As I do every Thursday, I sat in studio with Bob Haynie this afternoon and, in a phone conversation with one of my the WNST brethren, I made it clear that I felt the Ravens would cover 9.5 points and that relying on Ben Roethlisberger to win a game with his arm is a bad strategy for the Steelers. My fellow WNST pundit didn’t agree. However I stand by what I said and now I’m about to prove my point.
Pay close attention…
Let’s look at Big Ben for a moment. Heck of a passer rating at 102.2. In fact the only quarterbacks with a better rating are those three Gods of the Gridiron- Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and… David Garrard? Read what I just wrote. Roethlisberger IS RIGHT BEHIND DAVID GARRARD. Garrard’s a good quarterback. He’s certainly an upgrade over Byron Leftwich but ponder this- if the Ravens were playing the Jaguars would David Garrard scare you? Alright, fine, this week he’s hurt. But let’s say for the sake of argument Garrard was in there and he was facing the Ravens, does he scare you? Then why be scared of Ben Roethlisberger? Passer rating isn’t everything. Brett Favre has a passer rating 10 points lower the Roethlisberger. So does Carson Palmer. Which of those three names scare you the least?
The Steelers passing game has been functional but not spectacular. Roethlisberger has completed almost two-thirds of his passes and he’s throwing for touchdowns. He has fifteen already. But he’s also someone who can throw the interception. He’s been picked off six times this year and sacked 16 times. Truth is, contrary to what my colleague said on the air, the Steelers have lived and died with their running game. Don’t believe me? Gee, they’re only ranked 1st in the NFL. Meanwhile, that awesome passing game is ranked 21st. In fact the Ravens, you know the team that doesn’t seem to have anything happening through the air at all, is ranked 16th. So can we really say that Roethlisberger is THAT good? His team’s passing game is ranked lower than the McNair/Boller combination.
It was also mentioned today that the Steelers have been relying more and more on Ben’s arm. Someone should tell that to Willie Parker because last week, in a win against Cincy, he rushed for a season high 126 yards.
This whole debate started because I believe that the Steelers present a good matchup for the Ravens. The Steelers are a "run first, pass second" team and the Ravens defense can shut down the run as well as any unit in the league. This is going to force Roethlisberger to make things happen with his arm. Nobody wants that. Last year, if you recall, it was that exact problem that cost the Steelers some games. He’s a guy who WILL get picked off. I promise you. If Parker is shut down, and the Ravens get pressure up front, look for Big Ben to do something stupid. He always does. With the return of Trevor Pryce, as well as the extra week to prepare, I expect the Ravens will come out looking to flatten Roethlisberger. And stupidity may reign supreme.
I know I’ve said before that we have to face the fact that the Ravens are just an average team. I stand by that. They lack offensive playmakers, lost Adalius Thomas, have been forced to play with a young offensive line and keep taking the field without their best two cornerbacks. But they’re no more average than the Steelers. And getting 9 1/2 points, in a game the Ravens know they have to win, I’ll take Purple to cover.
However, here’s a word of warning…
Last week I was positive the Redskins would cover the Patriots.