That was an ugly game. After moving nicely down the field on their opening possession, the drive stalled and the Steelers were forced to settle for a 3 points. Due to the field position battle and the stifling Steelers defense it seemed possible that a mere FG could suffice. Then came the Big Target’s inexplicable INT to Ravens DT Ngata. You ever see a baseball hit in super slow motion by a bat? The ball nearly flattens out. Well, I’m sure a super slow motion shot of the football as it impacted Ngata’s belly would reveal that the ball disappeared entirely if only for a fraction of a second.
It didn’t get much better for the offense after that. What followed was a series of punts, fumbles, 3-and-outs in a truly ugly display of offensive football. Fortunes changed for a stretch late in the 3rd quarter during a brief TD drive ending in a nifty 38 yard catch and run by San Antonio Holmes. But the still ugly truth is this drive hinged on a personal foul penalty which got the Steelers past the 50 yard line for the first time since their early FG drive in the first quarter.
A mere 15 seconds later Woodley returned a fumble 8 yards for a TD. And just like that the Steelers went from losing a butt ugly 13-3 game to winning in a butt ugly 17-13 game. That Big Nasty D stepped up and got it done for most of the game. Granted, they gave up TD drives late in both halves but they hurried and flustered Flacco for most of the evening and did a workmanlike job against the running game. A Steelers FG and a Ravens TD later and this game was destined for OT. The defense swarmed, the Ravens punted and Jeff Reed nailed a 46 yarder twice to win the game. Thanks, Quadzilla.
But all of this serves only to bury the lead, the story of the Walking Wounded. On the opening kickoff special teams linebacker Andre Frazier was lost to injury. While he returned to the sideline later in the game, he did not return to play.
Also lost was starting RG Kendall Simmons who will be placed on IR for the remainder of the season. That opened the door for Darnell Stapleton, backup center, to join the starters. How this solution works out in the long term remains to be seen.
Adding insult to injury, prized rookie RB Rashard Mendenhall suffered a shoulder injury and will join Simmons on the IR. Next, backup RB Carey Davis was injured and left the game leaving only the diminutive 3rd down back Mewelde Moore to shoulder the RB duties for the remainder. Considering that Fast Willie Parker was already missing from action one wonders what will become of the Steelers RB corps. Certainly we’ll see a call up from the practice squad as Gary Russell is activated. After that, who knows? Is Parker due to return soon? How serious was the injury to Davis?
And don’t get me started on the defensive line. The backups did their best but were pushed around at times. This unit is thin, folks. Hopefully Big Snack Hampton will be ready by Sunday. Seems like right DE Brett “The Diesel” Keisel is a few more weeks out.
Random note: That Timmons kid looks like a keeper. Great play on the special teams and he can rush the passer. He brings speed to the equation.
It’s a short week and the hated Jax Jags are next. Buckle up, boys.