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Old 08-16-2007, 02:07 PM   #1
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Default Have the Steelers closed the gap on the Ravens?

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/n...d=468632&rfi=6
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Old 08-16-2007, 02:49 PM   #2
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Default Re: Have the Steelers closed the gap on the Ravens?

Good read, Hamer - thanks!

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.
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Old 08-16-2007, 02:55 PM   #3
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Default Re: Have the Steelers closed the gap on the Ravens?

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?
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:01 PM   #4
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Default Re: Have the Steelers closed the gap on the Ravens?

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!
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:01 PM   #5
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Default Re: Have the Steelers closed the gap on the Ravens?

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.
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:28 PM   #6
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Default Re: Have the Steelers closed the gap on the Ravens?

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.
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:41 PM   #7
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Default Re: Have the Steelers closed the gap on the Ravens?

Quote:
Originally Posted by FastWillieParker39 View Post
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
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
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Old 08-16-2007, 03:41 PM   #8
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Default Re: Have the Steelers closed the gap on the Ravens?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HometownGal View Post
Good read, Hamer - thanks!

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.
and here HTG, i thought you were a nice lady..lol. ... i know not to make you mad, you may get a vooddo doll out of me...lol
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Old 08-16-2007, 04:03 PM   #9
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Default Re: Have the Steelers closed the gap on the Ravens?

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.
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Old 08-16-2007, 04:17 PM   #10
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Default Re: Have the Steelers closed the gap on the Ravens?

Quote:
Originally Posted by FastWillieParker39 View Post
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.
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