This folks, was a slugging match. From the opening salvo fired on the kickoff which had Andre Frazier checking into "next week" before schedule, to Carey Davis hobbling off the field with a bum ankle, this was as knock down, drag out as you're going to see. The end of the game did not slow down the testosterone flying about on the field. Ravens linebacker Bart "Mad Backer" Scott smacked a TV camera on the field as the gent was going about his business filming. Such was the bitterness present amongst the players. I loved this game.
James Harrison continued his streak of slaying Ravens Tackles. Somewhere out there in retirement land Jon Ogden popped a cold one and twitched a few times. I'll bet'cha the Silverback even dislikes Edgar Allen Poe. Despite using an offensive formation that over loaded one side and brought tackle Adam Terry one extra position out from the center of the line in an effort to reduce the angle to the corner, Harrison still got the corner. 10 tackles and 2 ½ sacks while taking a helmet to one of his tree trunk sized thighs. I have had the misfortune of taking a helmet to the thigh and it kills. It feels like a bowling ball swelled up in your leg and every time you try to push off the leg it feels like you're tearing the muscle. Way to man up, James.
While Harrison's stock continues to rise, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis' continues to fall. Yes, I know he got 13 tackles, and I know that he was the guy that put Rashard Mendenhall on the IR. Watching Lewis up close, and seeing how he can no longer get off blocks efficiently as he used to, he no longer beats guys to the intercept point as was once his calling card. Yes, he's still dangerous, but not lethal.
LaMarr Woodley is quickly becoming lethal. Noted Steelers pass rusher extraordinaire Kevin Greene remarked at training camp that No. 56 would be a better pass rusher than he when he started playing with a honked-off attitude. Woodley gave the Ravens a gaggle full-worth of pissed-off honkers. Woodley has the Reggie White body lean thing going. When he gets his hips under and up, in a full leverage bull rush, LaMarr can uproot Sequoia trees. Early in the game he bull-rushed Terry, all 6-8 and 330 pounds of him. As once was said of Gama, the 19th century undefeated dirt pit wrestling champion of India, LaMarr "Showed him the sky." Meaning Woodley ran over Terry and flattened him on his back. I doubt Terry was looking for the North Star, but he sure had the opportunity from his vantage point.
Chris Hoke doesn't see much of the field, but what a guy to go to when Casey Hampton isn't healthy. Hoke doesn't get the Tsunami-like push on the interior, but he's like trying to hold a basketball under water. He keeps popping up. Time after time it was Hoke taking on the double team and keeping Farrior and Foote clean free. Spinning out of double teams, or coming down the line in gap control, Hoke is tireless in his hand fighting, and despite a ding in the head, he kept stacking the pile.
Darnell Stapleton checked in at guard, and frankly I thought he would be overmatched. Based on his body of work through training camp and pre-season play at guard (not center, he's looked good there), I really thought the Steelers were in serious trouble. I couldn't have been more wrong (well, not entirely true, if you look at my first marriage). Darnell didn't overwhelm anybody, but he was solid in his pickups and didn't turn anybody loose on the runs. Trai Essex and Darnell will go at it this week to see who takes over Kendall's spot, with Trai the more likely winner. Good work by the young buck, though.
Santonio Holmes is unbelievable. I think he combines the athleticism of Lynn Swann along with John Stallworth's route running and hands. And Holmes is faster than both of them put together. He's quite the package. Those were two Pro Bowlers (McAlister, Reed) he smoked on a 38-yard pitch and catch. Reed never really got over that thrashing by Hines Ward on a run play, I think. Hines is 2-0 in TKOs the last couple of sets with Reed. Maybe Ed Reed should replace his name on the back of his jersey with the now vacated "He hate me" patch. I barely noticed him.
I don't know if this had anything to do with how this played out, but while the offense was on the sidelines before the series in which Hines hooked up with Ben for the 49-yarder, there was a big pow-wow on the Steelers' bench. All the big guys were there, from Bruce Arians, Larry Z, the hogs, Big Ben. They were examining a look from the Ravens' defense on a picture from up on top, and they were pretty excited at whatever they were seeing. Next thing you knew, it was bombs away on a blown coverage to Hines. Oh, to be a fly cruising Heinz Field at that moment.
Best quote of the day. From Mike Tomlin to Jeff Reed in the tunnel outside the Steelers locker room post-game: "Can't freeze a psychopath!"