After it was announced just a day before the game that Big Ben wouldn't play due to lingering effects of his concussion, nobody thought the Steelers would win in Baltimore. But they almost did--and the operative and familiar word is almost. Virgin quarterback Dennis Dixon played well and had the Steelers ahead with five minutes left in the game. But the defense failed to hold the Ravens on a third and 23, they tied the game and won in overtime.
The schzoid Steelers emerged again in the past three games, especially in this one. While Hines Ward made big media waves with his confusing comments on Big Ben, implying that he should have played, on the field Ward and the rest of the Steelers worked hard to give Dixon every chance to be successful. But the defense returned to its earlier ways, and failed to hold a lead. Both the Ward comments and the defense are getting a lot of attention in Pittsburgh.
The Post-Gazette writers apparently think their next game with Oakland should be a laugher, but Oakland may surprise them. Once again, everyone is saying that the Steelers have to win out, but they'll have to be a better team than they've been since they beat Minnesota and Denver just to make the playoffs.
One consolation may be that the AFC team that gets into the Super Bowl looks like a sacrificial lamb to the New Orleans Saints or the Minnesota Vikings. Both looked superb this weekend. The Saints destroyed New England completely, and looked exciting doing it. The Vikings were methodical and lethal. I don't think any AFC team is going to beat either one of them, not even Indianapolis, the most likely to get to the Bowl.
The concussion thing... I have to say that watching football, even college football, is getting harder because of the vicious hits and injuries. It's a violent sport but it's getting more violent, as the players are bigger and faster, and they're under pressure to hit harder. Apart from the new concussion policies underway in the NFL, I hope football on all levels is looking at rule changes and at new equipment, particularly better helmets. Meanwhile, it's probably too much to ask but at least it's worth suggesting that television stop valorizing vicious hits, showing them repeatedly in replay and making them top plays.
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