George Von Benko: SteelCitySports.com presents our Insiders look at Steeler football with former Steeler offensive tackle turned radio commentator Tunch Ilkin, I'm George Von Benko and Tunch, what a way to start off the season, thumping the Ravens like they did, a lot of good things in that ball game.
Tunch: George, I think if you look at the game you know, even beyond the offensive output, even beyond the defense shutting down Jamal Lewis, I think the thing that jumps out at me is the statement that the Steelers made as a physical football team. You see, the Ravens really felt that they wanted to show everybody in the AFC who the he-bull in the neighborhood is, and they came in and got taken out behind the woodshed. And as a result of that, that long 35-minute flight back to Baltimore, they had to, have to be questioning themselves, are we as tough as we thought? Or are we as good as we thought? And I think the physical aspect of the whooping that the Steelers put on them, and really beat them at their own game, you know, the whole trash talking thing, has really put a question mark in the minds of the Ravens on just how tough they really are.
George Von Benko: A lot of good things, as I've said offensively for the Steelers, and I know that they grizzle sometimes at being called a passing team, but the passing attack is what really made it go. Uh, but they got to get that running game geared up a little bit there, some things to work on there.
Tunch: Well George, you know what they did was they took what Baltimore gave them. If you recall in the opening series, what the Ravens did was they said that we are going to stop the run with seven guys, so they had their safeties deep in a two-deep zone. Well they weren't able to stop the run; the Steelers ran the ball very effectively on the opening drive. So what Mike Nolan the defensive coordinator for the Ravens, did, was he said, okay we're gonna get Ed Reed our strong safety involved in run support, so they moved them up outside tight end and they blitzed them a lot on first down. Now that was very effective in stopping the run, but what it did was it loosened up the passing game for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Malarkey is a terrific chess player, he saw that right off, so immediately he started throwing on first down. The corners were way off; the safety was in the deep middle third and the Steelers were able to exploit the uh, what I consider a very average Ravens secondary, because they took one of their better cover guys, Ed Reed, out of the coverage and put him up in run support.
George Von Benko: Looking at the offensive line play, overall how did you grade it?
Tunch: I thought the offense did a great job, they blocked well on the run; they gave him great protection, with the exception of a couple of plays, and I think the fact that you saw Tommy Maddox able to look at second and third receivers showed that he had plenty of time. He looked very, very comfortable, and there are a lot of people that say that Tommy Maddox plain can't scramble; he's not an athlete. What Tommy Maddox does very well is he moves around in the pocket, he feels pressure and he'll adjust, moving up, moving to his right, moving to his left. So I was very, very encouraged at the fact at the end of this game, Tommy Maddox' uniform was pretty clean.
George Von Benko: Lo and behold, they threw to the tight end too, we've been hearing about it for years, but they've used the tight end as a weapon.
Tunch: Well, you know George, people have been talking about …"Why don't the Steelers throw to the tight end?" Well it's tough to throw to the tight end because the tight end is usually in the middle of the field, you have to have a quarterback that feels very comfortable throwing in the seam; and lets face it, Tommy Maddox does a great job of that, he can thread the needle. And what you saw on the touchdown pass was uh, Jay Riemersma in man coverage versus the Ravens safety, and he just tortured him alright, and he caught another pass for I think nine yards, but what was really impressive was on Hines Ward's touchdown, on the post pattern where nobody was any where near him, what the Steelers did was they faked an in route to Jay Riemersma and both safeties jumped on Jay, and that's why Hines Ward was wide open, because of the previous touchdown pass.
George Von Benko: When you have a weapon like that too, and as you pointed out Ward was open, that's just gonna open things up even more for the wide receivers.
Tunch: Well you've got to pick your poison George. I mean if you're a, I mean if I'm a defensive coordinator and I'm thinking about how am I gonna stop the Steelers, I gotta figure out first of all do I want to stop the run or do I want to stop the pass? And if I'm gonna stop the pass… Who am I gonna concentrate on? … Who am I gonna double?… Am I gonna double Plax?… probably, which leaves Hines in one on one coverage. And if I double my outside guys, well then I've got a tight end, Jay Riemersma, running free down the middle of the field so; coach Malarkeys got to be so excited because he has so many weapons. And more importantly than having the weapons, George, he's got a quarterback that can get it to the guy that's open.
George Von Benko: Our fan question of the week comes from a poster by the name of SteelPappaThump, and you alluded to it at the beginning - the physicality of the Steeler defense - he uh, didn't think they were quite as physical as they have been in the past, and uh, there weren't a lot of histrionics going on out there with some of the things that they display. I think maybe that's a coaching thing too, act like you made a play, you used to tell me about Chuck Noll saying that all the time.
Tunch: Yeah, well Chuck would always say, …"act like you been there before; if you score a touchdown act like you been in the end zone before; you make a sack, act like they come easy to ya." Um, well I'll tell you what, the Steelers played very physical. All you have to do is look at Kyle Boller; every time Boller got up he got jacked around out there; he got driven into the ground; he got up, he was holding his shoulder. He got blasted by Kendrell Bell right in the chest; I'm sure he's got a bruised sternum. He got roughed up; Jamal Lewis got roughed up; the other Raven receivers got bounced around. Make no mistake about it, just because you didn't see guys thumping their own chest as they stood over the ball carrier, the Steelers played very physical.
George Von Benko: That's our Steelers Insiders look with Tunch Ilkin on SteelCitySports.com