Tag Archive | "Mike Tomlin"

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With Big Ben & Polamalu out, no excuses for Ravens tonight

Posted on 29 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As we all now know, the Steelers will play tonight’s game here in Baltimore without their two best players, with the late subtraction of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joining safety Troy Polamalu in the black and gold infirmary.

It is not lost on any Ravens fan that tonight it’s clearly: advantage Baltimore.

Big Ben, as ‘yins from ‘donton affectionately call him, has been poison for anything in purple since he entered the league. He is the Ravens kryptonite. Polamalu’s interception of Joe Flacco in Pittsburgh last January must be considered the most heartbreaking play in the history of the franchise.

I don’t think I need to remind you that the Ravens are on a three-game losing streak to our friendly neighbors from the northwest.

Or that this is their first appearance on Baltimore turf since hoisting a second Lombardi Trophy to the Tampa skies last Febuary.

Or that, at 5-5, a loss to the Steelers tonight will effectively end the Ravens season.

I hate the Steelers. You hate the Steelers.

Let’s hope that attitude — and a few first downs and quarterback pressures along with some goofy white towels we’ll all be waving — are enough to keep the Ravens season alive tonight.

I get the feeling we’ll be feeling the loss of Fabian Washington more than we realize — just like when Chris McAlister went away two years ago — but there are no excuses for a Ravens loss tonight.

We can’t cry about Terrell Suggs not suiting up (of course, John Harbaugh has played the cat and mouse injury report game all week with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.)

Flacco needs to be crisp and sharp. Billy Cundiff can’t miss field goals. Matt Katula needs to snap straight. The offensive line can’t create pre-snap penalties. The defensive front seven must make Dennis Dixon run for his life like the rookie quarterback he is tonight.

The game is on national television. It can’t be a coming out party for some guy from Oregon we’ve never heard of.

The only thing worse than losing to the Steelers at home to effectively end our season with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving would be the thought that it happened at the hands of some guy named Dennis Dixon putting on a black and gold cape.

A disturbing thought.

Let’s hope we don’t go there…

The Ravens must win tonight.

My updated prediction: Ravens 34, Steelers 9

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Blog & Tackle: Roethlisberger may sit out Sunday

Posted on 27 November 2009 by Chris Pika

According to Jason LaCanfora of NFL Network, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger may sit out Sunday night’s game vs. the Ravens as a precaution coming off a concussion suffered last Sunday at Kansas City.

According to LaCanfora’s report, Roethlisberger told Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin he fears taking another blow to the head so soon after being knocked from a game, and will make a final decision on his playing status on Saturday morning.

If Roethlisberger can’t go, the Steelers could be in a bind since backup Charlie Batch injured his left wrist and is listed as out for Sunday’s game. The only other QB on Pittsburgh’s roster is Tyler Palko, signed to the practice squad this week. The Steelers did try out a couple of veteran QBs – Todd Bouman and Patrick Ramsey – late this week.

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Blog & Tackle: Cleaning out the Super Bowl notebook

Posted on 04 February 2009 by Chris Pika

It was a long week in Tampa, capped off by an extremely entertaining fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLIII, so it’s time to put a lid on the week that was.

I thought the final quarter of the Super Bowl was the best we have ever seen, even topping the Giants’ victory over the Patriots a year ago. Now, the other 45 minutes were good, not great, so I can’t give SB43 the “best-ever” status some media have already bestowed.

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Speaking of bestowed, maybe the talk of Kurt Warner’s eventually induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame will slow down a little. Warner belongs in the Hall of Very Good, not the HOF. A voter for the Hall said Sunday night that he thought that Warner deserved to be in with three trips to the Super Bowl with two different teams, his two MVP seasons and a Super Bowl MVP trophy. But, his seasons as a backup, and struggles in some years as a starter can’t be ignored. He is a Hall of Fame person by all accounts, but there is a reason why players have to wait five years – it gives the voters a chance to reassess the candidate’s entire body of work against his peers. Has it been a good career for Warner? Yes, but not yet bust-worthy in Canton in my opinion.

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As for the HOF, there are a few voters I spoke with who endorse Art Modell’s candidacy for induction. Modell made the 25-man semifinalist group, but did not make it to the final 15 modern-era candidates. The problem for anyone in Modell’s group, called “contributors” – think owners, GMs and coaches – is that once you make it to the final 15, you have to survive two cut-down votes, first to 10, and finally to five. It’s hard for voters to give an owner a spot in his personal top 10 or top five over a player on the ballot.

So, how did Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. get in this time around? He is certainly deserving, based on what he meant to the upstart AFL. He quietly kept other teams afloat during the fight with the NFL over players, and was a key part in the merger between the “Foolish Club,” as the AFL owners called themselves, and the established NFL, which was gaining momentum from the 1958 NFL title game and catching up to baseball in popularity. Many of the newer panelists had to brush up on their history to see that Wilson was a fit in Canton. Plus with the 50th anniversary of the AFL’s founding being celebrated this year, and his continued active ownership of the club in a small market, there was a groundswell of support that built in Wilson’s favor.

Wilson’s induction gives Modell’s supporters hope for the same kind of re-evaluation of his overall contributions to the league in terms of television’s impact on the game. But his road is tougher with the amount of deserving first-timers coming on the ballot in the next few years, combined with those who came close recently. And the result might be a continued shutout.

As one voter put it, we are entering the “fantasy football” era on player stats and contributions, and that will change how players are evaluated. Other panelists who are on the fence see two sides: Modell’s league-first ideals and personal example that helped the NFL grow at a crucial time and his controversial move of the Browns to Baltimore. Had he stayed in Cleveland, he would have been a sure-fire selection, but the move left some voters, even outside of Cleveland, conflicted on his overall legacy and HOF worthiness.

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One piece of news from the HOF voting that was of interest if you are a Baltimore fan, was that Paul Tagliabue was eliminated in the first cutdown from 15 to 10. He was again a hot topic, as voters spent one hour discussing his candidacy. Supporters point to the fact that labor peace was a constant through his tenure, he got several new stadiums built, and television contract money went through the roof, ensuring the long-term health of the league. But the perception that he didn’t always help the media as much as his predecessor Pete Rozelle, the current labor issues looming over the game because of the last CBA agreement he helped negotiate, and that the on-field product seemed to rank a distant second behind league profits are the negatives. He may well also be a victim of the same problem that dogs Modell’s candidacy – a wealth of deserving players up for election over the next several years.

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No matter what you may think of the Steelers, you have to admire head coach Mike Tomlin. He is a dynamic personality, and when he spoke during Super Bowl week, some media joked that they were ready to go through walls for him. Everyone connected with the club has the highest regard for how he relates to his players, while not compromising on his principles for success. As a result, he and his clubs will be worthy rivals to the Ravens for a long time to come.

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Also, seeing Ben Roethlisberger play from field level, I can see why opposing defenses hate to face him. A term used by a former NFL personnel executive about a drafted player a few years ago fits here: Roethlisberger is a “big human.” His ability to keep plays alive, and not be brought down in the backfield was the biggest reason the Steelers beat the Cardinals.

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With all of the talk about the overtime rules in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference last Friday, there may have been an audible sigh of relief from league officials that Super Bowl XLIII did not go to OT. It’s the only thing that has never happened in the 43 editions of the Super Bowl, and could you imagine an overtime that lasted over one quarter as the Colts-Raiders 1977 divisional playoff did? What’s more amazing is that it would have happened 50 years after the first sudden-death title game in the NFL’s history, the “Greatest Game Ever Played,” another game that was not the best-played contest overall until the final quarter.

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Speaking of Goodell, an interesting sight on Saturday night at the NFL headquarters hotel was the commissioner standing by the lobby bar enjoying an adult beverage while listening to fans who had wandered in to get a drink. I can’t imagine Bud Selig, David Stern or Gary Bettman doing the same thing before their respective championship series. Goodell also made the rounds at the traditional postgame dinner held for game staff and media in the early hours of Monday morning. It is part of what has made Goodell such an effective commissioner so far; his ability to walk with kings of industry and the owners who pay his salary, his ease in listening to fans’ concerns and his stewardship of the game on the field.

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For the record, since I didn’t have a chance to write a blog prior to the game because of my duties for the league during the week, I predicted on Nestor’s Friday show from Radio Row that Arizona would win 34-28. So with that stellar pick, I was 6-5 in picking the NFL playoffs in 2008.

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Last item: Keep your eye on the NFL Players’ Association negotiations with the league on a new CBA. There is a lot of talk about who will represent the NFLPA at the table, and the rhetoric about the game’s finances grew louder on both sides during Super Bowl week. The owners thought they gave too much to the players in the previous agreement, and the death of union executive director Gene Upshaw sent the NFLPA into an unexpected power vacuum. No predictions here, but if you are interested in the business of football or sports, this will be a great case study.

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Bring ‘Em On

Posted on 12 January 2009 by Alex Thomas

Young Jeezy said it best: “So don’t wake me up, I swear to God I’m dreamin’.”

This could not have been scripted any better. The Ravens and the Steelers will continue their heated rivalry in the AFC Championship game for the right to go to the Super Bowl. If you’re a Ravens fan, you have to be excited.

And the trash talk has already started…at least from the Steelers locker room.

“It’s just the history, the arrogance of them sometimes, the lack of respect they show us at times,” Steelers offensive lineman Willie Colon (insert joke here) told NFL.com’s Vic Carucci. “Not that we aren’t a nasty team, not that we don’t retaliate at times. But at the same time, they feel like, for whatever reason, they’re worthy of whatever (accolades) they get.”

I’m sure this is just the first of many quotables that you’ll hear all week.

“What else would you expect, us and the Ravens,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin remarked in a post game press conference. “It would be big if it was a scrimmage. This is for the AFC championship.”

I can’t believe I’m actually going to agree with a Steeler, but Tomlin hit the nail on the head. This would be a big deal if it were a hot dog eating contest.

Personally, I don’t think the Steelers can beat the Ravens three times. Typically, these two teams split their regular season match-ups each year. Very rarely does one team sweep the other, which is part of what makes this such a good rivalry.

I’m not worried about what the talking heads on ESPN or the NFL Network will say this week.

I say: bring ’em on.

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Ravens vs. Steelers – Your Predictions

Posted on 11 December 2008 by Alex Thomas

Surprisingly, all has been quiet this week in both Pittsburgh and Baltimore. No trash talking has occurred yet. In fact, it’s been more like a mutual admiration festival.

Hines Ward, Bart Scott, Terrell Suggs, James Harrison, John Harbaugh, and Mike Tomlin have all been playing the media game. Everyone’s saying the right things publically, but don’t be fooled; behind closed doors, things are surely starting to heat up.

Considering how close the Ravens were to winning in Pittsburgh in Week 3 (and they should have won that game), the anticipation for this game has brought a playoff atmosphere to Bawlmer. Expect that high anticipation to turn into some powerful crowd noise at 4:15 on Sunday.

In order to beat Pittsburgh, the Ravens are going to have to beat the odds and find a way to establish a running game against the #1 defense in the NFL. It looks like Ray Rice will not play, which does not bode well for the Ravens, but this will give Le’Ron McClain more opportunities to touch the football. McClain may be the Ravens’ best option this week over the struggling Willis McGahee with the physicality he brings to the running game. And when Pittsburgh and Baltimore square off, the more physical team usually wins.

The biggest test for the Ravens, aside from establishing the run, will be protecting Joe Flacco. I think the Ravens will play one of their best defensive games of the year, and that the Steelers defense will challenge Joe Flacco to beat them through the air.

My prediction: Considering that it’s so hard to beat a divisional rival twice, and that the ‘yins have to come to Baltimore this time, I’m picking the Ravens in a low scoring game this week. Oh, and Heinz ketchup tastes awful and it’s bad for you…too much high fructose corn syrup.

Ravens -17

Steelers – 9

Pivotal match-up: Ravens offensive line vs. Steelers linebackers. In order to win, the Ravens will need to find a way to run the football and to protect Joe Flacco from a team that has registered the most sacks in the NFL.

Where it could all go wrong: Pretty simple – the Ravens cannot move the football on the ground, fail to protect Joe Flacco, and allow Roethlisberger to make the big play.

Surprising statistic: The Pittsburgh Steelers rank 5th in the league in sacks allowed with 41. Only the Lions, Bengals, 49ers, and Patriots have quarterbacks with dirtier uniforms.

Last Week’s winner: white guy 26 is the winner, picking Ravens – 26 Redskins 10. My pick 29-17 Ravens. Actual score: 24-10 Ravens.

Week 13 winner: Ravenator predicted a Ravens blowout, picking a 34-0 route of the Bengals. My pick: 32-13 Ravens. Actual score: 34-3 Ravens.

Week 12 winner: Polostat was one of the few fans out there who predicted an easy Ravens win, predicting a 28-17 Ravens victory. My pick: 23-16 Ravens. Actual score: 36-7 Ravens.

Week 11 winner: would have been Ravenator if he would have picked the Giants to win, but the check mark goes to Johnny Rocket, who predicted a 31-11 Ravens loss. My pick: 23-20 Giants. Actual score: 30-10 Giants.

Week 10 Winner: My man Franchise gets the check mark, predicting a 31-10 Ravens victory. Remember when Ozzie Newsome was getting verbally crucified on the airwaves? I guess all of us should trust the Franchise. My pick: 29-12 Ravens. Actual Score: 41-13 Ravens.

Week 9 Winner: Johnny Rocket picked the closest score, predicting a 22-16 Ravens win. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the Ravens to put up 37 points on the road. My pick: 23-17 Browns. Actual score: 37-27 Ravens.

Week 8 winner: Nestminder is our first back-to-back winner, picking the Ravens to win 24-6. We had a record-low in the number of predictions received, but we can rebound this week. We’ll chalk that one up to the new website. My pick: 27-6 Ravens. Actual score: 29-10 Ravens

Week 7 winner: Nestminder picked a 20-13 Ravens victory and Polostat was a close second. My pick: 24-16 Ravens. Actual score: 27-13 Ravens.

Week 6 winner: Johnny Rocket correctly picked against the Ravens, per usual, predicting a 32-8 Colts victory. My pick: 28-23 Colts. Actual score: 31-3 Colts.

Week 5 winner: Columbia Ken picked the closest score, predicting a 17-13 Titans victory. My pick: 17-9 Ravens. Actual score: 13-10 Titans

Week 4 winner: Jon R. reluctantly picked a 24-20 win for the Steelers. My pick: 13-10 Ravens. Actual score: 23-20 Steelers (OT)

Week 3 winner: EazyE picked a 23-13 win for the Ravens vs. Cleveland. My pick: 23-13 Ravens. Actual score: 24-10 Ravens.

What are your predictions this week?

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