Monday, October 21, 2013

captain clutch

yesterday was part 1 of the annual 2-part headmashing festival that is the pittsburgh steelers/baltimore ravens rivalry.  despite starting the season with their first start since 1968 (!), the steelers felt pretty good going into this matchup, and their confidence was clear.  right from the beginning, with clint hurdle and andrew mccutchen waving terrible towels and wearing steelers jerseys, there was a feeling that this was pittsburgh's game.  and if there was any doubt at all that this was, at the very least, going to be a game in which the steelers were going to present a problem for the ravens, any such doubt was eliminated by the way the steelers rookie running back, le'veon bell, ran the ball. 

it was such a relief for steelers' fans to see his hard running, his obviously good vision, his intelligent cutbacks, and his ability to hold onto the ball, not to mention his near 100-yard performance, against haloti ngata and the orcs of baltimore. 
credit also has to be given to the coaching staff of the steelers, who called a great game.  it seemed like baltimore could never really get comfortable, and while ben was under duress several times, it seemed like they kept the baltimore defense confused enough (using the wildcat!) to keep some of the pressure off ben.  the fact that they ran with some success and stuck with it was also an important piece of the puzzle of a good game plan against the ravens.  furthermore, when the ravens attempted a surprise on-sides kick, it seemed that the steelers were prepared to respond, without looking very surprised at all, and part of that has to be good coaching.

but none of this happens without the unbelievably consistent leg of the canadian shawn suisham, who has yet to miss a field goal this year (he is 14 of 14, with 5 of those coming from 40 yards and beyond, including a long of 48 yards)!  he needed to use that leg for 4 field goals yesterday, and the steelers needed every last one of them desperately.  had suisham choked a bit and pulled one left or shanked one right, i wouldn't be writing this post today, and would instead be crying into my bowl of captain crunch.  thank goodness for captain clutch!

yet, even with the good running game, the balanced attack, no pics thrown by ben (although heath miller's fumble was costly), the good coaching and the reliable leg of suisham, the steelers found themselves tied with under two minutes to go.  enter antonio brown, who had been relatively quiet in this game, but who came up with two big catch-and-runs in the final two minutes, part of a roller coaster possession for the steelers that seemed to start with a kickoff return for a touchdown by emmanuel sanders, but was called back for grazing the sideline with his heel.  the drive also included a defensive holding call by the ravens, that could have been pass interference, but only went for 5 yards, instead.  still, with antonio catching ben's passes and then making guys miss, the steelers put themselves into position for this:

as the final three seconds clicked off the game clock, suisham's right leg once again delivered, and there was much celebration and waving of terrible towels.  at least there was in my living room.  any victory, especially one against the hated ravens, is an exhilarating joy, but this one felt particularly sweet.  and, amazingly, the steelers are back in the hunt.  thanks to captain clutch. 

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