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Old 12-31-2007, 06:23 AM   #1
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Default Bring on Jacksonville

Bring on Jacksonville
Monday, December 31, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens exacted their revenge here yesterday, and now it's the Steelers' turn to try.

With both teams playing lineups weakened by injuries and rested players, Baltimore handed the Steelers their third loss in their past four games, 27-21.

It reversed a 38-7 Steelers victory against the Ravens Nov. 5, but did nothing to alter the fact the Steelers (10-6) will open the playoffs at 8 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field, and they will do it against Jacksonville.

"Ready or not, here we come," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We didn't like our performance the last time we played those guys, taking nothing away from them."

The Jaguars beat the Steelers, 29-24, Dec. 16, running for the most yards in Heinz Field history, 224. Baltimore had success running as well yesterday with 180 yards rushing against the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense.

And that wasn't Fred Taylor or Maurice Jones-Drew tearing through the Steelers' defense. It was former backup Musa Smith, who had 83 yards, and little-known Cory Ross, a 5-foot-6 undrafted, second-year pro getting his first 12 NFL carries for 72 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown run.

"It's disappointing to us," defensive end Brett Keisel said, "especially this team that loves to stop the run and prides itself on stopping the run and we haven't been able to do that."

Baltimore also won behind rookie quarterback Troy Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State. He completed 16 of 27 passes for 171 yards and one touchdown, perhaps climbing to the top of Baltimore's depth chart for 2008.

The Ravens ended a nine-game losing streak and finished 5-11 after winning the AFC North Division at 13-3 last season, a title the Steelers claimed last weekend.

The Steelers, who fell behind 27-7 and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make a game out of it, rested a handful of key players in what was a meaningless game for them. Quarterback Charlie Batch started for Ben Roethlisberger, and Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward did not suit up. Younger players and backups filtered into and out of the lineup as the game progressed.

"No matter what the circumstances are, it's always great to win a game, to finish that way against a division rival," Baltimore coach Brian Billick said.

The Steelers certainly hope yesterday's regular-season finale played in a steady rain is not indicative of what lies ahead. Not only could they not stop the run, they could not run it themselves. They managed only 46 yards with Najeh Davenport, who scored on a 1-yard run, getting 27 on 12 carries.

Batch completed 16 of 31 passes for 218 yards, two interceptions and had touchdown throws of 59 yards to Santonio Holmes and 7 yards to Cedrick Wilson in the fourth quarter.

Musa Smith scored on a 2-yard run for Baltimore, Devard Darling caught a 15-yard scoring pass and Matt Stover kicked field goals of 28 and 31 yards.

"That loss was similar to a lot of our losses," Tomlin said. "We had some self-inflicted wounds early, and the spirit and effort we displayed [in the fourth quarter] wasn't enough to bring us back."

The Ravens struck first after Willie Reid fumbled the opening kickoff -- Tomlin lumped it among the self-inflicted wounds -- and Baltimore took over at the Steelers' 35.

Musa Smith eventually ended an eight-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead for the Ravens. It became 10-0 near the end of the opening quarter when Stover kicked a 28-yard field goal.

Baltimore scored again early in the second quarter and did so in what has become an alarming way for the Steelers. Ross cut back through the Steelers' defense for a 32-yard touchdown run.

"I came out a little too fast and a couple guys got cut off," linebacker Larry Foote said. "It's a technique thing and it's execution, but that's behind us."

That gave the underdog Ravens a 17-0 lead. The Steelers broke through with a touchdown on Davenport's 1-yard run after a 47-yard pass interference penalty against cornerback Corey Ivy on Nate Washington put the ball at the 2.

Ravens cornerback David Pittman helped atone for that when he intercepted Batch's pass late in the second quarter and returned it 30 yards, starting another Baltimore drive at the Steelers' 38.

It led to Stover's second field goal of the half, from 31 yards, but not until cornerback Ike Taylor dropped a potential interception. The ball went through his hands with a wide open field and possible touchdown in front of him.

"We had opportunities for interceptions and didn't get it done," Tomlin said.

Baltimore jumped ahead, 27-7, late in the third quarter when Troy Smith threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Darling.

The Steelers scored for the second time when Batch found Holmes on a slant and Holmes broke free and ran untouched 59 yards for a touchdown with 7:13 left.

Washington recovered the onside kick for the Steelers, and they followed with another touchdown, Wilson making a nice grab of Batch's 7-yard pass on fourth down.

It was too little too late on this day. The Steelers did get the ball back but with time running out, Batch threw his second interception.

Win or lose, the Steelers were going to play Jacksonville Saturday night. San Diego assured that when it won in Oakland yesterday to claim the No. 3 seed. The Steelers are No. 4.

"We're just giving up the plays," Foote said of the problems on defense that have materialized in the second half of the season. "But we know that's behind us right now. It's 0-0 and we're coming out next week ready to go."
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Old 12-31-2007, 01:12 PM   #2
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Default Re: Bring on Jacksonville

Although we have our share of worries, I am so looking forward to the game on Saturday. I'm hoping the Steelers play lights out and get some momentum going when they need it most.
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Old 12-31-2007, 01:14 PM   #3
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Default Re: Bring on Jacksonville

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Originally Posted by SteelerFanInCA View Post
Although we have our share of worries, I am so looking forward to the game on Saturday. I'm hoping the Steelers play lights out and get some momentum going when they need it most.
Agreed a good solid game all around by the Steelers and a victory would give us much need momentum going against the Pats next week.
If our run defense steps up which I think they will in the playoffs we can defeat the streaking Jags and prove ourselves once again!
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Old 12-31-2007, 02:59 PM   #4
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Default Re: Bring on Jacksonville

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Agreed a good solid game all around by the Steelers and a victory would give us much need momentum going against the Pats next week.
If our run defense steps up which I think they will in the playoffs we can defeat the streaking Jags and prove ourselves once again!
Agreed we need to get some good momentum going into the playoffs.
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Old 12-31-2007, 03:43 PM   #5
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Default Re: Bring on Jacksonville

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Although we have our share of worries, I am so looking forward to the game on Saturday. I'm hoping the Steelers play lights out and get some momentum going when they need it most.
It's way more enjoyable now that my expectations are less than zero. The other side of the coin...how hard is it to beat the Steelers at Heinz twice within weeks? Almost unheard of I think.

There will be no shame in losing to this Jacksonville team again if we "play lights out." Del Rio has his squad playing STeeler football. Something we should envy.
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Old 12-31-2007, 06:29 PM   #6
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Default Re: Bring on Jacksonville

I think the key for us to beating the Jags is to get an early lead and force them to throw. Gerrard is in is first playoff game and I don't think he will be able to carry Jacksonville. And we want to keep MJD and Taylor from getting the rock.
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Old 12-31-2007, 08:46 PM   #7
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Default Re: Bring on Jacksonville

Our team is the Walking Wounded.......but I know they will be playing their hearts out........to win!
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Old 01-01-2008, 07:18 AM   #8
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Default Re: Bring on Jacksonville

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Originally Posted by Haiku_Dirtt View Post
It's way more enjoyable now that my expectations are less than zero. The other side of the coin...how hard is it to beat the Steelers at Heinz twice within weeks? Almost unheard of I think.

There will be no shame in losing to this Jacksonville team again if we "play lights out." Del Rio has his squad playing STeeler football. Something we should envy.
Speaking of expectations less than zero, the current line is Jax giving 2 points (it opened at pick 'em and $$ poured in on the Jags), which makes sense to me.

The only home playoff game in my memory in which the Steelers were not favored was to New England in January 2005. You usually pay a tax above the 3 points to the home team when you want to bet on the Steelers in the playoffs given their nationwide popularity, which indicates to me Jax is the trendy dark horse to make serious noise in the playoffs and that the Steelers bandwagon has emptied out.
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Old 01-01-2008, 10:23 AM   #9
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Default Re: Bring on Jacksonville

Joey Porter!!, Greg Lloyd, Jack Lambert, Levon Kirkland----Other teams----- Teddy B. NE, LT, Giants, Ronnie Lot SF, Ray Lewis Baltimore the list goes on. They all had one thing in common the could fire up the D in the time when it was need. For Pittsburgh to beat the Jags someone on the defensive side of the ball (H, Ward on offense) has to fire them up when the Jags start to pound the ball down their throat, and they will.

The Steelers are not going to totally shut down the Jags running game its just to good. But there will be a time in the game on Saturday when the defense will have to stand up and make a stop or a three and out. It may not come on the last drive. It may not come at the goal line in the fourth quarter. But it will come and when it does the leader and vocal person on the D better fire them up or the Jags will wide up winning their second game in Pittsburgh this year.
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Old 01-01-2008, 10:44 AM   #10
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Default Re: Bring on Jacksonville

New England, and Indy are considered the top teams. And rightfully so.

San Diego, Tennesee, and Jacksonville are the newest media favorites.

Pittsburgh is now regarded as the weak "backed-in" playoff team. If Jacksonville is "the team nobody wants to play", Pittsburgh is "the team everyone wants to play". Considered what has happened ths past month, I can't blame them.
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