So many plays in a close game like Sunday’s 23-20 Steelers victory in Baltimore get lost, critical plays that decided things.
Here’s one, perhaps the most important play of the game that wasn’t a score or a turnover. Third down and seven, clock winding under five minutes. Steelers at the Baltimore 18. Don’t convert, and punt to the Ravens, who could have had the ball at their 35 or 40 with plenty of time to move in for the game winner.
Charlie Batch drops back and with Hhaloti Ngata steaming at him, he throws to his right just as Ngata creams him, slams him to the ground. Mike Wallace caught the ball for a 15-yard gain to the 33 for a first down.
It was an incredible play lost in many in a classic game between two bitter rivals. The Steelers continued that drive that ended with Shaun Suisham’s 42-yard field goal to win it. Another big play came on second and three from the 40 when Isaac Redman picked up three yards for the first down, barely, churning through a pile to the first down.
Wallace has been up and down this season, but he came up big on that drive. Not only did he catch that 15-yard pass along the right sideline, he caught two more for seven yards on first down on the next play and for 10 yards on the play that put the Steelers in scoring position when Paul Kruger was penalized 15 yards for roughing Batch.
We don’t know at this point what this victory for the Steelers will ultimately mean, but for one day, it has to rank among their most satisfying at least in Mike Tomlin’s coaching career.
Onto some stuff:
--- That handshake between Tomlin and John Harbaugh that has attracted so much attention cannot compare to the Chuck Noll vs. Jerry Glanville “handshake” after a 1987 game in Houston. It’s a classic and one of Noll’s great moments, captured by KDKA cameraman Michael Chalik. Here it is:
--- The Chargers are a mess. Here’s a story:
--- YOU: I was blown away originally when Harbaugh said “the tougher team won” that game. It’s almost as if he forgets that they have yet to beat the Steelers when it counts, the playoffs. And the chances of them meeting again in this year’s playoffs is good and the chances of the Steelers remembering that comment is very good. It’s not like anyone needs extra motivation in this great rivalry, but why give the other team anything? Just doesn’t seem too smart for a NFL head coach. And his brother seems the same, maybe worse. Must run in the family.
ME: Everyone loves to beat the Harbaughs.
--- YOU: I saw a clip tonight (MNF) of Mike Tomlin greeting a happy tackle, Kelvin Beachum. “Little KJ Beachum. What a game. Your Daddy will be proud.” (paraphrase)
Made me look him up….looks like an interesting kid….big Texas HS prospect goes to SMU. Seems like he’s been underestimated for a while. Maybe the Steelers have a find?
Keep up the great work. Love your reporting,
ME: The guy started four years at SMU, all at left tackle. Maybe, as a seventh-rounder, he’ll be the offense version of Brett Keisel.
--- YOU: Incase you haven't gone through the trouble of calculating potential tie-breakers with the Ravens, I have. The Steelers must beat them outright. They are tied head to head. The best the Steelers can do is tie them in division at 4-2. And the Ravens will be guaranteed a better record in the AFC.
ME: Common opponents before AFC record in the division. The Steelers also do not fare well there with a 5-3 record and four common opponents left. The Ravens are 7-1 with four common opponents left.
--- YOU: Suisham for team MVP and ProBowl? I haven't seen one kick of his slice or hook. He's missed one, from 54 yds, which he never should have kicked, IMO. Incredible performance this year. Best on the team. Heck, even comeback player of the year, maybe.
ME: Check out my story in today’s PG.
--- YOU: Hello, Ed. I liked the Steelers resolve against the Ravens—they never blinked. What do you put their chances at now, of winning out ( inconsistency notwithstanding!) and making the playoffs or even getting in @ 10-6?
ME: The key is their game against Cincinnati Dec. 23. If they win that, they can lose another or maybe even two to get in at 9-7.
--- YOU: Clark said they were motivated by Harbaugh's speech after the game at Heinz. What exactly did he say?
ME: He said the toughest team won.
--- YOU: We may have stumbled on to something regarding the O-line. Bronco at C and Pouncey at G. Throw Willie or David in the mix, and we have 4/5's of our O-line the rest of the way and the future, right (L-R: Starks, Colon/DeCastro/Pouncey, Bronco, Pouncey/Foster, Beachum)?
ME: Don’t get carried away, Maurkice Pouncey will return to center, Colon to left guard.
--- YOU: You texted today that you thought Troy's occasional absence from the defense 'looked like a plan.' The TV announcers said it was a plan, something they had been told the night before. I am curious why the TV guys would have that information, but the local pros (you and Gerry) don't. Seems like that information was, in some way, 'saved' for the TV.
ME: It’s the nature of the beast. The coaches tell the announcers – who work for networks that provide the money that makes it all go – some tidbits they can use for the broadcast. There’s no reason for them to tell us that stuff because, you know, we would just write it before hand.
--- YOU: On the CBS pregame show Jason LaConfora referred to some frustration among Steeler players that Ben didnt give more of an effort towards playing today. Did you notice anything like this from the organization?
ME: No, and that report has been discredited.
--- YOU: On a radio show in NY just now Phil Simms just said the Steeler defense is playing better than it ever has. No breakdowns anywhere. Do you agree? They don't get sacks nor do they take the ball away but they o seem to be playing very well. Phil says Steelers will be very dangerous if they get in.
ME: Maybe better than it has this season, but hardly equal to some of the great defensive play in their history, including recent versions such as 2008.
--- YOU: Steelers go 4-0, Ravens go 2-2. Who wins the division title?
I think both scenarios are feasible…
ME: First tiebreaker is head to head. Even. Second tiebreaker is record in the division. Third tiebreaker is record against common opponents. Too early for me to look into it.
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