Thank god for Shaun Suisham.
Am I done? Can I end with that? We good?
Because that's really all Steelers fans need to say after this nail-biter. Suisham hit a 42-yard field goal with no time left to win the game and help the Steelers avoid their worst start in something like 5,000 years.
It says a lot about the Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry that it was actually broadcast here in NYC. Seeing as the Ravens are now 3-4 and the Steelers just 2-4, well, it hasn't been the most winning-est couple of months for both of these power franchises. Any other 3-3 or 1-4 team probably wouldn't have merited a national spot on the TV line-up. Still, it was a close, hard-hitting game from start to finish. Maybe all it took was an 0-4 ass whooping to finally get the Steelers to wake up a little bit from their inept slumber. Not saying all their (huge) (major) problems are fixed, but to get a solid win against a division rival to set up a 2-game win streak ... not gonna complain.
The Steelers were able to convert some key third downs (7 for 12). That was new and nice. Ben Roethlisberger went 17 for 23 for 160 yards and 1 TD. Not the sexiest of numbers but he also threw no interceptions. And he should have thrown for 2 TDs if it weren't for a dropped pass in the end zone by Derek Moye. Probably the one offensive statistic that will make nearly all Steelers fans extremely happy: Rookie Le'Veon Bell ran 19 times for 93 yards! Finally! The Steelers had 141 total rushing yards, including a lovely 20-yard run by Big Ben himself.
Still, I do hope Suisham heads to a local Pittsburgh bar a couple times this week, because he was able to come through every time the offense couldn't put up 6. Suisham kicked four field goals during the Ravens game alone and has also made all 14 field goals he has attempted this season. He wouldn't have even been put in this position had Emmanuel Sanders' heel not gone out of bounds during his first kickoff of the season with just minutes left in the tied game. He sprinted 107 yards for what seemed like a brilliant TD with 1:46 left on the clock. It sure was exciting and exhilarating to watch, though alas, it didn't count. Womp. So the Steelers had to start on their own 37, but what was a bumbling, completely inept offense during the first few games of the season was able to get some yardage and create a make-able field goal for Suisham. Lovely 13-yard and 11-yard completions by Antonio Brown got the ball to the 24. Is everything finally starting to come together for the Steelers? Dare we hope for a 12-4 season? Hahaha that was funny.
Well anyway, Joe Flacco was also able to coordinate some huge drives, keeping this one close to the end, though they obviously had trouble getting into the endzone. He went 24 for 34 for 215 yards with 1 TD. The most glaring weakness in their offense, kind of like the Steelers (minus this matchup), is their running game: Ray Rice, their leading rusher, had 15 carries for just 45 yards. But Flacco was able to take the offense down the field 73 yards on 16 plays and tied the game 16-16 with just 1:58 left. Flacco completed the 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Clark after going 9 of 10 for 60 yards on the drive. It was something Steelers fans were very used to seeing from Flacco, and it seemed their offense was able to finally step up when it counted.
Though kudos to safety Troy Polamalu for his hurdling skills during that last extra point attempt. Totally worth the penalty.
Speaking of the defense, LaMarr Woodley recorded his fifth sack of the season, a 10-yard loss by Flacco. It pushed the Ravens out of field goal range and forced them to punt toward the end of the first half. But as the Steelers were going to run out the clock, Heath Miller fumbled a completed pass when he was hit by Daryl Smith. Justin Tucker kicked a 38-yard field goal with just seconds left in the first half to make the score 10-6. Though Heath did score the one and only touchdown for the Steelers in the first quarter, so I suppose we can begrudgingly forgive him. Still, the defense is having trouble creating turnovers. Miller's fumble was the only turnover of the whole game. The Steelers D did show shades of their old selves last weekend against the Jets, but they need to make these game-changing plays. Yes, we won, it's great, but the defense has to take a more dominant stand and help win some games, especially with their struggling pass rush. Thank goodness Flacco's last, long drive didn't lead to a loss, but it just goes to show how easily he could pick them apart when it came down to the wire. Yet they were able to hold Baltimore to field goals (except for that last drive) with some stringy tackling and pass deflections (even William Gay had a brilliant play deflecting a pass on a long pass near the endzone, and I never compliment William Gay), so, as I'm sure every Steelers fan said walking away from this game: We'll take it.
Next week the Steelers take on the Oakland Raiders on a trip out west. The Steelers tend to have a difficult time against the storied Raiders, and then with the New England Patriots right afterward, this will be the time for the Steelers to prove if they have what it takes to give us fans some hope for a postseason run. Surprisingly, this was the Steelers first regular-season win over Baltimore at home since 2009. Yeesh! But thank goodness for Bell too, who snapped an 11-game streak of the offense running for less than 100 yards and also allowed the Steelers to hold on to the ball for 31 minutes. See what an effective running game gets you? Please, Bell, do not get injured. I still don't recognize half of our offensive line with all the change-ups and replacements as of late.
But it's important to take next week seriously. The Raiders have beaten the Steelers twice in a row in Oakland. The Raiders are also 2-4 but they enjoyed a nice, relaxing bye week this week, while the Steelers will be deflating from this hard-hitting division game. Though some of the magic seemed to be missing from the Steelers vs. Ravens rivalry, it's still awesome to walk away with a win at the end of a close division game.
Oh, and farewell to the huge, smiley rubber duck floating around the Allegheny River. Your many cameos on my Facebook page will sorely be missed. Glad you got to see a huge Steelers win on your final day.