Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert is regularly praised, for good reason, but his counterpart in Baltimore deserves some recognition today, in the wake of the Ravens’ 17-14 victory. Ozzie Newsome saw a glaring need at wide receiver and went to great lengths to fix it before the season …
After acquiring Anquan Boldin, who made a game-high seven catches for 68 yards Sunday, Newsome signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh when the latter was cut by the Seattle Seahawks. That was Houshmandzadeh catching the winning pass Sunday, beating Bryant McFadden with a fake to the outside and quick turn to the end zone. Throw in Derrick Mason and Todd Heap, and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco now has all the weapons he needs.
Ten other thoughts on Steelers-Ravens ….
— Jeff Reed isn’t earning the $2.814 million the Steelers committed to him in the offseason. After butchering two field goals, he is now 0 for 3 between 40 and 49 yards this season. That includes a miss that almost cost the Steelers’ the opener against Atlanta. Reed’s misses crushed the Steelers’ momentum after they forced third-quarter turnovers Sunday. “Put us behind the eight-ball,” said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
— Eleven penalties for 88 yards was a killer, especially the holding call on Keyaron Fox on the punt preceding Baltimore’s winning drive. Fox’s gaffe — assuming it was a legit call — gave the Ravens a 10-yard head start.
— Would you have passed the ball on third-and-10 from the 3 with two minutes left? I think the Steelers made the right decision, running it. As Tomlin said, “If I can put my defense on the field around midfield and somebody has to have a touchdown to beat us (with no timeouts), I’ll take my chances with that.”
— This game, more than the first three, underscored the absence of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. How many times has Roethlisberger made something of nothing in games against the Ravens, where little was going right for the Steelers’ offense? It happened three times in one season in 2008, when he turned broken plays into a game-changing (or winning) touchdowns. “You know, Charlie (Batch) did a good job moving around, but Ben is out there like it’s sandlot football,” said Ravens nose tackle Kelly Gregg.
— Gregg on rookie center Maurkice Pouncey: “Athletic, quick, got some long arms. He’s going to be a good player.”
— If the Steelers had run out the clock instead of giving the ball back with under two minutes left, William Gay would have been the hero, thanks to his two big plays on the Ravens’ second-to-last drive. Gay continues to thrive as a nickel back. “That was two heavyweight fighters swinging at each other,” Gay said. “They got the last blow. We’ll see them again.”
— Haloti Ngata was the best defensive player on the field, finishing with a game-high eight solo tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. He also planted Rashard Mendenhall into the turf on a hellacious second-quarter hit. ”
— Clearly, the Ravens decided that outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley weren’t going to beat them. They used short and intermediate passes with Flacco getting rid of the ball quickly. They also did a decent job of protecting him, particularly on the winning TD, when Flacco drilled a perfect pass to Houshmandzadeh. “There’s not too many better ways to win a game when you’re coming to Pittsburgh,” Flacco said. It was awesome.” Flacco’s teammates remained supportive of him after his four-interception nightmare at Cincinnati a few weeks ago, even if others didn’t. “Don’t ever doubt him,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “He‘s not going to doubt himself. We’re not going to doubt him. If you got problems with him, you got problems with yourself.”
— Flozell Adams found out what it’s like to hit a quarterback: He accidentally Batch on a scramble. More accurately, Adams inexplicably turned around to face Batch instead of continuing to block downfield, and Batch ran right into him.
— Good to see Antwaan Randle El finally make his presence felt with a gorgeous, leaping fingertips catch over Fabian Washington to set up the Steelers’ first-quarter touchdown, then a huge third-down catch to set up the second touchdown.
— I’m guessing you would have taken 3-1 after four games.