If there’s a sure fire way to take the air out of a hostile stadium, such as M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on a muggy humid night, it was to take the opening kickoff, as the Steelers did, and get yourself on a 12-play drive and take the electricity out of the locals. The fans were screaming and pleading with their heroes to snuff out the drive and had roared long and loud through the first seven or eight plays. They had started to fade by the time the Steelers approached double-digit snaps, the watery air more suited for a set of gills than lungs.
* And if you want to light the stadium up with more energy than the opening fireworks did, then you go ahead and, after threatening to stuff it down the throats of the Ravens, lay the ball down on the artificial turf on an in-route such as Justin Brown did. The look on Justin’s face as he made his way to the sidelines, said it all. I know the look, I’ve had the look (not fumbling, but messing up when you’re the young buck) and it’s never pleasant.
* The first thing after you screw up is to decide whether you go to the head coach and face the music, or let the head coach find you. Justin didn’t have to worry about that. Mike Tomlin found him. Or at least his eyes did, before Justin even hit the sidelines.
* When Owen Daniels scored on a 2-yard Joe Flacco toss following Brown’s fumble, The Turk Up In The Booth reflected that the fumble was at least a good 10-point swing. Maybe even 14-points, I thought.
* What really bothered me about the Ravens’ first drive was that it was aided by Steelers penalties. Almost 50% of the 85-yard scoring drive was self-inflicted.
* Yeesh! Somewhere in the second quarter Lawrence Timmons came to the sidelines and fire-hosed his pre-game meal to the ground. I just happened to be standing a little too near and my first thought was he had some bad crab cakes -- and of course Baltimore is noted for awesome crab cakes. Since I had some crab cakes as well, and with the power of suggestion beginning to creep its way into my noggin, I began to experience some pangs and rumbling in the ol’ gullet. Hmmm, not good.
* By the time halftime was over, I was told LT had some bad noodles. The stomach pangs immediately stopped.
* Here’s my beef: The NFL has so screwed up the refs, they’re afraid to not throw a flag if a guy gets hit hard. Yep, we’ve gone that far into the Twilight Zone. But here’s the rub: How can you not throw a flag on the Darian Stewart hit with a shoulder to the head of Antonio Brown (who had to be taken off the field and undergo concussion testing protocol)? And flag Troy Polamalu for a shoulder to the chest of Daniels and call that “a hit on a defenseless receiver”? Or Mike Mitchell’s innocuous whack on Steve Smith? How about the C.J. Mosley’s helmet-to-helmet (or at least shoulder to helmet) hit on Heath Miller, which caused a fumble? Is Miller not afforded the same protection as Daniels? And when did a defenseless receiver become defenseless after securing the catch and taking a couple steps? I thought defenseless was stretching out and going for the ball and not catching it.
* After Elvis Dumervil sacked Ben Roethlisberger for the second time, I saw Ben go over to Marcus Gilbert on the bench and talk with him. Marcus is setting a little too soft in my most humble opinion, and would be better off to short-set Dumervil and not give him the flying start. I think Marcus has got the dreaded “Sack bug,” in the noggin, which has you worrying about giving up a sack rather than focusing on the dynamics of the job. And when you worry about not giving up a sack, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Marcus has to get back to basics, work extra hard and get into the “Theater of your mind,” where you work mentally on your technique, and your confidence.
* Watching the Ravens gash the run defense of the Steelers is perplexing to say the least. I would hazard a guess that at least 75-80% of the runs of the Browns and Ravens have been right-handed, meaning they are running the ball to the Steelers’ left side. The stretch has been the Achilles’ heel of the Steelers thus far in 2014. When teams can run on you and you can’t shut off their water, it’s demoralizing. Whether it’s the edge-setter, or the defensive end, linebacker or nose guard, somebody has to get cracking and make a play. Bernard Pierce isn’t as good a back as they’re making him look right now.
* Really? Haloti Ngata has an INT? Watching Haloti rumble up the sideline holding the football like a ham sandwich was a sight I’m not going to forget for a while. Le’Veon Bell came back and stripped the ball while tackling the much larger Ngata, and I give him props for getting big boy on the ground.
* Watching from the opposite sideline, I couldn’t help but laugh when Ngata met John Harbaugh with a flying belly to Harbaugh’s chest/head area and Harbaugh got bounced back like a Ping-Pong ball. It seemed to me that Ngata could’ve been flagged for hitting a defenseless coach.
* I interviewed Antonio Brown after the game for the Steelers Radio Network. Antonio has become the consummate professional and handles the communication duties off the field like the pro he has become on the field. I have interviewed Antonio on many stages thus far and I can tell you that this loss really hurt him. His eyes are just as expressive as his words and the young man is growing into a leadership role as he matures. That will – again, I most humbly offer – put him in a class with the Lynn Swans, John Stallworths and Hines Wards before it’s all said and done. Antonio has evolved into a player with a team leadership role that extends beyond himself and his performance to one of TEAM first, which has not always been the case. That’s the path of all great players.