts (for those who don’t know, a “meast” is a “half-man, half-beast.” I wish I could take credit for it, but I cannot.) Monday night James Harrison was a legitimate “meast.” Was there anything he didn’t do? 9 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and an INT. Simply put, it was the best performance I have ever seen by a Steelers linebacker. It can only be rivaled by Joey Porter’s performance in a Week 2 Sunday Night game against Oakland in 2002, where Porter recorded 11 tackles, 3 sacks, and two INTs. Still, Harrison’s game was better. And it’s not like he’s focusing only on outside linebacker. He’s one of our better special teams players as well. Is there any doubt the Steelers made the right decision in releasing Porter? Let’s compare: Harrison signed a 4-year, $5.5 million contract with $1.35 million guaranteed with the Steelers in 2006. Porter signed a 5-year, $32 million with $20 million guaranteed this offseason with the Dolphins. Harrison’s stats from Monday’s game, again: 9 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, INT. Porter’s stats for the ENTIRE 2007 season: 27 tackles, 1 sack, 0 forced fumbles, 0 INT. You do the math.

- On the other side of the ball, what can you say about Ben Roethlisberger. The guy is on pace for 40 touchdowns this season. What I like even better is that he’s on pace for only 12 INTs. It’s impossible to bring the guy down. He just brushes off defenders like it’s nothing, casually rolls out, and finds a wide open receiver. Sure, the Ravens were missing both their starting cornerbacks. In my opinion that didn’t matter much, because both Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle are shells of their former self. As a cornerback, I can’t imagine how tough it is to face a guy who can move around like Ben can. You can only hold your coverage for so long, and it’s easy for wide receivers to break off their routes and find an open spot in the coverage. He’s also a threat to run, which means as a defensive back you have to make a decision whether to come up and stop the scramble or stick with your coverage at the expense of some rushing yards.

- One thing that was purely evident to me after watching the game is how tight of a group this team is. They’re constantly supporting each other, and it’s not just limited to guys at the same position. You saw Keisel and Holmes hugging and celebrating on the sideline after his first TD. How often do you see a defensive end and wide receiver celebrating after a touchdown? Then there was Willie Colon backing up Jeff Reed when Skippy went after Trevor Pryce. And then there was Big Ben shrugging off injury to check back into the game to, in his words, “be there for my guys.” These guys genuinely like each other. They are bonding well under Tomlin, and that can only be a good thing as the season progresses. All you have to do is look to Cincinnati to see what can happen when there is turmoil within the lockerroom.

- Speaking of Ben checking back into the game, this was an absolutely boneheaded move by Tomlin. The score is 38-7 in the 4th quarter. I don’t care if Ben had something so much as a hangnail and had to come out for only one play. Once he came out of the game due to the injury, he should have never been let back in. Hell, he probably should have been pulled before the injury occurred. Ben probably came up to Tomlin and told him he was fine, but it’s Tomlin’s job to step in and tell him no. There was absolutely nothing to gain from him coming back in there. Luckily, he came out of the game without any further damage, but I know I was cringing when he went down on that last sack.

- For how right I was about the Detroit Lions, you can equally say how wrong I was about the Ravens, my Super Bowl pick for this season. I should have realized how old this team was. I thought Steve McNair had a couple of good seasons left, but it looks like he doesn’t. Jonathan Ogden is breaking down. The secondary is in shambles. The front 7 is still very good, and they didn’t allow much operating room for the Steelers run game. But when you have a quarterback that looks finished, an offensive line and secondary decimated by injuries, and 3 division losses already, it’s safe to say that the Ravens can probably start making vacation plans for January.

- Lost in the shuffle of this dominating performance was the fact that the first Steeler offensive lineman benched in the blowout was Kendall Simmons, who was replaced by Chris Kemoeatu. I don’t know what to make of this, but I can tell you that Simmons is going to be a liability for the rest of the season. He’s good for one holding penalty and one false start per game. I cannot believe he got an extension. Seriously, just focus on him from time to time. Do you trust him against guys like John Henderson and Marcus Stroud in Jacksonville? Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour in New England?

- Good to see Troy back to his active self. He forced the McGahee fumble and registered 7 tackles. One guy that needs to return is Aaron Smith. The run defense was good for the most part, but what was troubling was McGahee’s 33-yard TD run. It was run right in the spot where Aaron Smith would have been holding his ground. In his place was a gaping hole because Kirschke got abused on the play.

- Big game next week against the Stains. Who would have thought that would be the case after we kicked their ass in week 1? Scoring points shouldn’t be a problem. The Browns are ranked dead last in pass defense, and opposing quarterbacks have an average QB rating of 94.0 against them. They rank 27th in run defense, allowing 4.6 yards per carry. And they’re also allowing a league high 411 yards per game. They are winning games because of their offense. I’m not a full believer in Derek Anderson yet. How can a guy go from not being able to beat out Charlie Frye to becoming what people are saying is a Pro-Bowl caliber quarterback, all in the span of 8 weeks? He’ll be exposed at some point, and it very well might be this week. The rest of the offense has been better than expected. Jamal Lewis is running hard, just like in his early years with Baltimore. Winslow, Edwards, and Jurevicius worry me, because they can cause matchup problems with their size. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that this is the same old Browns, and the way the Steelers are playing right now you get the sense they’re going to get on a roll. With games against the Browns, Jets, Dolphins, and Bengals coming up, it just might be that time.

End of Post

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