By Jim Wexell
Posted Nov 6, 2011
The Steelers have been quiet this week but in the front of their minds they're still seething about their opening-day loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Today, the rematch.
PITTSBURGH – It was Doc Holliday, in the movie Tombstone, who aptly described the Steelers’ feelings coming into tonight’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.
“Make no mistake,” said Holliday, the noted gunslinger/sports analyst. “It’s not revenge they’re after. It’s a reckoning.”
A reckoning is defined as “the settlement of an account” or “the settlement of penalties for an action.”
* That would define what James Harrison’s after for being abused in the opener by newly acquired Ravens fatso tackle Bryant McKinnie, who hasn’t played nearly as well since.
* That would define what Troy Polamalu’s after for being whipped by Ed Dickson and Ray Rice in coverage in the opener, and then taking a knee in the groin and a yank of the hair under the pile from Rice.
* That would define what Casey Hampton’s after for being chop-blocked at the knees with regularity in the opener, a tactic the Ravens haven’t used since.
* That would define what the offensive line is after for being abused by the Ravens in the deafening din of M&T Bank Stadium without current starters Max Starks, Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert.
* That would define what Mike Wallace is after for being insulted by cornerback Lardarius Webb this week.
* That would define what Hines Ward is after for being bullied by tough-guy safety Bernard Pollard in the end zone right in front of two officials who did not throw a flag.
* That would define what the special teams are after for being mocked with a fake kick on a conversion with the game well in hand.
* That would define what Ben Roethlisberger’s after for compiling his lowest passer rating (52.9) of the season and lowest in a regular-season game since Nov. 15, 2009.
* And that would define what the entire team’s feeling after the Ravens partied long and loud following their 35-7 win in the opener.
“You just turn on the tape and it speaks for itself,” said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. “It was that bad.”
The 5-2 Ravens come into Heinz Field at possibly the worst time of the season. The Steelers are 6-2 after an emotional and team-bonding win over the New England Patriots, while the Ravens followed up a loss to Jacksonville with a stumbling win over visiting Arizona.
The Steelers are missing some key players in LaMarr Woodley and Emmanuel Sanders, but the Ravens quite likely will be without their best offensive lineman, Ben Grubbs, while their best defensive player – and perhaps the league’s best defensive player – Haloti Ngata – is fighting through a thigh injury that’s made him a shell of the player he was in the opener.
The Ravens will also be without deep threat Lee Evans, freeing up Steelers coverage ace Ike Taylor to lock down Ravens possession receiver Anquan Boldin.
And the Ravens’ passing game has been in the dumps of late. Joe Flacco’s passer rating in the month of October was 63.7. For the season he’s completed only 43 percent of his passes on third down for a passer rating of 52.8 on that key down.
Roethlisberger, by contrast, had an October passer rating of 102. For the season he’s completed 66 percent of his third-down passes for a passer rating of 108.2.
Flacco threw only one touchdown pass – a 5-yarder to Boldin – in the Ravens’ four October games. Roethlisberger on the other hand threw 11 touchdown passes in the Steelers’ four October games.
Roethlisberger expressed neither happiness over his recent play nor any anxiety to avenge his team’s disastrous opening-day loss to the Ravens in a dry mid-week press conference. Roethlisberger shied away from the media the remainder of the week. So did Polamalu. And Hampton. And Ward. And, for the most part, the rest of the team.
Their play on the practice field, though, was at the same time a rare mix of intensity and looseness.
“Yeah. The young kids are learning about that,” Arians said with a smile. “They’re not used to Raven Week. It’s a little different, but they get a feel from the veterans and our veterans know what to expect. Getting tight isn’t one of the things you need to do.”
Not before a reckoning.