Honoring Joe Greene
Pittsburgh 43 – Baltimore 23
The Ratbirds sauntered into Steeltown as they always do, pounding their chest and crowing in typical bully fashion. Their tough guy act lasted into the start of the 2nd quarter when defense tackle Courtney Upshaw, just as he did in the week two meeting, sucker punched Big Ben in a blatant, very late and very dirty hit which knocked Ben off his feet. It looked as if Big Ben was going to have to have his jaw wired back together, based on Ben’s facial gyrations after the play, but like the true iron man he is, he used it as inspiration and then proceeded to shred the Ratbirds defense to the tune of 321 yards and yet another six touchdowns.
This was a Steeltown Party to beat the band, highlighted by the Jersey Retirement of Steeler great Joe Greene, right down to the thrashing of the Ratbirds in a Nationally televised season rematch. The defense came back to life big time in this game, highlighted by the ferocious play of linebacker James Harrison. The Defense looked like the Steelers of old causing two turnovers and representing the spirit of Mean Joe in grand style.
A slow sluggish start with bad field position, filled with three and outs in each initial possession, left the Heinze Field crowd wondering when the offense that put up over 500 yards the prior week was going to show up. 2:52 left in the first quarter Steelers start their drive from their own 3 yard line, a solid seven play drive takes them to their own 46 quickly followed by a hands to the face penalty on Marquis Pouncey. First and twenty at their own 31 produced sacks on the next 3 consecutive plays, unbelievable, they punted from their own 12.
The Steelers fortunes would change on the ensuing Ratbirds possession when Arthur Moats stripped Ratbirds running back Taliaferro at Pitts 47, the ball was quickly and astutely picked up by Brice McCain and he sprinted for 26 yards to the 27 yard line. From that point on Big Ben started to work his magic, starting with a perfectly thrown back shoulder dart to Le’Veon Bell, right down to his sixth TD pass of the game to Matt Spaeth (of all people), which would make him the first player in NFL history to throw 12 touchdown passes in two consecutive games.
Regardless of the stats, the records, or Big Ben finally getting the attention around the league that he so deserves, this was a dandy of a game. Credit of course goes to the offensive line, after a bit of a rough start, they snapped out of it and protected their QB as he started to spank the Ratbirds defense mercilessly. Let’s just put it like this, they beat the dog-sh*t out of those dirty Ratbirds, they got the ass-beating they deserved and on prime time TV.
Two turnovers by the defense turned into fourteen points for the offense, constant pressure on Big Joe was the exact recipe for success, as it has always been. Newly resigned linebacker James Harrison played out of his mind, just like the Debo of old, his contributions were tantamount to this victory and seeing him manhandle Big Joe was a beautiful thing to watch. Clearly you can attribute the rise of emotion and fervor to the return of Harrison, it didn’t hurt of course that Joe Greene had a pre-game chat with the team.
Another significant aspect of the Defense is the addition of Brice McCain at cornerback, replacing the struggling Cortez Allen. Not only does Brice provide far better coverage skills, he was by the ball when it was stripped and not only snapped it up, but got on the move with the return instantly. It should also be noted how well Brett Keisel and Harrison are playing together, having the veteran leadership and savvy has paid big time dividends.
Well, clearly in a game where the Offense and Defense is dominating, the inadequacies of the Special Teams can be overshadowed or overlooked. But let’s put this into perspective as it is certainly a fear that this unit could be a big reason this team loses a playoff game, it has happened many times in the past. Though Brad Wings two point conversion pass to tight end Matt Spaeth was met with applause, the simple fact is this is the second time this season that he has mishandled a snap, very troubling and certainly we will hold our breath come playoff time if a field goal is the means of winning the game.
After three home games resulting in wins against top caliber competition, the Coaching Staff needs to be applauded for their work. Early on talk revolved around how “we need to get better”, “we’ve got to find a way to get better”. Well, they did find a way and the way they found had everything to do with intensive work from the coaches and the “players responding in an appropriate manner”, which is one of our favorite Mike Tomlin quotes.
How dare the Ratbirds come into Steeltown playing the bully role, pounding their chests and playing as dirty as they’ve ever played. It was hard to imagine that the Steelers would not stand up and honor the greatest Steeler of all time, Mean Joe Greene, and they sure did honor him as he deserved. It’s safe to say this team has turned the corner and now playing with the sense of purpose and emotion that was surely lacking at the start of the season, let’s hope they can maintain that vigor moving forward.