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Bleeding Black and Gold: CHARMED

December 2, 2012 - Ray Eckenrode

The score: Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 20

The headline: CHUCK IT: Resurgent Batch torches Ravens as battered Steelers make a statement.

The bottom line: At its best, how awesome is the NFL? There were Shaun Suisham, who was almost laughed out of football, and Charlie Batch, who we all laughed at last week, and Kelvin Beachum, who no one thought should be playing except his position coach, and Heath Miller, who we all thought was going to be blocking rather than receiving, all of them playing their tails off to pull of the most improbable Steelers win since an idiot kicker shanked a field goal in Indianapolis in 2006.

It was over when: Suisham split the uprights again on the game's final play for his absolutely amazing 28th straight field goal made inside 50 yards. Ironically, it was almost three years to the day when Suisham, kicking for the Redskins, missed a 23-yarder on national TV that would have beaten the then-undefeated Saints.

Plays of the day:

+ Early in the third quarter, Batch quickly realized Jon Dwyer was going to be able to bounce outside on a dive play and led the way 16 yards into the end zone, shielding the only Raven who had a chance to make the tackle en route.

+ With 4:52 left, Pittsburgh faced a 3rd-and-7 from their own 18, Batch hung in the pocket and took a mammoth hit from Haloti Ngata (looked like helmet to sternum, definitely bounced Batch’s head hard off the turf) but completed the pass to Mike Wallace for a mammoth-er first down AND looked straight to the white hat and said, “He hit me in the head.” We have no doubt that subtle reminder ensured Paul Kruger was called for roughing on the first play after the 2:00 warning, which put the Steelers into field goal range.

+ James Harrison strip sack! James Harrison strip sack!! That is all.

Zebra hunting:

+ You can see why this crew and Alberto Riveron are highly regarded, few holding calls, never lost control of the game, applied the rules precisely on the replays.

+ As we speculated/feared in our pregame blog, they were susceptible to the #RavensBestPlay, otherwise known as defensive passing fouls. First, we got a borderline 35-yd pass interference against Cortez Allen after some hand fighting and a Torrey Smith acting job, which led to a field goal. Then, an official 25 yards from the play called a defensive hold on Keenan Lewis on a critical third down play to keep a Ravens drive alive that ended in one of Anquan Boldin’s patented tough TD catches.

Game mismanagement:

+ The Ravens with textbook mismanagement of two second-half timeouts. First, Flacco burned one to avoid a delay penalty. Rule of thumb: Don’t use a timeout in the second half to avoid a five-yard penalty unless a potential score is involved. Second, Harbaugh got bad advice from someone in the booth in challenging an incomplete pass by Batch in the third quarter. The play was clearly a forward pass and intentional ground and/or “in the grasp” are not reviewable plays. After blowing those two, it was karma that the Ravens lost their third on an injury inside two minutes, meaning the Steelers were able to bleed the clock down to :02 before attempting the field goal. Had the Ravens had all three TOs in their pocket, the field goal would have come with about 1:22 remaining.

Hot topics:

+ The Steelers are trying to get healthy, but just keeping more injured. Ike Taylor suffered what was almost certainly a high-ankle sprain in the first quarter (on a play very similar to the play in the Giants game where Antonio Brown suffered a high ankle sprain) and almost certainly will miss an extended period. Cortez Allen took Taylor’s spot and was alternately brilliant and torched. We’re guessing the Steelers can tighten that up with a week of practice in their new positions. Meanwhile, it looked like Troy Polamalu played 30-40 snaps by design, and made it through the game without reinjuring himself. Polamalu wasn’t really a factor, but that’s not important right now. What’s important is that he’s ready to be a factor on Dec. 23 when the Steelers host the Bengals.

+ The Steelers makeshift offensive line was unbelievable in pass protection with Batch often getting five seconds to wait for a receiver to come open. And no one was more solid than Beachum, a rookie 7th rounder from SMU. Beachum has been a special project for line coach Sean Kugler since camp and that attention paid off this week. Pittsburgh was able to run the ball early in the game, but the Ravens shut that down in the second half for the most part, but at the price of leaving receivers running uncovered in the secondary. Of course, Batch should have had two more TDs, wildly overthrowing Mike Wallace on one, then watching Emmanuel Sanders fumble another away trying to do the right thing and switch the ball to his outside hand.

+ In case you missed it, CBS’ Jason La Canfora reported during Sunday’s pregame shows that “some” Steelers players were questioning whether Roethlisberger could have played against the Ravens. Members of the Pittsburgh media, who are in the locker room every day, quickly chimed in that they’ve heard no such thing. We’re guessing the truth is somewhere in between. We’d be the farm (that we don’t have) that La Canfora’s anonymous source is the same one who told him last week he expected Roethlisberger to play this week and we’d double down on the fact that source is a Steelers coach front office staffer. We’d also guess there’s the same kind of grumbling among some Steelers players about Roethlisberger being a drama queen as there is among the fan base. We seriously doubt there’s a level of discontent that will cause any issues once #7 is under center again.

+ In case you missed it II, Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh had a minor dustup after the game when Tomlin briskly walked past/though Harbaugh’s attempt to congratulate him.

+ Heath Miller has largely been MIA since Marcus Gilbert’s injury because he’s been needed to chip opposing pass rushers, but he got back in the game in a big way Sunday, catching five passes for 97 yards and scoring an amazing TD when he stretched the ball from the 2-yard-line to the pylon on a checkdown pass.

+ There’s been a theme in nearly every big Steelers win over the Ravens in the past five years and it involves the number of touches Ray Rice (who we consider to be the best RB in the NFL) gets. When it’s less than 20, the Ravens usually lose. On Sunday, it was 12 rushes and a single pass reception. When the Ravens beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh, Rice had 25 touches.

In the booth:

+ Jim Nantz was not on his A-game as far as Steelers hating, which somehow makes winning less fun.

+ But have you noticed how Phil Simms really hesitates to take a position on anything anymore? Every call either could have gone either way or the official was right. Every piece of strategy is “understandable.” It’s annoying.

And now, a word from our sponsors…:

+ Does Verizon know that no one likes Lebron James?

+ We’ll bet the Cam Newton quarterback kid could flatten the double laser beam kid in a playground fight.

Sweet tweet: “@LaMarrWoodley: Bad idea Ray, just ask Lendale White and TJ. #whosyourmama.” (Blogger’s translation: This tweet from the injured Steelers linebacker was accompanied by photo of Ray Rice wearing the Terrible Towel over his head after the Ravens win in Pittsburgh. Mr. Woodley is pointing out that the last two players to defame the towel ended up on the short end of the score the next time the two teams met. To be fair, Rice realized that right away and tried to undo the damage but the towel’s power is strong.)

Next week: The win Sunday bought the Steelers a few more weeks to rest Ben Roethlisberger, should that become necessary. That’s because they could lose the next two and still have a good shot at getting in as the sixth seed by beating Cincinnati and Cleveland at home the last two weeks. Of course, no one wants it to come to that, but Pittsburgh probably needs to run the table to take the #5 seed from the Colts so there’s not a lot of in-between. A win over San Diego would not be meaningless, though, as it helps with the conference-record tiebreaker, where the Steelers currently trail every other AFC contender. The Chargers, of course, are led by the man the Steelers once considered drafting as their quarterback of the future, Phillip Rivers. Phillip has played poorly in Pittsburgh when he’s brought in a contending team, but how will he play in a spoiler role? Frankly, we’re worried about that.

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