Thursday night football will be coming at one of the most interesting times for the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. Amidst the Ray Rice scandal that seems to grow and grow, Pittsburgh comes to town after barely taking out the Cleveland Browns last week. Baltimore, on the other hand, might have the makings of an early season collapse on their hands, with their play last week against the Bengals mixing with this charged situation that is bringing national scrutiny. Both teams look to approach this game as a punctuating rivalry showdown, while almost everyone off the field is looking to see how the Ravens respond under this searing spotlight.
The Steelers come into the game 1-0 after losing a 24-point lead and pulling out a win on a field goal, thanks to their kicker Shaun Suisham. Pittsburgh’s long-time quarterback Ben Roethlisberger improved to 18-1 against the Browns in his career, but he acknowledged this victory was on their kicker. On the sideline, he said that there was “never a doubt” the field goal would be made. He passed for 365 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and was sacked three times by an aggressive Browns defense. Le’Von Bell also contributed a hefty amount of yards, with 197 from scrimmage and helped the Steelers build that huge lead that ultimately dwindled to barely enough to win.
Baltimore is stuck spinning their wheels in a lot of ways. The majority of the heat from the Rice situation has shifted from the team to the commissioner himself, but the owner, head coach, and fellow players still have some things to answer for. The problem for them is that Roger Goodell is in a state of hushed flux, meaning the rest of the league should follow suit for the moment for the league’s interests. For now, there seems to be no clearing the air for this team because the fog is way too thick.
On a Thursday night football field, Baltimore looks to recover from a lackluster opening game against Cincinnati. Andy Dalton, who historically does not do well against a Ravens defense, found a weakness late in the game that allowed A.J. Green a 77-yard touchdown. Though the score was close, Joe Flacco and company could not find their stride for most of the day. The Superbowl-winning quarterback attempted 62 passes and only completed 35 for 345 yards, three sacks and one interception. A big chunk of those yards and his touchdown came when ex-Panther Steve Smith got away for an 80-yard score, the longest of Flacco’s career.
Both Thursday night football teams this week had comparable games the week before. Even their respective quarterbacks had nearly identical statistics, but a week-long moment has changed many things for Baltimore. No one now carries more pressure to let the past go, while answering for their ignorance, than this Ravens squad, and the lack of a run game, bending defense and inconsistent quarterback play are not helping people forget about their ex-teammate’s transgressions. Pittsburgh will look to keep their momentum rolling through the stunned opponent, but also have to remember that a NFL game is about 60-minutes of game time, not 30 or 45. Thursday night football will air on CBS at 8:25 Eastern time tonight.
Commentary by Myles Gann