Joe Cool

Next up, a clash with Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Next up, a clash with Tom Brady and the Patriots.

With Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers would’ve had a running and receiving threat to open up the offense. The favorites in Pittsburgh last night would’ve been expected to win by even more. And there wouldn’t be any extra excuses at the end of the day. But the Pittsburgh Steelers had been projected prior to the season as being somewhere between division title contender and ready for a rebuild. Even the consistent 11-year veteran Ben Roethlisberger had been called out for “slowing down” last season as an aging team did the same.

So Pittsburgh had a great season by anyone’s standards. They were ranked #2 on offense and Antonio Brown played a big role. Heath Miller didn’t do much, but there were a couple young (if inconsistent) receivers to help out with the big plays. Still, this game came down to who had the more physical presence. Justin Tucker made a big field goal and the Ravens overcame an uncharacteristic fumble by Justin Forsett to win a game that no one gave them a chance in.

Afterwards, there were plenty of excuses for why the Steelers didn’t win. But no one wants to give credit where it’s due. Joe Flacco might be an elite quarterback, but maybe he’s not. One thing is for sure, though. Joe Flacco is a big-game player who makes big-game plays. He’s a bigger, more athletic version of Eli Manning in a lot of ways. Who else considers Eli elite? But the guy has two Super Bowl rings. It doesn’t matter what you attribute those rings to. The dude wins big games. He hasn’t been in any recently and thus may sound like not such a great example.

The Baltimore defense did well for itself. A defensive secondary that has been decimated by injuries played big when it counted and a run defense that had played with Haloti Ngata the last 4 games had other guys step in even when he had come back. But the obvious difference was the pass rushing from this Raven team. Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs were awesome. Brandon Williams has come along. And the linebackers have been getting stronger as well. And yet there’s one guy that made the big throws when he need to. Joe Flacco played great and it’s time people take notice.

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