Steelers ‚Äì Ravens Recap: As Expected it came down to Roethlisberger vs Flacco
The first two games between the Baltimore Ravens came down to Ben Roethlisberger vs Joe Flacco and for a third time around it came down to Roethlisberger vs Flacco again. Joe Flacco went 13/30 ‚Äì 141 yds ‚Äì 3INT, while Ben Roethlisberger went 16/33 ‚Äì 255 yds ‚Äì 1TD. The statistics weren‚Äôt overwhelming for Roethlisberger but he carried the Steelers offensively who had no running game and if it wasn‚Äôt for a couple dropped balls, most notably from Limas Sweed, Nate Washington and Willie Parker, Roethlisberger would have easily had a 300 + yard game. No turnovers was the key and the Steelers came into the game with the mindset that Joe Flacco would have to beat them for the Ravens to win.
Roethlisberger,26, is 7-2 in the playoffs with one super bowl ring and another super bowl ring will bring his name into the Tom Brady argument as one of the NFL‚Äôs best big game quarterbacks.
Steelers must pressure Warner
The Cardinals have one of the league‚Äôs most prolific offenses and the NFL‚Äôs top wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald. There isn‚Äôt much of a game plan to limit Fitzgerald who is a matchup problem for any team. The key for the Steelers will be how much pressure they can get to Warner. Blitzing may not work as Warner was the best quarterback in the league against the blitz. He completed 134 of 208 passes for 1,645 yards and 14 touchdowns in blitz situations. While Warner excels against the Blitz, the Steelers front four will have to provide the pressure and I see Lawrence Timmons playing a key role in the Super Bowl. Timmons has exceptional speed and has the ability to provide pressure from the outside or down the middle.
Whisenhunt vs Tomlin
The Ken Whisenhunt ‚Äì Mike Tomlin storyline will be talked about for two weeks after Whisenhunt and Cardinals offensive line coach Russ Grimm were by passed for the Steelers head coaching job. Mike Tomlin has led the Steelers to back-back division titles, two playoff appearances in two seasons, and a super bowl appearance in his 2nd season. The Rooney‚Äôs aren‚Äôt having any second thoughts.
Holmes providing playmaking ability
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes was a bit of a disappointment during the regular season but Holmes has come up big in the Steelers first two playoff games. Holmes changed the momentum against the Chargers with a 67 yard punt return touchdown and against the Ravens Holmes came up big again with a second quarter 65 yard touchdown reception, and a 25 yard punt return later in the game.
Steelers to be a force for years to come?
What has been so surprising of the Steelers Super Bowl run this season is they have received no contribution for their 2008 draft class. It was expected that 1st round pick Rashard Mendenhall would be a major contributor to the running game but Mendenhall was lost for the season in week 4. Second round pick Limas Sweed has seen the field in the playoffs but Sweed continues to drop the ball in practice and in games. Contact lenses may be on the horizon for Sweed. Third round pick Bruce Davis rarely dresses for games
Despite the toughest schedule in the league, no contribution from their draft class, the Steelers finished the regular season 12-4 and are now representing the AFC in the super bowl. Next season the Steelers are rewarded with what looks to be one of the easiest schedules in the league. They have a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who is just beginning to enter his prime at age 26 and A dominant defense that will not lose any key players to free agency. Their running game will be a force if Rashard Mendenhall stays healthy and although Limas Sweed has struggled mightily in his rookie season, it takes receivers time to develop and in year two Sweed could become the playmaker the Steelers drafted him for. His route running has become a strength as he has shown in the playoffs that he has ability to become a deep threat. Now all he has to do is start catching the ball. That will come around.
At the skilled positions the Steelers are set, and they will most likely upgrade their offensive line in the draft or through free agency. The Steelers will be a force in 09 and beyond.