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Facing the Enemy Week 13: Ravens vs Steelers

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Setting aside my despise for any Steelers fan, I was able to be professional and do an interview with a Pittsburgh Squeelers blogger. Oops, there goes my professionalism.

I asked Chris Viola of NicePickCowher.com some questions regarding his team and the upcoming game.
Here are his squeels:

1. Do you think the NFL is after James Harrison, given all the fines he’s been hit with?

Without a shadow of a doubt, James Harrison has a target painted on his back.  And Roger Goodell is holding the paintbrush.  He was fined three times more for a clean hit on a receiver than Richard Seymour was fined for sucker-punching Ben Roethlisberger.  The two clowns who got into the UFC match last weekend also paid 1/3 of what James was fined.

But don’t just take my word for it.   Terrell Suggs told Pittsburgh reporters “The referees are kind of looking for him. Even if he breathes on a quarterback wrong, he might get a flag. … I think they are looking at him more closely than they are everybody else in the league.”

(The link for that quote is http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=5872328, FYI).

2. Who is the most underrated Steelers player that Ravens fans should look out for?

Wide receiver Mike Wallace.  When people talk young star receivers, you always hear Dez Bryant or Desean Jackson mentioned.  Wallace is every bit the player either of those two are.  He led the league in average yards per catch last year as a rookie and he’s leading the NFL again this year.  Teams know he’s a vertical threat and I’ve yet to see anybody keep up with him.  But more than that, he’s becoming a complete player, the kind who’ll make a tough catch over the middle or run the reverse.

3. Are the 2010 Steelers a better or worse team than the 2009 Steelers?

I hate to do this to you but they’re pretty much the same, leaningtoward slightly better.   Injuries are injuries and you lose players every year.  Having a full season of Troy Polmalu is certainly a big plus but we lost our starting LT earlier in the season so you’re
always going to be playing without a key player.  LB Lawrence Timmons has improved by leaps and bounds but the return of CB Bryant McFadden has yielded very little improvement.  So it all evens out in the end.

Honestly, I hate using the term “Super Bowl Hangover” but I really think that was the biggest difference between last year’s team and this year’s.  There was a desire, a will to win that was missing from last year’s team.  When teams refused to back down, they folded.  This year, they keep fighting. That’s really the biggest difference between the two squads.

4. The Steelers are ranked No. 1 against the rush, but No. 22 against the pass. Do you think they’re too focused on stopping the run?

Not really.  Last week, the Steelers rolled out a dime package for the first time this season and the Bills still threw on them.  It’s not a matter of scheme or focus, it’s a matter of talent.  D-coordinator Dick LeBeau correctly realizes you have to play to your strengths. The Steelers strength is their linebackers.  Their weakness is their defensive backs.  Removing Timmons in favor of Anthony Madison or William Gay is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

5. Game predictions?

I’m not going to give a score since it’s arbitrary and obviously I think the Steelers will win.  I expect a typical close, hard-fought game, with the margin of victory being no more than 3-4 points. Steeler Killer Ray Rice will make some big plays as will our Mike Wallace.  Both defenses will harass the opposing QBs, keeping offense at a premium (bet the under).  One way or the other, it’ll come down to the final possession with the game being decided by whether one QB can lead his team on the game-winning drive or if the opposing defense can man up and hold on to a narrow lead.

Let’s just hope somebody bothers to cover Anquan Boldin this time!