While all the hype this weekend in the NFL surrounded the Colts and Patriots, there was an important game being played in Pittsburgh Monday night.
The Pittsburgh Steelers needed Monday night’s victory over the Baltimore Ravens to prove that they could slay the dragon.
The dragon, in this case, was a Baltimore team that dominated the Steelers 58-7 last season, whipping them in every facet of the game.
There will be bigger games for this team down the road. A game at New England and one against a Jacksonville team that physically manhandled the Steelers last season come to mind. And then there’s the playoffs – that’s right, I said it.
But consider Monday night’s 38-7 domination of the Ravens a big hurdle that has been crossed.
© If there is a quarterback in the NFL playing better than Ben Roethlisberger right now, I don’t know who it is.
There, I said it – I guess I’m into making statements tonight at 2:44 a.m.
That includes Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
If you gave Roethlisberger Brady weapons or offensive game plans, he’d be putting up crazy numbers right now too. Think Randy Moss could get open with Roethlisberger scrambling around, buying extra time?
Roethlisberger could have thrown 10 touchdown passes against the Ravens Monday. He could have piled up 400 yards passing.
But because the Steelers have some class, he didn’t. And it’s been that way for much of this season.
© Roethlisberger is OK, by the way. He banged his hip and shoulder in the third quarter on a hit from Terrell Suggs, but is fine after the initial shock.
Roethlisberger, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is a bit of a hypochondriac. You never really know if he’s near death or ready to come back into the game.
© OK, now we can get to James Harrison.
That was one of the most dominant games I’ve seen a defensive player have in 15 seasons of covering the NFL, bar none.
Harrison was unblockable, unstoppable and unflappable.
All right, he was flapped a little by the media throng that waited by his locker after the game.
Harrison, you see, is not a guy who particularly likes to talk to the media. In fact, he likes to try to intimidate those who are easily intimidated by a guy who’s built like a brick wall and owns a stare that could stop traffic.
But really, Harrison’s a pretty shy guy. He can also be funny when he wants to be.
He also happens to be a pretty good NFL linebacker, one who likely earned himself a spot in the Pro Bowl Monday night.
© Part of the reason Harrison felt he was so effective was that the coaching staff took him off of two of the three special teams coverage units.
He claimed to be fresher. Of course he was still out there covering punts as we saw when he body slammed Ed Reed, forcing a fumble.
No, he didn’t recover that one.
© Were there any Ravens that Hines Ward didn’t put on their behinds?
© It would do the Steelers well to play with that same swagger and ferocity when they play the Patriots later this season.
We saw a little bit of that from the Colts against the Patriots and they didn’t necessarily handle that physical style of play very well.
Heck, even Jeff Reed was going after people Monday night.
© Of the teams in the AFC North, the Ravens might be in the most trouble.
The Steelers, Browns and Bengals all have a quarterback they can build around. Baltimore, on the other hand, does not.
And the defense is getting old, as is left tackle Jonathan Ogden. In fact, Ogden isn’t getting old. He is old.
The Ravens should have let him stay in retirement and started the rebuilding process this season rather than prolonging the process another year.
© The resurgent Browns are up next. Considering the Steelers have won all four of their home games by at least 20 points, there’s no reason to believe the Steelers won’t dominate them at Heinz Field as well.
Derek Anderson may be a nice story in the NFL right now. And sure, he’s playing well, as are Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. But how are the Browns going to run the football? How are they going to stop the run? How are they going to slow down Roethlisberger?