Steelers safety Mike Mitchell is on Steve Smith’s lifetime hit list for a hit Mitchell did not deliver.
Nothing made much sense regarding Baltimore’s 23-20 overtime victory over the Steelers Thursday night, including Smith’s claim that Mitchell speared him and said “How do you like that?” after the hit.
Replays showed linebacker Lawrence Timmons is the Steelers player who delivered the blow -- a legal one at that -- that knocked Smith out of the game with a lower back contusion. Nonetheless, Smith threatened Mitchell before leaving Heinz Field.
“The best thing I can do without threatening him and saying that I will assault him when I see him is I will say I look forward to playing him again,” Smith said. “He's on my lifetime hit list.”
On Friday, Mitchell had a quick comeback for his former teammate with the Carolina Panthers.
“Steve is an emotional guy,” Mitchell said. “He’s used that emotion for years to be a great player. That’s something he uses to try to fuel himself. I will say, if you look at my fine history, I’m more of a helmet to helmet kind of guy, so I’m not going to spear you.”
Mitchell said he is not concerned by Smith’s threat.
“It’s not even something I concern myself with,” he said. “I didn’t think anything of it when I heard of it. I don’t think anything of it now. I’m just going to go on playing football.”
Josh Scobee not only lost a game for the Steelers on Thursday night, he breathed life into Baltimore Ravens. And that could come back to haunt the Steelers in January.
The Steelers had a chance to bury the Ravens and send them to 0-4, but Scobee’s missed field goals let the Ravens off the ropes. And now, they have a chance to come back to relevancy in the AFC playoff picture.
Don’t laugh. The Ravens are 1-3, but they have the Browns at home next week and a game at San Francisco the week after that. They very easily could be 3-3 and ahead of the Steelers, who play at the Chargers and then play host to the Arizona Cardinals.
Not to mention the Steelers must play a first-place schedule and the Ravens have the benefit of playing a third-place schedule. While the Steelers got the Patriots and Colts the Ravens get to play the Jaguars and Dolphins.
That’s a big difference.
Now, because of Scobee, the 23-20 overtime loss on Thursday night could make the Dec. 27 game in Baltimore a play-in game for the playoffs.
That would make for some great theater if it happens, and it could happen in what is shaping up to be a very mediocre AFC after New England and Cincinnati. The Raiders, Jets and Bills are the only other teams in the conference with two victories heading into the weekend.
The Bills might stay in the playoff race, but it’s hard to envision the Jets and Raiders doing the same.
Twelve games remain, an eternity in the NFL, but I’m saying the Bills, Ravens and Steelers are playing for the two wild card spots, with the Dec. 27 contest at the Ravens deciding which team from the AFC North goes and which stays home.
*The Steelers did the impossible by losing to the Ravens on Thursday night. According to numberfire.com, the Steelers had a 99.82 percent chance of winning with 1:59 remaining.
At that point in the game they faced a third-and-5 after Le’Veon Bell rushed for a 4-yard gain. The Steelers ran Bell up the middle again for 1 yard and ran the clock down to 1:06 before calling a timeout to bring Scobee on for a 41-yard field goal.
Scobee missed, giving the Ravens the ball at their own 31 with 1:01 to play in regulation. The Ravens then converted a third-and-10 when Joe Flacco threw to Kamar Aiken for 20 yards to the Steelers 32. Two plays later, Justin Tucker kicked the tying field goal.
*Scobee probably won’t be kicking for the Steelers when they play at San Diego on Oct. 11, but let’s place some blame on Mike Vick for missing a wide open Antonio Brown on the fourth-and-1 on the Steelers’ second overtime possession.
That’s a throw an NFL quarterback has to complete, and Vick threw it five feet over Brown’s head. Vick took the blame after the game, saying that throw will haunt him for a long time. At least he didn’t blame the wind like Scobee.
*If there is a positive to come out of the game it’s that the Steelers had 167 yards rushing on 33 attempts. That’s better than 5 yards per rush, and it came against a defense the Steelers usually have a hard time running the ball against.
The Steelers rushed for 100 yards or more for just the fourth time in 18 games against a John Harbaugh-coached team. Le’Veon Bell had 129 yards on 22 attempts, including a 22-yard run at the beginning of overtime that set the Steelers up inside Ravens territory.
Bell gained eight more yards on the next two plays. Then the Steelers tried a pass on third down and a Vick run on fourth-and-2.
Hindsight is 20-20, but Bell was running so well at the time that maybe offensive coordinator Todd Haley should have given him at least one of those opportunities on those two downs.
*In case you missed it, Antonio Brown’s NFL-record streak of catching five passes for at least 50 yards came to an end at 35 games. Brown had five catches for 42 yards. Still, Brown set a franchise record for the most receiving yards through the first four games of a season. He has 478, 24 more than Mike Wallace, who had 454 through four games in 2011.
*Coach Mike Tomlin now has a losing record against the Ravens (8-9).
*Darrius Heyward-Bey is tied for the team in receiving touchdowns with two. Who would have that would happen at the beginning of the season?
*One reason to believe the offense might improve against San Diego: Martavis Bryant returns to the team today.
Steelers vs. Ravens does not have the same feel to it this week. It no doubt has to do with Baltimore’s unprecedented 0-3 start and the injury to Ben Roethlisberger that will keep him out 4-6 weeks.
The most unusual is the Ravens’ record because this will be the seventh time Roethlisberger will miss this matchup. Baltimore will be down and out if they lose. The Steelers started 0-4 in 2013 and won eight of their next 12 and still did not make the playoffs, although a missed field goal by Kansas City is what prevented it.
So, in just the fourth game of the season, the Steelers can pretty much dispatch their most bitter rivals from the AFC North pennant race. But will they?
Baltimore has won three of the past four games against the Steelers and three of the past five in Heinz Field. They have become quite comfy playing in Pittsburgh.
The Ravens beat the Steelers in the playoffs for the first time in four post-season games against them, sans Le’Veon Bell, of course. But what’s tougher to overcome, the loss of a great running back or a great quarterback?
Last season also was atypical for these teams because they beat each other up in their own stadiums during the two regular-season games. Usually, these games are decided by 3 points or fewer.
What also is atypical is the Ravens and Steelers no longer bully their way with great defenses. The Steelers’ defense, though, has been a pleasant surprise for them the past two games and though Joe Flacco has tortured them at times in the past, maybe they can make it three straight.
A prediction: Steelers 17, Ravens 16. Vick will make just enough plays, as will his defense, to pull this one out. I also am 3-0 in my season-long predictions and I picked the Steelers to win this one back then.
Ben Roethlisberger is not the only starter who will miss Thursday night’s game because of an injury. Linebacker Ryan Shazier won’t play for the second straight time because of a shoulder injury. Also out: nose tackle Daniel McCullers and tight end Matt Spaeth. The Steelers list cornerback Cortez Allen as questionable.
Also, the Steelers signed rookie linebacker Anthony Chickillo, a sixth-round pick, from their practice squad and released defensive end Caushaud Lyons.
A mail bag full of questions for Ask Ed:
--- YOU: Can we now officially say that Jarvis Jones was a poor first round pick, or at least poor value for draft position? Zero sacks this year. He can’t get on the field for more plays than a 38-year-old James Harrison that was supposed to see limited snaps. And the times that he does flash something, he whiffs on the tackle (twice in the backfield against the Rams).
ED: I saw Jones do some good things Sunday in St. Louis, but I do not study video. Let’s go to a place where they do study tapes, Pro Football Focus. There, theyhave Jones with 91 snaps and James Harrison with 113. More, but not a great disparity. Neither has a sack. I have had issues with some of the PFF ratings. Nevertheless, it’s all we have to go on here. They rate Jones’ three games virtually as neutral, a minus 0.9. They rate Harrison as a minus 1.3. He does not yet look like a great draft pick, but I’m going to give him a little more time. And Harrison is 37, not 38.
--- YOU: At what point do we label Shazier as fragile? I know he was durable in college, but taking on guys in the NFL is much different.
ED: Ryan Shazier missed seven games with two separate injuries as a rookie last season, ankle and knee. He missed last Sunday with a shoulder and it appears he will not play again Thursday. I would not call him fragile and the injuries do not seem chronic since they all are different. Again, let’s see how it plays out a little bit before you jump to conclusions.
--- YOU: I don’t want to sound like the people I ridicule when the officiating seems to go against the Steelers, but part (only part) of me believes that had Barron been wearing a Black N Gold uniform and hit any number of QBs the same way, he not only would have drawn a penalty, but also would have drawn a corresponding fine.
Am I watching these games through Black n Gold colored glasses, or does my comment have merit?
ED: I’ve said all along it was an illegal hit. After watching it many times, I don’t think it was dirty because I do not think there was an intent by him to injure Roethlisberger. However, it clearly was against the rules and I would look for him to get fined.
--- YOU: I was at the game in St. Louis. It seemed like there were more Steelers fans in attendance than Rams fans. Yet there seemed to be a lot more noise when the Steelers O was facing a critical play. Do you think they were playing crowd noise over the speakers? I wish I had scalped tix instead of using stubhub. With all those empty seats, I probably could have gotten into the game for $5.
ED: I do not think there were more Steelers fans than Rams fans but it was close, and, no, I don’t think they piped in noise. The Steelers fans may have helped them win when their noise probably helped caused two false starts by the Rams on a fourth-quarter drive that reached the Steelers’ 7 but wound up with a field goal that kept St. Louis behind 9-6 rather than put them ahead with a TD.
--- YOU: With Ben out, the defense has to play at least as good as they did last Sunday to have any chance against Baltimore. With Shazier not back yet, I don’t see anyone else on that defense being disruptive to QB except may be James Harrison in his old days. He had been limited in his snap count. But they will have 10 days to rest for next game. Might he be able to play full game?
ED: I do not think they want James Harrison playing a full game. They have put pressure on the QB from all kinds of places, including their leading sacker, Stephon Tuitt (2.5).
--- YOU: While watching the game, the St. Louis D line was dominating the Steelers O-line virtually every play - I felt like it was inevitable that Roethlisberger was going to get hit hard. A lot of credit goes to the Rams' line - they are beasts - but what could the Steelers have done differently knowing that these guys were basically teeing off every play? Draws? (didn't work) Screens? Roll Ben out?
ED: Unlike many, I do not pretend to know what they should do on offense better than their offensive coordinator. Ben was hit by a defensive back, by the way, who stumbled into him.
A ) If you have trouble scoring inside the 20, and even when ball is on the 2, why do you think you can convert a two point conversion ?????
B) Coach Tomlin, do you want another situation like last year with Blount !!! Run Williams....it's a long season, or have you forgotten last year ?????
C) Apparently, the Rams made adjustments after 1st Qtr, why can't you make an adjustment to their adjustment ????
ED: Wait I sec while I check my stats. OK, there it is. I thought maybe the Steelers had lost that game in St. Louis instead of a 12-6 victory to go to 2-1. Let’s take these like this:
A) – Mike Tomlin’s team was 3-for-3 on PATs and 6 of 7 in the red zone entering that game in St. Louis. Yes, they missed the 2-point conversion. You sound like someone who demands perfection and throws the club when the ball does not land on the green every time. The Steelers were 1 of 2 inside the red zone in St. Louis, one touchdown, one field goal. Their defense stopped the Rams the only time they got inside the red zone.
B) -- It’s not Mike Tomlin’s job to ease the feelings of a 10-year veteran who knew the score when he signed a contract with them in the spring. And I think DeAngelo Williams would be a bit upset if he knew you were comparing him to LeGarrette Blount, who walked out on his team during a game last year.
C) --- I’m not sure what adjustments you are speaking about, but the Rams scored just six points and while the Steelers scored only 12, that was a good Rams defense that beat the defending NFC champs, Seattle, in their opener.
--- YOU: Have you seen enough of Alejandro Villanueva to think he makes Mike Adams expendable when he gets off the PUP?
ED: Yes and no. Do not forget that Kelvin Beachum is in the final year of his contract and there is a chance he won’t be here next year. Who plays left tackle then, and who is No. 3?
--- YOU: How much of an effect do you think it will have on Bryant when he returns from suspension due to the fact he will have missed 4 weeks of team meetings? Seems like it would take a little while for him to get re-acclimated with the team.
ED: He will not have missed all four weeks, for one. For another, he’s been around through training camp and all the preseason games and Ben Roethlisberger said he’s been talking to him often so I’m sure they’re keeping him up to date and have given him access to videos, etc.
--- YOU: Why do I keep hearing that Bruce Gradkowski played his last game as a steeler (stated during last week's broadcast as an ex.)? I understand he's on IR this year and that his contract is up at the end of the season, but why wouldn't we re-sign him for another few years? Seems like a quality backup we'd want to keep around similar to Batch. Unless we're planning to keep Vick for more than a year? Thanks.
ED: If they deem his shoulder to be OK, I’m with you, that they could sign him to a 1-year contract the way they often did with Charlie Batch.