Monday, January 31, 2011

Know Your Enemy: Green Bay Packers Defense

Yesterday we took a look at the Green Bay Packers offense. Here's a look at the guys that will be lining up opposite Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense.

Defensive Line
Ryan Pickett, BJ Raji, Cullen Jenkins

This might be one of the most surprising units on the Packers defense. On paper, they might not look very sound. The Packers averaged 4.7 yards per carry against their defense, ranking only 28th in the league. Raji was the only one of the group to be on the top 10 on the team in tackles, registering only 39 on the season. However, what they lack in run defense, they make up for in pass rushing. Of the Packers 47 sacks, 33% came from their defensive line. Jenkins had only 18 tackles on the season, but 7 of them were sacks. Raji had 6.5 sacks.

Clay Matthews, AJ Hawk, Desmond Bishop, Erik Walden

Clay Matthews is an absolute beast. He had 2 sacks against the Steelers last year and was up in Ben's business all game. Matthews was 4th in the league with 13.5 sacks on the season. Matthews had 60 tackles on the season, about the average for a big-time pass-rusher not named James Harrison (who racked up 100 tackles on the season). AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop in the middle were the Packers tackling leaders, both racking up over 100 on the season. They produced a few splash plays, with Bishop producing 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and an interceptions. Hawk had 3 interceptions but only half a sack. 

Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Brandon Underwood

In my game recap from last year's Steelers-Packers game, I had this to say about the Packers DBs: 
"Green Bay had to call in a medic to the locker room after the game to deal with the 3rd degree burns their defensive backs had."
Charles Woodson did win Defensive Player of the Year last year, meaning that the last 3 Defensive Players of the Year will be playing in the Super Bowl. That's pretty cool. Tramon Williams has had a great season, pulling down 6 interceptions. Sam Shields made a big-time interception in the NFC Championship game to seal the deal. The Packers corners are opportunistic and have great ball skills. If there's a pass that's underthrown, chances are they'll be going the other way with it. Don't sleep on this group.

Nick Collins, Charlie Peprah

These guys are a couple of ballhawks in the back. Between the two of them they had six interceptions on the season. They ranked 4th and 5th on the team in tackles, respectively, meaning that they'll be up in the box giving support in run defense. On the whole, the Packers secondary is a group that creates a lot of turnovers and can change the course of a game. They were 2nd in the league with 24 interceptions on the season and 5th in Pass Defense. Top-to-bottom this is a solid unit that has only given up over 250 yards passing 3 times this season, to Detroit, Washington, and the New York Giants.

Tim Masthay

Pretty much an average punter by most accounts. Masthay averaged 43.9 yards per kick this year, good for 14th in the league. The only number in the punting game that strayed from the average was more a reflection on the coverage than the punter: Green Bay was 24th in the league, allowing an average of 11 yards per return. 

So there you have it. Hopefully you have a little better perspective on the Dramatis Personae that will be wearing green jerseys on Sunday night. Stay tuned the rest of the week, we've got some good stuff coming your way!

Go Steelers!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Know Your Enemy: Green Bay Packers Offense

On paper, the Green Bay Packers have a fantastic offense. They were in the top 10 in both total offense and points scored. They ranked 5th in passing yards and 4th in passing touchdowns.

If they have a weakness, it's been their running game, which has struggled to find its legs since Ryan Grant got hurt early in the season. They ranked 24th in the league in rushing offense, but that might have been more a facet of the fact that they threw the ball 120 more times than they ran it last season.

Here's a quick look at what the Steelers defense is up against.


Aaron Rodgers & Matt Flynn

Aaron Rodgers has become the media darling during the 2010 playoffs and has been referred to as the "quarterback of destiny," whatever that means. Rodgers has been nothing short of outstanding for much of his career in Green Bay. It's pretty clear that getting rid of Brett Favre was the right decision to move this franchise forward. When Rodgers went down with his second concussion this season, Flynn was able to step in and be serviceable. In fact, he almost led the Pack to victory on a Monday Night against the Patriots. 

Running Backs

James Starks, Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn

The emergence of rookie James Starks has given Green Bay's rushing attack a bit more of a punch than it had for most of the season. Starks is a downhill power runner that has enabled Green Bay to have success running the ball out of their spread formations. Somewhat surprisingly, John Kuhn is the only player on the Packers roster with a Super Bowl ring, which he got when he was a member of the Steelers practice squad. Kuhn is a fan-favorite in Green Bay as a combo blocking back, short-yardage back, and receiver out of the backfield.

Wide Receivers

Greg Jennings, Donald Driver,  Jordy Nelson, James Jones

Green Bay has one of the deepest receiving units in the league. Nelson and Jones could probably start for about half of the teams in the league. Driver has been an institution in Green Bay, racking up over 9600 yards in his 12 year career with the Pack. Much like Hines Ward, Driver is most dangerous near the goal line and always seems to find the end zone. Jennings has emerged as one of the best down-the-field receivers in the league. He has breakaway speed once he gets the ball in his hands. He has surpassed 1100 yards in each of his last 3 seasons, averaging over 16 yards per catch. All 4 of Green Bay's receivers will see time on the field. The one thing in our favor is that, unlike New England's offense which is based on dink-and-dunk underneath passes, Green Bay's offense is more based on throwing the ball downfield. All 4 of Green Bay's main receivers averaged over 11 yards per catch.

Tight Ends

Andrew Quarless, Donald Lee

Those of you Penn State fans will remember the name Andrew Quarless. Niether Quarless nor Lee are the receiving threat that Jermichael Finley was before he suffered a season-ending injury. In the Steelers-Packers game last year, Finley torched the Steelers defense with 9 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. Since Finley got injured, the Packers have failed to utilize their tight ends in the way Finley was used. In 5 games Finley had 21 catches for 301 yards and 1 TD. On the season, Quarless had 21 catches, 238 yards, and 1 TD and Lee had 11 catches, 73 yards, and 3 TDs.

Offensive Line

Chad Clifton, Daryn Colledge, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton, Bryan Bulaga

According to Football Outsiders, the Packers line ranked 23rd in the league in run blocking and 21st in pass protection. The Packers spent their first round pick on tackle Bryan Bulaga from Iowa, and their pass protection was decidedly improved this season. In 2009 the Packers line ranked 30th in pass protection, giving up a league-high 51 sacks. This season they improved to 19th in the league with 38 sacks surrendered. 


Mason Crosby

I'm not gonna lie. Crosby might be one of my favorite kickers in the league. He has a monster leg, but he didn't have a great year, converting only 78.6% of his kicks. However, 4 of his 6 misses came from over 40 yards. In the playoffs, his only miss came from over 50 yards. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011



Wow. What a season this has been. We're incredibly thankful just to have been along for the ride.

How great is it to be a Steelers fan? Seriously. Fans of other teams around the league would probably give their left nut to play in an AFC Championship game, let alone host one. The Steelers have now played in 8 AFC Championship Games since 1994, 7 of those have been at home. I was talking to some people before the game, and there were a lot of people that have been to most of those, myself included.

Before the game, I said to the guy next to me, "We can run on this team. Mendenhall had 99 on 17 carries last game. Imagine what he could have done with 25 carries?"

Question answered.


Wiz Khalifa kicks things off with Black and Yellow.

The Jets win the toss and defer. Stupid Jets fans start up a J-E-T-S chant because they won the toss. That was about the only thing that went well for them in the first half.

Martina McBride sings the national anthem after a delay so that television can catch up. Nothing like announcing for fans to remove their hats in sub-20-degree weather then saying "Oh, we have to wait for Jim Nantz and CBS to come back from commercial break." Yeah, the NFL really cares about their ticket-buying fans.

The Steelers come out and put together one of the greatest drive in AFC Championship Game history. Rashard Mendenhall, behind the Steelers offensive line, just dominated the Jets defense, which was the #3 run defense in the league. The drive gets a kick-start when Cromartie gets flagged for a penalty. Ben barely had to throw because of how freaking good the line and Mendenhall was. The Steelers get within striking distance and Ben goes for Heath inside the 5. Heath makes a diving grab, but Rex challenges and Heath bobbled the ball when he hit the ground. The crowd was pissed, but it was the right call. Two plays later, Ben shows who the best #7 in the state is by taking off on 3rd and 12 and diving forward to pick up the first down. Ben hits Hines to move it down to the 1 when disaster strikes.

Maurkice Pouncey stays down after the play and grabs his lower leg. Uh-oh. While he's down, the crowd starts a "POUN-CEY, POUN-CEY" chant. Amazing. What a display for a rookie. Pouncey limps off, not even putting weight on his leg. Shit.

Bronco Legursky comes in to play center. Bart Scott couldn't wait to get run over by Rashard Mendenhall at the goal line.


15 plays. 92 yards. 9:06 off the clock. What a drive.


The Jets get the ball with under 6 minutes to go in the quarter. Sanchez converts a 3rd down then the Jets pick up more yardage on two penalties. The Steelers defense locks it down after the Jets cross midfield. 

The Steelers take over and Mendenhall goes right back to work. He picks up 31 yards on 3 carries. What a first half from Raise Some.

Second Quarter

The Steelers get near midfield and get the benefit of the Harrison Rule when Sanders gets clocked in the head by a Jets defender. Clearly a shot to a defenseless receiver, but the Jets fans in our section thought it was the worst call ever. Mendenhall gets it to 3rd and 1 at the Jets 32 but Redman gets stuffed. Tomlin opts to go for it on 4th and 1 and inexplicably calls a pass play. The pass bounces off Mendenhall's hands and gets picked off.

The Jets go 3-and-out and Weatherford shanks a punt.

Ben goes play-action and takes a shot deep for Wallace who has a step on Revis. Ben underthrows the ball, giving Revis the opportunity to get back in the play.
So close.

Even though the deep ball didn't work, Mendenhall  did some serious damage, bouncing one down the sideline for 35 yards down the sideline. Isaac Redman comes in and grinds his way down to the 5. I love the way Redman runs. Never stops moving his legs. The offense can't punch it in but Suisham converts.


The Jets go 3-and-out again. LOLJets.

Ben makes two big throws to Heath and Manny Sanders to move us into scoring territory. Raise Some has a great chance to score when Ben hits him on a swing pass, but he slips when he tries to cut at the 2. Two plays later, Michael Vick Ben Roethlisberger takes it in.


The defense comes out feeding off the momentum of the offense. LaMarr Woodley brings the pain, keeping his postseason sack streak alive.
What a picture.

Two plays later, Dick LeBeau shows why he is the best defensive coordinator in the NFL, drawing up an insane blitz where Ike and Willie Gay come from Sanchez's blind side while Troy is manned up on Tone on the outside. Ike comes in untouched and knocks the ball out of Sanchez's hand. Big Play Willie Gay scoops it up and takes it back TO THE HOUSE.


The booth reviewed the call, but his arm wasn't moving forward (and the ball went backwards, so it wouldn't have mattered if his hand was moving forward).

The Jets take over with 1:13 left in the half. To be honest, no one would have been surprised if they just kneeled it out. Hell, Sanchez's arm was just dangling off his shoulder after he got hit by Ike. Instead, Sanchez comes out hitting Brad Smith and Dustin Keller on some underneath routes to move the Jets into field goal range. Sanchez takes two shots deep for Holmes and Edwards but neither connect. Nick Folk hits a field goal.



That was probably the best half of football the Steelers have played in years. The Jets had about 8 minutes in time of possession and 1 rushing yard in the first half. But there's a reason games are 60 minutes, just like why the Super Bowl Trophy isn't handed out in September.

Third Quarter

To their credit, the Jets didn't abandon the run game even though they were down 21 points. Greene busts a 23-yarder to get their drive going, then Tone makes as appearance on his patented 3rd down slant route. Sanchez goes play-action on the next play and chucks it downfield for Tone who has two steps over Ryan Clark and is able to pull it in for the touchdown.

Ike Taylor fell down on the play. It happens.


The offense sputters, going 3 and out but catching a break on a roughing the punter call. Moore makes a 3rd down grab and gets upended by Cromartie but still moves the chains. The drive goes to hell when Ben fumbles a snap then makes a bad throw for a wide open Manny Sanders that gets picked off. Sanders was wide open at the 5. Ben threw it to the inside and it got picked. If he throws that for the pylon it's an easy 6.

The defense holds the Jets to another 3-and-out.

Arians comes out with the run-run-pass motif offense, and Ben is able to convert two 3rd downs with his feet. 
Yes, I said feet. Calm down, Rex.

The offense moves into Jets territory but then backtracks when Ben gets sacked twice. Those were the only two sacks of the game, so all in all, it wasn't a bad performance by the line.

Sanchez hits Edwards on a post route across the middle to get their drive started.

Fourth Quarter

You felt that knot in your stomach start to grow as the fourth quarter started. We've been to this rodeo before. The Jets had all the momentum, and they were moving the ball. Sanchez used a lot of short passes to move the Jets down the field. Slowly and methodically picking the Steelers defense apart. Greene converted a 4th and 1 to keep the drive alive. The Jets eventually got down to the 1, but the defense stacked it up and shut down LT on 4th and goal from the 1.
Big-time stand by the defense

The best part of that drive? The Jets were in no hurry to score and wound up taking 8 minutes off the clock.

The Steelers took over with 7:44 to go, but were backed up at their own 1. Ben can't handle a snap from Legursky and falls on it in the end zone for the safety.

Ugh. Not this again.


Sanchez gets the ball back and goes to work on our defense again. He hits Edwards for a big gain to get into Steelers territory. The defense holds to another 4th and 1, but Sanchez converts, going to the air and hitting Edwards on a slant route. The Jets pick things up after that, going to a no huddle offense with under 5 minutes to play. The Steelers do a great job keeping the Jets receivers in bounds and keeping the clock rolling as the Jets pick their way down to the 11. Sanchez converts a 3rd down with a quick out to Keller then goes to Cotchery on the other side on what looked to be very close to a pick play.


The Steelers bring out their hands team to defend against the onsides kick with 3 minutes to play, but the Jets opt to kick it deep to Antonio Brown, who rips off a 27-yard return out to the 41. That return was simply huge. It meant, at the worst, the Steelers would be able to pin the Jets back around their 20 if they had to punt. The Jets had 3 timeouts, so the game was far  from over.

Mendenhall stuffed. Timeout.

Knowing that 2 first downs would win the game, Tomlin and Arians decide to go for it. Ben hits Heath to move the chains. The Jets use their second timeout.

Mendenhall gets 2 more carries and gets 2 each time as the Jets use their last timeout and the clock hits 2:00. Big-time decision. Run the ball and pin the Jets deep with 1:20 to go and no timeouts? Or pass the ball and try to win the game while risking the clock stopping on an incompletion?

Ben comes out and spreads the field, reminiscent of the Jaguars playoff game in '07 when they ran a QB draw and punted in a similar scenario. Not this time. Ben rolls right and lobs one up for Antonio Brown who goes down and gets it to secure the win.

6th round draft pick out of Central Michigan makes the two biggest catches of the postseason.





Hines Ward and James Harrison literally climbed into the stands and were celebrating with the fans. How awesome is that?



Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Rashard Mendenhall
Defensive Game Ball: Ike Taylor & Willie Gay

Honorable Mentions:
LaMarr Woodley
Antonio Brown
Doug Legursky
Ziggy Hood
Casey Hampton
Ben Roethlisberger
Heath Miller

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game

Port Authority of Allegheny County

I hate to put a blemish on this great game, but the Port Authority service after the game was downright horrid. The Wood Street T station was packed but we still had to wait almost a half hour for a train to come. I know the Port Authority is broke and everything, but you would still think they'd put more trolleys out the night of the AFC Championship Game. And if not more, at least the ones with 2 cars so that they can fit more people and it's not like a sardine can of winter coats inside.

Final Thoughts

Tomlin summed it all up perfectly, we have nothing else to say:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

AFC Championship Gameday: New York Jets

Heinz Field
Radio: 102.5 WDVE

What To Watch For

1. Running the Ball

The Jets have had success running the ball all season. They ran for over 100 yards as a team against the Steelers either this year. Furthermore, they were able to use their ground game to control the clock against both New England and Indianapolis and keep Tom Brady and Peyton Manning off the field. However, the Colts were 25th in the league in run defense and had a secondary decimated by injury. The Patriots were 11th in the league in run defense but 25th in the league in total defense. On the other side, the Steelers had the best run defense, not only in the league this year, but one of the best in league history, allowing barely over 1000 yards on the whole season. The next closest team, the Chicago Bears, allowed over 400 yards more than the Steelers did on the ground. That's incredible. On the other side, Rashard Mendenhall had 99 yards against the Jets the last time we played them. For the team that was #3 in the league in run defense, it's a great sign that the Steelers were able to exert themselves in the trenches and have success running the ball. The team that runs the ball better will most likely win this game.

2. Special Teams

In the first game against the Jets, Special Teams made the difference in the game. The Steelers gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown on the opening play of the game. Later, the Jets punter pinned the Steelers back at their own 2 yard line, which led to a safety, giving the Jets a 5-point lead. That safety was one of the deciding factors in the game, as it forced the Steelers to go for a touchdown rather than a game-tying field goal.

3. Defensive Backs

Darrelle Revis is one of the best corners in the league. We know that. We've heard it all week. But on the other side, while Antonio Cromartie is tall and physical, he can be beat with underneath routes and isn't a very good tackler. Last game, Cromartie covered Wallace and Revis covered Ward. Wallace had over 100 yards receiving and Manny Sanders had a big game. If the Steelers are going to succeed, they are going to need to create matchups, either out of the slot or simply by spreading the Jets out and making their 3rd and 4th defensive backs cover guys like Sanders, Brown, and Heath Miller. On the other side, Ike Taylor is one of the most under-rated players in the league. He drew Santonio Holmes last game and figures to do the same this game, but don't be surprised to see him opposite Braylon Edwards a few times. Edwards had a great game last time the Jets were in Pittsburgh, and it will be interesting to see if the Steelers march out Ike Taylor or the B-Mac/Willie Gay tandem to cover Edwards.

4. Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller

In the first game against the Jets, there were a few key plays that turned the tide of the game. Matt Spaeth, filling in for the injured Heath Miller, was targeted 8 times but had only 3 catches. Two of those "targets" came on the last two plays of the game where he inadvertently knocked a touchdown pass away from Manny Sanders then couldn't make a catch on the sidelines on the last play of the game. You've got to believe that Heath will have a better game this week thans Spaeth did earlier this season. Secondly, Ryan Mundy had a sure-fire shot to sack Sanchez when he came untouched on a blitz. Mundy missed Sanchez, turning a sack into a first down and more when Sanchez chucked it downfield for Braylon Edwards. You have to think that Troy and Heath will make a world of difference in this game.

5. Ed Hochuli

"Guns" has been given the honor of officiating the AFC Championship game. Ed and his crew are known for throwing a lot of flags and calling a lot of penalties. That said, here's to hoping that the penalties are fair, particularly with regards to the Jets offensive line holding James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

Behind Enemy Lines

This week's Behind Enemy Lines guest is Eric M from Jets Twit, a site about the Jets and social media. Hit up Eric on Twitter. He'll be at the game, so not sure how much bashing he'll hear.

1. The Jets have made a '05 Steelers-esque run through the playoffs, beating the #3 and #1 seed to reach the AFC Championship Game against the #2 seed. What have you been most impressed with from the Jets in their second straight run to the AFC Championship Game?

The fact that the Jets defeated Peyton Manning AND Tom Brady on the road in back to back games.  It was the first time in history a team accomplished that. 

2. Mark Sanchez, while not having a statistically great game the last time these two teams met, was very effective throwing the ball. The Jets running game gave them enough against the Steelers defense to let Sanchez manage the game rather than force him to make the plays to beat us. Do you think the Jets will stick with their run-first mentality they have held against the weaker run defenses of Indy and New England or will they open it up and attack the Steelers through the air?

I believe the Jets always attempt to start fast with attempt being the key word.  They are very slow starters.  They want to put up points first, so they may mix in the run and pass to get going and if they are able to put up a lead, they will start to slow the game down and keep the other offense off the field.  This was exactly the formula they used the past two weeks.  Now they are going to need big plays once again from the defense and special teams.  By causing the other team to make mistakes, they were able to capitalize with field position and then scoring.  The offense has not been able to do it alone.

If you're a Steelers fan, re-read that last sentence. That pretty much sums up everything you need to know.

3. What Steeler worries you the most? What matchup do you think favors the Steelers the most? Which matchup favors the Jets the most?

Big Ben.  He plays big and is a very difficult force to bring down.  Even when a defender seems to have him, Ben can muscle himself out of the issue and make a play.  He scares me.  

The Steelers run defense is impressive.  In the previous matchup this season, they held the Jets to 3.9 yards per carry with a total of 106 yards.  It forced Mark to win the game by going to the air to Braylon Edwards and we relied on Brad Smith's kick return.  He is hurt but I'm hoping Cromartie can continue to be successful.

The Jets Braylon Edwards matches well against your DBs.  His last game he was Mark's main target with 8 REC for 100 yards.  He has been playing big in the playoffs and I look for him and Holmes to have big games.

4. In the lead-up to this game, a lot of the talk has been centered on Ben Roethlisberger vs Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes vs his old team, and Wallace/Ward vs Revis/Cromartie. However, in the last game it was Jason Taylor who made the biggest play of the game. Are there any "under the radar" players you think will have a big impact on this game?

Don't fall asleep on Dustin Keller.  If the Steelers focus on the WR's, Dustin has proven he can have very big games this season.  I think he matches up well as he plays more like a WR than a TE and may have the speed advantage on your linebackers.

5. Any other final thoughts?

The New York Jets have won only ONCE on the road in the State of PA.  I'm hoping they can make it consecutive wins at Heinz Field to send them to their first Super Bowl in 42 YEARS!   I will be at the game cheering on Gang Green in section 122 Row S.  J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!! 

Neither the Jets nor the Steelers have been known this season for starting fast. However, if the Steelers can get out to an early lead and take the Jets running game out of the game, they'll put the ball in Mark Sanchez's hands and force him to make throws to beat us.

Win or lose, this is the last time the Steelers will step onto Heinz Field this season. Let's give them a send-off they'll never forget!



Happy Birthday Myron.


Monday, January 17, 2011

And So It Begins

As improbable as it seemed just a few days ago, it happened.

As they say, any given Sunday, any team can win.

Man, I could spend all day watching Patriots fans wallow in their misery.

Sniff, sniff waaaaaaaah

He also fails to associate Brady's postseason shortcomings with SpyGate.

Yeah, we went there.

Brady & Belicheat are 0-2 in the playoffs since their Super Bowl loss to the Giants.

If you want an even better example, take a look at their record against the rival Jets.

From 2003 through the end of 2007, the Pats were 10-1 against the Jets
Then, from 2008 to present, the Pats are 3-4 against the Jets.

But let's move forward.

The Pats, like 4 of the last 6 #1 seeds in the AFC, failed to win their first playoff game.

And now, the New York Jets are coming to Pittsburgh.

...and I think we all remember what happened last time the J-E-T-S came to Heinz Field.

But things will be different this time.

Last game, when the Steelers were downed 22-17, they were without the services of Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller.

Um...say what?

Yeah, that's what we thought.

So the New York Jets have beaten Indianapolis and New England. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

That's nothing to sneeze at.

The Jets defense has played out of their minds against two pass-happy teams.

But they're in for something different on Sunday. The Steelers can run the ball. They have done it all season. And more importantly, they did it against the Jets a few weeks ago.

We'll conclude the opening post to AFC Championship Week with the old mantra:

Offense wins games, but DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS.

Sunday, January 16, 2011



Wow. What a game.

These kinds of games aren't for the faint of heart, but it's not like we haven't seen the Steelers mount comebacks before.

Ben Roethlisberger is just unreal in clutch situations. He got beat up all game, but when it mattered most, he threw a perfect strike down the sideline to Antonio Brown.

James Harrison played out of his mind in the second half. In fact, the whole defense did.

There was a great ceremony before the game to award Purple Hearts to two Pittsburgh-area soldiers that were wounded in combat duty. The four Ravens fans in our section didn't clap when the guys were awarded their Purple Hearts. Douchebags.

Game Recap

The Steelers won the toss and deferred. 

Suisham is forces into action to make a tackle on the kick return, and clearly does so at the 35, but the refs don't blow it dead and let the Ravens keep running it out past midfield. Tomlin is forced to use his first challenge to tell the refs how wrong they were.

Unibrow comes out looking for Heap-of-shit and finds him to convert one 3rd down, but goes to the well too many times as Potsie and Ryan Clark knock balls away to force a punt.

The Steelers have to deal with an immediate setback when Hines picks up a penalty for mixing it up with Ed Reed. Ben shrugs it off and converts a 3rd and 12 with a sideline pass to Mike Wallace. Ben goes right back after it, going over the top for Wallace who gets blatantly interfered with and draws the penalty. The run game starts to do work in field goal range, grinding our way down into the Red Zone when Mendenhall takes over. He does the leg work to get us down to the goal line then pounds it in for the opening score.



Mason gets flagged for pushing off of Ike on the sideline, but the Ravens get it back with a Pass Interference call on Ike. The Ravens start to use underneath passes and screens to attack the Steelers defense, with some success, and are able to move across midfield. They go to their unbalanced line set and Woodley blows by the extra tackle to sack Flacco. The Ravens catch a break on 3rd and 15 when Anthony Madison trips into Mason. Two plays later, Ray Rice takes a stupid little draw play through a seam in the defense, spins off a tackle and finds the end zone.


In one of the strangest plays you'll ever see, Ben gets hit from behind by Suggs and the ball flies forward. Everyone on the field thinks it's incomplete. Ramon Foster stands there and looks at the ball like its a girl at a middle school dance. The rest of the Steelers offense huddles up for the pending 3rd down play. Some d-bag from the Ravens picks up the ball and runs it into the end zone. Turns out, the refs never blew the whistle.

Tomlin uses his second challenge to see if Ben's arm was moving forward. Turns out, it wasn't.

Touchdown Ravens.


Second Quarter

The Second Quarter started much the way the first quarter ended, with Ben getting sacked. Kapinos booms a 55-yarder.

Boldin makes his only catch of the game, which goes for negative yards when Ryan Clark blows it up. The Ravens punter has a hell of a leg. He kills a 61-yarder, compounded with a penalty, that pins us back inside the 10.

Mendenhall gets the call to grind our way out of the shadow of our goalposts, but gets the ball knocked out and the Ravens take over inside the red zone. 

The defense was playing out of their minds on first and second down, but negating their good plays by allowing 3rd down conversions. The trend continued as Ray Rice converted a screen pass into a first down then Unibrow found Heap-of-Shit for the score from 4 yards out.



The air was completely out of the stadium after that, but there was some hope. Looking at the clock, there was 5:43 left in the half, and we knew we were getting the ball to start the second half. Score at the end of the first, then score on the opening drive of the second and it was a whole new ballgame.

Ben getting sacked on the first play from scrimmage didn't help that sinking feeling though. But Ben went to the no huddle and things started to turn around. 13 yards to Heath and 14 to Manny Sanders and things were rolling. Mewelde Moore gets the call on two quick-hitters out of the shotgun set and is able to move the chains again. The middle of the field was wide open all game, and Ben finally hits Heath over the middle to get us across midfield. Ben goes back to Sanders to get us onto the fringe of field goal range. The offense can't move deeper than the 28 and Suisham pushes one wide left from 43. 

The Ravens kneel it out.


Thomas Jefferson's band performed at halftime, but no one really cared. To be honest, TJ's band was better than a lot of bands we've seen at Heinz Field in the fact that they actually marched.

Even though the Steelers didn't score at the end of the half, we had the sense that if we stopped turning the ball over and giving the Ravens great field position, we still had a chance.

Third Quarter

The offense comes out with short passes to Hines and Heath to get things rolling, but the drive stalls out after a WR screen gets blown up and Ben gets sacked on 3rd down. Punt.

Even though the offense couldn't get things done in their last two drives, the defense came out inspired. James Harrison brings Flacco down for a big sack. Two plays later on 3rd and long, Ryan Clark punches the ball out of Ray Rice's arms and Woodley falls on it.


Mendenhall bounces one outside for 14 to get inside the 10 and Ben wastes no time going to Heath in the back of the end zone.


Just like that, we were back in the game.

And just like that, it was Renegade time.

No way in hell Baltimore was doing anything on their next drive. 

James Harrison made sure of that, absolutely burying Joe Flacco.

Baltimore is able to flip the field with a 57-yard punt, but Ben goes to work, going for Manny Sanders twice to move us into Ravens territory. Ben takes a shot deep for Sanders but the ball gets knocked away. Wallace gets gobbled up in the backfield on a reverse and the Steelers have to punt.

On the first play, Unibrow goes play-action and tries to hit Heap-of-shit down the seam, but badly overthrows the ball and Ryan Clark is there to reel in the interception.

Clark brings it back to the 25, setting the offense up in great field position once again.

Raise Some gets us down to the 12, and 3 plays later Ben threads the needle to Hines at the goal line.




With the game tied and the pressure rising, Joe Flaccoops can't even handle a snap.

Ziggy knows who's got it.

The Diesel comes out of the pile with the ball. He must've hid it up under his beard so that no one else could dig it out.

Raise Some goes forward and back as the quarter ends.

Fourth Quarter

Jonathan Scott was injured on the last play of the 3rd quarter, and after they found out he was okay, Hines, Wallace, and Sanders ran around the field trying to get the crowd pumped up. The crowd responded and was psyched to start the 4th. What a difference one quarter makes.

Ben hits Brown who comes up just short of the sticks. Ben rushes us to the line and sneaks it forward for the first down. Arians goes to the reverse again and Wallace picks up a few but gets brought down in the open field when he goes to the wrong side of a block by Heath. Ben gets sacked on 3rd down. Suisham nails it from 35.


The Ravens finally decided to play offense, and started to drive the ball, with Flacco hitting Douchemandzadeh on a post route to get the ball near midfield. Ike makes a great defensive play to get around Mason and bat the ball away on 2nd down, then Harrison flushes Flacco from the pocket on 3rd down.

Rather than throwing the ball away or trying to hit a receiver, Flacco runs out of bounds for a loss of 9, giving Harrison his 3rd sack of the game. The Ravens punter kills a 58-yarder, pinning us back at the 12. What a kicker.

With 7 minutes to play, the hope was that the Steelers could grind some time off the clock with a nice long drive. Bruce Arians has other ideas and goes to the motif offense. 

Your worst fears are realized when Kapinos makes a terrible punt and Webb takes it back to the house. However, there was a fairly obvious hold and it gets flagged. However, the Ravens still get the ball inside the Steelers 30.

Flacco goes right to the air and hits Heap on a deep cross to get the Ravens inside the 10. The defense locks it down and Boldin drops a touchdown on 3rd down, forcing the Ravens to settle for 3.


Ben takes over with 4 minutes left to play. It's only fitting that this game came down to the last drive. And I'm sure glad the ball was in #7's hands.

After two incompletions, Ben hits Hines to move the sticks and get us out to the 47. A 9-yard sack sets us back and makes things look bleak. Sanders has a chance to be a hero on a post route but the ball gets knocked out of his hands by a safety. On 3rd and 19, Ben chucks one downfield on a 4-verticals route and Antonio freaking Brown just blows between two defenders and uses his helmet to secure the catch.
What a picture.

Brown stumbles out of bounds at the 4, setting us up with 2 minutes to play. The Ravens still had 3 timeouts so the smart move was to run the ball and make them use their timeouts.

Instead, Arians goes to the air and calls for a fade route to Hines. Yeah, that doesn't work and it stops the clock. Luckily for us, Mount Cody gets called for defensive holding on the next play, giving us a 1st and goal at the 2. 

Mendenhall plows forward towards the goal line, gets stopped up and pushed back. For some reason, the refs forget about forward progress and put the ball back at the 2. The exact same thing happens on the next play, with Mendenhall getting to the goal line but the ball being spotted back on the 2. On 3rd and goal, Raise Some looks dead-to-rights in the backfield but he bounces it back to the right and is able to drive his way to paydirt.


007 does it again


Kemoeatu got called for a personal foul after the touchdown, and much like Super Bowl XLIII, we had to kick off from the 15. Suisham squibs it to keep it out of Webb's hands, and McClain brings it back across midfield.

Polamalu gets pressure on first down and forces a bad throw. On second down, Flacco goes deep for Mason, but Willie Gay, playing for the injured Bryant McFadden, gets inside position and almost comes up with the interception on a jump ball. LeBeau doesn't lay off the gas and keeps blitzing Flacco. On 3rd down, Unibrow tries to step up in the pocket but Ziggy is there.


4th and 18. 1:09 to play.

Renegade plays again during the timeout.

Flacco drops back, the Ravens pick up the blitz, Flacco guns one for Douchemandzadeh...

But the Ghost of Cope is alive and well.

The ball goes right through Douchemandzadeh's hands.

You don't mess with Myron's Towel.




Later, bitches.


Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Ben Roethlisberger
Defensive Game Balls: Ryan Clark and James Harrison

Honorable Mentions:
Ziggy Hood
LaMarr Woodley
Antonio Brown
Rashard Mendenhall
Emmanuel Sanders
Hines Ward
Maurkice Pouncey
Lawrence Timmons
Ike Taylor

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game

Using both challenges in the First Quarter

To be honest, this sucked. The second challenge was a good challenge and one we had to make on that crazy fumble/TD call. Even though we lost the challenge, we still had to challenge the call to see if Ben's arm was moving forward. It's really the first one that irks me. That was a blatantly obvious call that Suisham made the tackle on Webb. We never should have had to challenge it. Though, chances are, Tomlin would have challenged Mendenhall's fumble and lost that one too, so we would have been out of challenges by halftime anyways.

Final Thoughts
  • What a comeback. This might have been the best playoff comeback in Heinz Field history. It's close between this game and the Cleveland game in 2002. 
  • James Harrison played like a man possessed. He had 3 sacks, all in the second half.
  • That might be the best game Ryan Clark has played since coming to the Steelers. 5 tackles, 2 of them for a loss, 2 passes defended, and an interception.
  • Defense, defense, defense. How much can you say about these guys? They played with their backs against the wall for pretty much the whole first half, then held the Ravens to 3 points in the second half, along with forcing 3 turnovers. 
  • Hines made some HUGE catches. He came to play today.
  • Hell of a game by our young receivers. Wallace had a big 3rd down grab, Sanders had some big catches, and Antonio Brown...well, wow.
  • Memo to Steeler Nation: Never, ever, doubt Kevin Colbert's ability to scout personnel. In the 6th round of the draft, when he had already picked a receiver, Colbert picked a little-known speedster from Central Michigan named Antonio Brown. In his first playoff game, Brown makes a bigger catch than Limas Sweed ever made.
  • Rashard Mendenhall didn't have a huge game, but he got some big gains down in the red zone, and 2 touchdowns, including the game winner, are nothing to sneeze at.
  • Heath Miller led the team with 5 receptions. Good to see Heath getting some looks, especially when the middle of the field is wide open.
  • Ben Roethlisberger tied Peyton Manning's 9 playoff victories. Peyton has been in the league 6 years longer than Ben.
  • Let's face it, Joe Flacco isn't a big-game quarterback. He had 0.9 yards per attempt when the Steelers brought 5 or more.
  • The Ravens had 91 net yards passing. Flacco only had 125 yards.
  • Boldin had 1 catch for -2 yards and Mason got shut out. Hell of a game by Ike Taylor and Willie Gay, who was called upon to fill in for B-Mac.
  • I was surprised Flacco didn't look for Boldin more, they got him matched up on Anthony Madison a lot when Boldin was in the slot.
  • Did Ed Reed even play? He was a total non-factor.
  • The Steelers move to 9-0 against divisional opponents in the playoffs, 5-0 against teams from Baltimore (3-0 against the Ravens).
  • The Steelers will be playing in their 8th AFC Championship game since 1994. Wow. That's pretty incredible.