Friday, November 16, 2012

The Ravens-Steelers Preview

It's Ravens-Steelers week so we're breaking the picks into two parts. Part one will be devoted to Sunday night's game which will go a long way towards deciding the winner of the AFC North. As you may have heard, Ben Roethlisberger will not be playing and his absence has swung the line from Steelers by 3.5 to Ravens by 3.5.* There is a very small part of every Ravens fan that feels a little cheated because playing the Steelers without Big Ben is like taking on the 7th Panzer Division without Erwin Rommel (do you see how I subtly compared the Steelers to the WWII Germans there?). There is, however, a much larger part of every Ravens fan that is now terrified by the prospect of a loss on Sunday followed by a week of "you see . . . they couldn't even beat the Steelers without Roethlisberger." I don't know if I can't see that happening or if I just refuse to imagine the possibility of it happening but either way, here's the pick.

Baltimore by 3.5 over Pittsburgh: The Pick - Ravens

It's just not going to
be quite the same.
I'm not going to break this down any more than to say that if the Ravens play to 80% of their ability, they should win this game by at least a touchdown. Remember that the Steelers will also be without Troy Polamalu, Antonio Brown and first round draft pick David DeCastro who went down back in September. (I must admit that I'm not proud of my initial reaction to that news). If the Steelers are able to run the ball and win this game by scoring 17 points, it will raise major red flags for the Ravens down the stretch (I thought you weren't going to break it down). Right, enough of that, the Ravens are going to take care of business so let's explore a more entertaining angle.

Mr. Roethlisberger's understudy, Byron Leftwich, actually should have been drafted by the Ravens in 2003 when they agreed to trade-up from their 10th spot to the Vikings' 7th spot. That would have moved them one spot ahead of the Jaguars who made no secret about the fact that they were going to take Leftwich. The Vikings, however, somehow managed to screw-up the trade so royally that, not only did it not go through, but they ran out of time to make their pick. By the time they removed their horny helmeted heads from their asses (which may explain why it took so long), the Jags had taken Leftwich with the 7th pick and the Panthers took Jordan Gross with the 8th pick before the Vikings finally took Kevin Williams with the 9th pick.** The Ravens were reportedly furious and had to "settle" for five time Pro Bowler Terrell Suggs with the 10th pick.*** The Seahawks then drafted Marcus Trufant who went on to make a Pro Bowl meaning that the four players picked after Leftwich combined to make 14 Pro Bowl appearances (Gross (2), Williams (6), Suggs (5) and Trufant (1)) while Leftwich has played for four different teams in nine years and never thrown for more than 15 touchdowns in a season.

"You wrote all of that
just to zing the Jaguars?"
What does this have to do with anything? Did I mention that Jacksonville was the city that Paul Tagliabue deemed worthy of the last expansion team in 1995 when Baltimore had clearly presented the superior proposal? A year later Baltimore would steal the Browns from Cleveland, draft Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis in the first round and go on to win Super Bowl XXXV. So nice work outmaneuvering the Ravens for Leftwich Jacksonville but karma's a bitch and you know what else? The Jerkstore just called . . . and they're running out of you!

Endnotes

* This is almost the exact opposite of what would happen to the line of the Rams-Jets game if Rex Ryan announced he was changing quarterbacks.

** The Ravens flat-out blamed the Vikings for botching the deal while the Vikings claimed about five B.S. excuses for why it didn't happen. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the failure of the Vikings to make their own pick before two other teams jumped ahead of them is not a fact that supports their side of the story.

Boller was making shrewd
decisions on and off the field.
*** They then countered that good fortune by trading their 2nd round pick and their 1st rounder in 2004 to the Patriots for the 19th pick which they used on Kyle Boller who Brian Billick preferred over Leftwich in part because Boller could throw a football from midfield through the uprights while on his knees. (Little did we know that he may have been less accurate standing-up). Boller would appear in 53 games for the Ravens throwing 45 touchdown passes, 44 interceptions and setting the record for most busted plays caused by tripping over a lineman, turning the wrong way on a hand-off and having the ball fall backwards out of his hand. In five years with Kyle Boller on the roster, despite having first ballot hall of famers at middle linebacker, left tackle and safety to go along with the 2003 offensive player of the year at running back, the Ravens did not win a playoff game. Asking Ravens fans about this stretch is like asking John Travolta about the years between Urban Cowboy and Pulp Fiction.