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Hamer
08-16-2007, 02:07 PM
Have the Steelers closed the gap on the Ravens?

Burning question
By Jim Wexell, For the Herald-Standard
08/16/2007
Updated 08/16/2007 01:00:16 AM EDT

LATROBE - The final day of training camp today at St. Vincent College means it's the day for the Steelers to look deep down and answer what really is the only question worth asking:

Have the Steelers closed the gap on the Baltimore Ravens?

The Ravens just might be the class of the NFL. One prominent writer thinks so.

"Baltimore is the most complete and best team I've seen to this point," wrote Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.

Gosselin has sampled a strong group of teams this summer. In addition the Baltimore, he's visited New England, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Chicago, among others.

The Steelers understood the Ravens' dominance last year. They finished five games behind them in the AFC North and were squashed by a combined score of 58-7.

The Ravens sacked Steelers quarterbacks 14 times in as physical a combined whipping as any Steelers team has ever taken.

Aaron Smith and Alan Faneca are veterans in the middle of each line for the Steelers. Their perspectives differ on whether the Steelers have closed the gap on the Ravens this off-season.

"It's hard to say, but I think we have," said Smith, the ninth-year defensive end. "I think this team's come closer together and I think we've got a great team. It's just a matter of us putting it together. There's no doubt we have the talent."

While Smith admitted that Jamal Lewis "despises the Steelers," he's not ready to call it a break for the Steelers that the running back has left the Ravens for the Cleveland Browns.

"Let's see what the other guy is," Smith said of new tailback, Willis McGahee. "I've only played him once and I thought he was a pretty good back."

But what about the huge gap at the line of scrimmage?

"As far as getting to the quarterback, they were running stuff that we just didn't pick up. They had guys coming free," Smith said. "It wasn't like they were just beating guys left and right. They were coming off the side, five off the side and we were picking up two of them. Offensively, they just controlled the ball."

Faneca, the 10th-year offensive guard, agreed with Smith that it was more scheme than physical mismatch, but he's not as optimistic overall.

"You can't get down to them because then they do all that crazy stuff and it definitely snowballed," Faneca said. "It was a scheme thing a little bit, being able to block what they were throwing at us. We kept having three and outs, kept putting our defense out there all day long in bad situations. Turnovers. We just didn't have good games. I don't think the gap's going to be closed by personnel."

And then Faneca paused.

"Well, we haven't even added any personnel. Sean (Mahan)'s here and whoever we drafted."

Faneca let out a long sigh when asked whether the Steelers have closed the gap at this training camp.

"I don't know. I don't know," he said. "I never really thought about it in closing-the-gap sense. I think we have to play better games. We've got the guys to go out there and execute a game plan. We have to stay in third-and-shorts as an offense and help the defense out. I mean, we just left our defense hanging, both games. We just left them on the field too long, giving them a short field. You do that then all of the sudden you're down 14-0, 21-0 and you're trying to air it out, and then all of the sudden you've got 11 (defensive) guys walking around doing what they do in those situations and it makes it harder. Instead of just having to pick it up 3, 4, 5 times a game, we were getting it 10 or 15 times a game and that makes it more difficult."

When pressed on the team's development, Faneca sighed again.

"So far, so good," he said. "We've got a ways to go. By no means are we there yet."

http://www.heraldstandard.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=18709884&BRD=2280&PAG=461&dept_id=468632&rfi=6

HometownGal
08-16-2007, 02:49 PM
Good read, Hamer - thanks! :cheers:

I think it is premature to speculate as to whether the Steelers have "closed the gap"on the Rats - I'd prefer to see both teams in action for a few weeks in the regular season before I make that call.

The only thing I will say that if Steve McNair stays healthy and with the addition of McGahee (who is a more powerful and quicker back than Jail-Mal), the Rats offense is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

I've got my #9 purple voodoo doll out, pins ready, while chanting Kyle Boller, Kyle Boller. :wink02:

Preacher
08-16-2007, 02:55 PM
Interesting.

I think Fanaca's remarks show something about his linemates as well...

Notice that he blamed the ability to block... and then also said that they didn't pick up anyone else to help out (Mahan excepted)?

What does that say about his confidence in the O line?

Steelerstrength
08-16-2007, 03:01 PM
Thanks for posting!

The honesty from Faneca was assessment that I can agree with. Even though I enjoy being an armchair coach, it's refreshing to hear it from the players.(Even if I really don't want to hear the reality of our situation)

HTG, where can I get one of those voodoo dolls? Instead of pins I'm going to use galvinized nails! :evil:

Atlanta Dan
08-16-2007, 03:01 PM
If the evaluation of the 2006 season did not include the playoffs then the Ravens had a great 2006 and should be feeling fine about 2007. Unfortunately, overlooking their crash & burn in the home playoff loss in evaluating their mindset going into 2007 is sort of like asking "other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

The Ravens laid an egg in the playoffs and Steve McNair is not getting any younger. Willis McGahee for Jamaal Lewis at running back is an upgrade, but with the loss of Adalius Thomas + McNair & Ray-Ray being another year older the love for the Ravens in 2007 continues to escape me. As for some sportwriter saying the Ravens are the most impressive team he has seen during his tours of training camps this season, if he was such an expert appraiser of talent based upon watching practices I think he would be paid a lot more working in some front office than touring the countryside for a newspaper. As for Faneca's pessimism about "not adding anyone" let's just say Faneca is not going out of his way to compliment any personnel decisions by the front office. The o-line has problems but so does Faneca's credibility/

By going with McNair the Ravens rolled the dice on a big 2006 and crapped out. Even if the Steelers have not upgraded from 2006, IMO they are closer to the Ravens if only because the Ravens have dropped back.

FastWillieParker39
08-16-2007, 03:28 PM
The key to the Ravens is and always will be the QB. In 04, and 05 they had Boller and a couple other QB's that weren't that great. What happened? They missed the playoffs those two years. If McNair goes down, then the division could be the Steelers because Boller isn't that great.

If McNair is healthy then the Ravens will probably win the divsion.

The Duke
08-16-2007, 03:41 PM
The key to the Ravens is and always will be the QB. In 04, and 05 they had Boller and a couple other QB's that weren't that great. What happened? They missed the playoffs those two years. If McNair goes down, then the division could be the Steelers because Boller isn't that great.

If McNair is healthy then the Ravens will probably win the divsion.

So maybe anthony smith can bust Mcnair's knees :chuckle:
I'm just joking, I wouldn't want to see anyone get hurt like that, and getting a crushing blow from Smith is something you'll never forget

TackleMeBen
08-16-2007, 03:41 PM
Good read, Hamer - thanks! :cheers:

I think it is premature to speculate as to whether the Steelers have "closed the gap"on the Rats - I'd prefer to see both teams in action for a few weeks in the regular season before I make that call.

The only thing I will say that if Steve McNair stays healthy and with the addition of McGahee (who is a more powerful and quicker back than Jail-Mal), the Rats offense is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

I've got my #9 purple voodoo doll out, pins ready, while chanting Kyle Boller, Kyle Boller. :wink02:

and here HTG, i thought you were a nice lady..lol. :sofunny:... i know not to make you mad, you may get a vooddo doll out of me...lol :flap:

ChronoCross
08-16-2007, 04:03 PM
Its simple. If are O Line blocks and gives Ben time we will win. Special teams will be a key also. But most important will be us to control time of position. Ravens do not impress me. They have no big play offense, and they live off a aging defense. We keep there defense on the field most of the game and we wear them down. We cannot keep having 3 and outs. We cannot keep having sacks. So better hope Tomlin puts together a solid offensive line are else we in for a long year. And if Starks is a starter, just tag up 15+ sacks from his side alone.

There is no gap to close. Fix the O line and we dominate them.

HometownGal
08-16-2007, 04:17 PM
The key to the Ravens is and always will be the QB. In 04, and 05 they had Boller and a couple other QB's that weren't that great. What happened? They missed the playoffs those two years. If McNair goes down, then the division could be the Steelers because Boller isn't that great.

If McNair is healthy then the Ravens will probably win the divsion.

Agreed 100%. Good post. :cheers:

Edman
08-16-2007, 04:31 PM
Since when was there a gap?

The Ravens are tough, but they are far from unbeatable. Look at how Cincy played them. The Bengals played them tough, even manged to beat them once. The Steelers made them look better than what they are. We played right into their hands with our predictable playcalling. Their D is just too stout to line up and "do what we do": Cowher's favorite motto. It also doesn't help that Cowher was half-retired throughout the season, thus winding down the teams' discipline, morale, and worst of all, the fire. The Ravens were much more intense, ferocious, played with more fire, bullied the Steelers all over the field, and made it look easy.

Have they closed the gap? Too hard to tell. Can the Steelers bet the Ravens? Yes. Will they? That's yet to be seen. November 5th will tell everything. Are the Ravens really in the Steelers' heads? Is 2006 a sign of things to come? Or was it a fluky abberation?

BlastFurnace
08-16-2007, 04:39 PM
Their whole season depends on two players who are injury prone...McNair and McGahee. Injuries to one or both, brings them down quite a bit. But...that could be said about us and everyone else as well.

Bottom line...they haven't won anything in 7 years with essentially the same defense and the same pedestrian offense. I guess that's why they play the games.

The Duke
08-16-2007, 04:40 PM
Have they closed the gap? Too hard to tell. Can the Steelers bet the Ravens? Yes. Will they? That's yet to be seen. November 5th will tell everything.

That seems so far away, but I expect us to have seven wins by then :tt02:

Preacher
08-16-2007, 04:48 PM
That seems so far away, but I expect us to have seven wins by then :tt02:


AND I WILL BE THER!!!!!!

:tt02::tt02::tt02::tt02::tt02::tt02::tt02:

Sorry.. excitement getting the better of me again!

j-dawg
08-16-2007, 05:08 PM
whatever.. the afcn is a tough division... hands down... if you were to go on points the browns scored 31 to the ravens 42 last season... better than the steelers, yet still two losses. none of the division games should be considered an easy win... all four teams are hella tough when playing against each other.

WWIIOwheelz
08-16-2007, 05:39 PM
Scary for me to read Faneca's comments about closing the gap. I was at the Christmas Eve game against the Ravens, and it wasn't even close on the line. The Ravens were enormous last year, compared to the Steelers. It was the saddest game I've ever seen live, and I've been to a few.

There were a few reasons for it, I think..... there was no chance at the playoffs, and the week before, the Steelers had knocked the Bungals out of the playoffs, and that was the biggest victory we could hope for, at that point. That said, the Ravens kicked the ever-luving crap out of us on that day.

Moving forward, I see the Steelers having a lot more offensive threats this year, and perhaps most importantly, the cobwebs are gone from Ben's head. I've had a head injury myself, and I know the blank facial expressions, the put-on confidence of someone who isn't quite back up to speed, and he never was last year. They are lucky he didn't get hurt much worse during that time.

It's not going to take much of a difference in personnel for the Steelers to be a much better football team this year. They will play better football.

Steelersfan4life0655
08-16-2007, 05:48 PM
wow...pretty straight foward comments by Faneca. Maybe the steelers should be listening to him. I know faneca is disgruntled by the contract situtation, but he knows hes still got to play like "Faneca" and when he says that kind of quote, red flags fly up everywhere. We get this oline thing situated, we are the best in the North, hands down. :tt02:

RoethlisBURGHer
08-16-2007, 06:55 PM
What gap? Since when has there been a gap? I wan never informed of this gap.

We got our asses beat last year. I will admit that. However, there is no talent gap. At the end of the year Ben will prove to be the best QB in the league.

Our biggest problem last year was Bill Cowher. He was already resigned, just getting paid for it. He didn't give a crap, why do you think Ben started against the Raiders?

steelpride12
08-16-2007, 08:29 PM
The key to the Ravens is and always will be the QB. In 04, and 05 they had Boller and a couple other QB's that weren't that great. What happened? They missed the playoffs those two years. If McNair goes down, then the division could be the Steelers because Boller isn't that great.

If McNair is healthy then the Ravens will probably win the divsion.

They really don't have a defense and are all about the D. If we could block Ben and actually get into the endzone we would have no prob. winning against them because im sure we can handle there offense better this year, and everytime McNair gets hit he gets hurt, so lets get at em boys!

Preacher
08-16-2007, 11:51 PM
Until we beat the Ravens....


They are the class of the North... They won it last year. Year before that, we were the class of the North... cause we beat the Bengals and went on in the playoffs. Year before that... we were again.

So until we beat the Ravens, there is a gap. Fifty some-odd point differential shows a gap. Now, this year, there may be a gap the other way, but we have to play them and beat them to show it.