Steelers V Ravens just never let you down. What a game. Steelers 31, Ravens 24. And no matter what happens the rest of the way, Steeler Nation gets to enjoy another entire offseason of ridiculing Ravens fans. To me, the 2010 season is now officially a success, with or without a 7th Super Bowl.
Here were my ten favorite happenings from an AFC Divisional comeback win that gets another perfect 10 on the entertainment meter:
10 — Coach 'Em Up
Mike Tomlin set the tone all the way back in minicamps and offseason workouts for a "next man up" mentality, particularly with his offensive linemen. I used to wonder why Tomlin wasted so much practice time rotating the hogs to different positions that they might never play, but no longer. Without Willie Colon, Max Starks, and then in-game losing both Jonathan Scott and Flozell Adams, the Steelers offensive line held together. This line is far from great, but Tomlin deserves kudos for his attention to detail to get this kind of flexibility from his O-Line. I also liked Tomlin's challenge on the opening kickoff return, resulting in a 15-yard difference that may have prevented an early Baltimore field goal.
9 — Woody Allen?
With 6 minutes left in the game and the Steelers up 24-21, you knew Baltimore would get the ball in good field position with a punt from the Pittsburgh 10-yard line. And, it was almost 28-24 Ravens after a 55-yard punt return for a TD by Lardarius Webb after said punt. But, in a game filled with penalty flags, the holding penalty on Baltimore's Marcus Smith at the Pittsburgh 19-yard line that took away that penalty was among the biggest. It was the correct call as Smith had hold of Will Allen's jersey, but credit to Will for a prop fall to ensure it was flagged. The Ravens settled for a field goal and a tie game at 24.
8 — Wallace P.I.
Not only did the 37-yard pass interference penalty on Baltimore's Josh Wilson set up an opening drive TD, but it established Mike Wallace as a deep threat in the game. These are the kinds of plays that in the 4th-quarter leave guys like Antonio Brown in single coverage on a 3rd-and-19.
7 — Harrison Hustle
If everyone in this fine nation of ours did their jobs with the vigor and passion that James Harrison did his, America would be an even better place to live. On a 3rd-and-11 in a three point game with 8 minutes left, and with Baltimore near midfield, Pittsburgh's #92 beat Michael Oher wide to flush the QB, then chased Flacco ferociously to the sideline preventing him from even attempting a throw. I thought Harrison dislocated his shoulder on the dive, but he never missed a play the remainder of the game.
6 — Gay Island?
I've been awful hard on "Big Play Willie Gay" throughout the year. But with Bryant McFadden out of the game due to hip problems, Gay earned his nickname back for at least a week. I still can't believe Baltimore didn't test Gay more often, but when they did throw his way with 1:22 left, William had perfect coverage on veteran Derrick Mason down the sideline. He also closed in enough on TJ "Who's Your Momma?" two plays later to perhaps influence a dropped pass. He's no Darelle Revis, but credit where credit is due, it was a terrific game for William Gay.
5 — Flacco Snap-Oh!
The guy just melts down at big moments. He fumbles too easily in the pocket, and in crunch time too often Joe Flacco chokes. In the Baltimore regular season loss to Pittsburgh, Flacco didn't locate Troy Polamalu on the biggest play of the game, and the Steelers stole one. In the playoff rematch, Flacco turned the ball over on back-to-back series in the 3rd quarter with a floated interception to Ryan Clark and a botched snap-fumble. That's a ten-point swing you can't overcome in playoff football. As if there was any doubt, Ben over Flacco, Steelers win again.
4 — Ravens Droppings
Isn't it lovely to watch the guy who once stepped on Myron's Towel as he entered Heinz Field in a Bengals jersey end Baltimore's season with a drop right off his chest? Isn't it as lovely to watch Ray Rice cough one up for the first time in 405-touches, a longest-in-the-NFL active streak? Rice's fumble started the Baltimore choke-job, and after his outrageous end zone dance earlier in the game it was a bumble so sweet to behold. TJ completed that choke job, and someone should have draped a Terrible Towel over his head as he wept on the sidelines. Throw in an Anquan Boldin dropped TD pass on a low throw in the endzone costing the Birdies 4 points, and you've a full heap of Bird droppings to marvel at.
3 -Rashard's Redemption
Baltimore wasn't the only team giving things away, of course. Rashard Mendenhall 's fumble at the 15-yard line put the Ravens up 21-7. But redemption came after the half for the Spin-Cycle. I loved the 14-yard run Mendy had immediately after Rice's fumble (with stellar blocking by Heath Miller and Hines Ward), one play before Heath scored a TD. And of course Rashard's decisive 2-yard TD run with a jump-cut to make three guys miss, followed by the power to push a pile into paydirt, now that was something.
2 — Wins Hard
Good thing the Steelers fell behind 21-7, because it allowed Hines Ward to pull out the old "no one gave us a chance to win that game" at halftime. The Ward catch on a 3rd-and-10 throw early on the decisive TD drive was classic #86, with Nakamura draped all over him. And Mr. Red Zone came up with the clutch-est of TD catches with an 8-yard haul-in to tie game at 21. I can't endorse his postgame attire choice of a ridiculous looking fur coat with white turtle neck, but Ward gets my first ballot Hall of Fame vote if ever I get one.
1 — The Turk
I became a huge fan of Antonio Brown back in the offseason, as the rookie came in and immediately flashed his ability. He's confident, borderline cocky, but he has great ability. Playcaller Bruce Arians didn't trust him earlier this season due to mental lapses in practice, but Brown kept pushing to see the field. And when it mattered most, the man with the nickname "The Turk" delivered on an incredible 58-yard pass on 3rd-down-and-19. Said QB Ben Roethlisberger afterward, "I told the young fellow, 'just take off', I'm gonna throw it up there for ya. They rolled over the top the other way, I tried to keep the safety and, first I didn't think he was going to look up for the ball but he made a heck of a play." That Brown did, with an amazing one handed catch as he wedged the ball against his helmet for control. Think about Limas Sweed in the 2008 AFC Title game, and the drop that almost cost Pittsburgh a Super Bowl. Then, think about what "The Turk" just did in his first ever playoff game to spark the win.