Despite another slew of injuries to key players, despite Bryant McFadden playing worse than a little old lady with a walker and a babushka (or worse than Chad Scott, depending on your perspective), despite Anquan Boldin's obvious greatness, despite the broken nose and the broken foot, despite Keenan Lewis being very Keenan Lewis-like, despite a MASH unit masquerading as an offensive line, despite swirling winds and a place kicker pressed into doubling as a punter, despite another poor effort by the officials, and in spite of the always puzzling, often hair-pulling play calling of Bruce Arians, the Steelers managed to get out of town with an order of crabcakes from the Cross Street Market and, more importantly, a win that puts them atop the AFC North.
Oh, and also, they were able to overcome a completely unstoppable Terrell Suggs who made it his personal mission to hit Pig Ben on every snap and disrupt every single running play. Truly, Suggs turned in an amazing performance.
Kicks in the 'nads to:
--Keenan Lewis for going out of bounds and negating a Shaun Suisham punt that had pinned the Ravens at their own four yard line.
--Bryant McFadden for, oh, so many bad plays, missed tackles and foolish penalties.
--The officials for missing an obvious, horrific helmet to helmet hit that left Heath Miller motionless on the carpet for a few terrifying minutes. And I'm not quite sure how Haloti Ngata gets away with punching Pig Ben in the face without being flagged. I know it was inadvertent, but aren't they supposed to be flagging hits to the head, even when they are inadvertent? Wasn't that the point of the new emphasis on 'player safety?' I'm not some crazy person sitting in my basement in my underwear with a foil hat on my head decoding the secret messages from aliens in between putting the finishing touches on my treatise about the Kennedy assassination and how Dick Cheney was responsible ... but C'mon Man! If anybody did that to Tom Terrific, it would be a national freaking calamity and Roger 'Judge Dread' Goodell would ask President Obama to send in FEMA. If James Harrison did that to anybody, one of the officials would have left the M & T Bank Field and personally driven Harrison to Ray Anderson's house, where Anderson would fine him, suspend him, and possibly have him deported. Just sayin'.
--Bruce Arians for his continued inability to adjust, to create mis-matches or take advantage of them. After Miller (his best run blocking TE) and Hotel Flozell (his best run blocking lineman) went out with injuries, he ran the ball repeatedly. Oh, run the ball again, BA! And for his inability or refusal to adjust to Terrell Suggs' ferocity and intensity. Suggs was eating Hotel for breakfast before Hotel was hurt, and then Suggs noshed on Jonathan Scott. Inexplicably, the Steelers left Scott out there on an island, helpless to block Suggs. It's not Scott's fault that he is simply not good enough to handle Suggs on the edge one on one. How does the offensive coordinator not see that? How does he not have a tight end or running back helping Scott out?
Mugs of spiked hot chocolate to:
--Shaun Suisham for hitting both of his field goals last night in swirling winds, one of which was 45 yards. And also taking over for the injured Dan Sepulveda to handle the punts.
--David Johnson for three nice receptions and holding down the fort after Miller was knocked out.
--James Farrior for always just being a steady, heads up presence for that defense. He's old, he's skinny, but he's still a bad ass.
--LaMarr Woodley for constantly pressuring Flacco and being Johnny on the spot to scoop up the game turning fumble.
--Troy Polamalu, for being all world, all everything, creating the fumble that gave the Steelers new life. I'm surprised he didn't break Flacco's arm, he hit it so hard. How many times have we seen Troy make game saving, game altering plays? It's not an accident and it's not luck. That is greatness.
--Pig Ben, for playing on a broken foot and bouncing back from a broken nose to make enough plays to will his team to a win, none bigger than escaping Terrell Suggs to get the ball out out bounds and then making a nice hot read to get the ball in Isaac Redman's hands.
--Isaac Redman for making the right hot-read and then breaking the tackles of Dawan Landry, Ray Lewis and Jarret Johnson to get into the endzone for the winning touchdown.
But this wasn't a football game, not a normal football game. It was more like an Iron League hockey game. Hockey players take great pride in being the toughest athletes around, but I think that the Ravens and Steelers would earn their grudging respect. Pig Ben played with a broken nose and a broken foot and it looked like Terrell Suggs had a bloody mouth through the whole game, but who knows, he could go all Ozzy Osbourne on the sidelines or something.
Shut out everything else, a league in flux, officials who are so turned around they can't do their jobs; shut out the national television crews and Al Michaels; shut out the coaches making adjustments or failing to; shut out the wind and the hype and the hyperbole. This was a bar fight. Last man standing wins.
In this instance, the last man standing was, of all people, Isaac Redman.