NEW CASTLE —
It was indeed a big one.
Tens of thousands came to downtown Pittsburgh to make sure they saw it.
Hustling and bustling amongst each other in order to get a good view of it, the rabid fans snapped lots of pictures and nearly all of them left smiling.
Indeed, what a memorable duck it was.
No, not that wobbly floater of a pass that Ben Roethlisberger launched toward the far sideline in the first quarter, though that was certainly a mighty duck … we’re talking about the 40-foot rubber ducky that was nestled in the Allegheny River by Point State Park for the last few weeks.
Estimates were that more than a million folks flocked to The Point to view the brilliant work of Dutch artist Florentijn Hohman (or more likely the work of his 3-year-old son), and only God knows how many millions of pictures of that thing have ended up on Facebook. The Duck probably has its own page, along with a few selfies.
Over the past decade-and-a-half, games between the Steelers and Baltimore across the pond would have been the featured attraction, but as this was the final day The Duck would be on display before it flew the coop for the winter and maybe forever, all eyes were on the flightless fowl as it was clearly visible on the Allegheny River from within Heinz Field.
Oh, and it was the only bird leaving the area as a winner last night.
The Ravens departed as 19-16 losers.
This once mighty matchup between AFC North powers has certainly lost some of its lustre, as neither side appears to have the makeup of a playoff contender at present.
Gone from two franchises that have combined to win nearly a third of the past 13 Super Bowls are the likes of perennial Pro Bowlers and/or potential Hall of Famers such as Hines Ward, Ray Lewis, Aaron Smith and Ed Reed.
Now these teams are relying on guys named Whimper in order to stay within striking distance of the Cincinnati Bengals in the division.
Yep, that’s where we are in 2013, the Steelers and Ravens are trying to hang with the Bengals.
Despite their inferior record, the Steelers (2-4) are now riding some momentum following yesterday’s win while the Ravens (3-4), who have dropped three of their last four, appear to be in a tailspin.
Nine of the last 11 games between Pittsburgh and Baltimore have been decided by a field goal and they clearly remain extremely close. Yesterday, the Steelers had four more total yards (301-297), the Ravens had one more first down (18-17), the Steelers held a narrow edge in time of posssession (31 to 29 minutes) and Big Ben’s yards per completion was 6.2 compared to Joe Flacco’s 6.1.
The Steelers won for two reasons: Roethlisberger was a tick more efficient than Flacco and he had the ball last.
After committing nine turnovers during the disastrous start to the season, Roethlisberger has none in the past two contests. Not surprisingly, the Steelers are 2-0 when he doesn’t turn the ball over. When he does, they are 0-4.
A bold and near highlight-reel kickoff return by Emmanuel Sanders gave Roethlisberger a relatively short field to work with on the final drive and he made short work of the Ravens, zipping completions of 7, 13 and 11 to set up Shaun Suisham’s 42-yard game-winner.
Combined with last week’s win over the New York Jets, a victory that in retrospect nets a few more style points now that the Jets beat New England yesterday, the Steelers actually have a pulse.
If you want to dream, or as Mike Tomlin put it, to remain “relevant,” you might be surprised to know that the No. 6 playoff seed is still quite within reach.
Not counting the four divisional leaders and granting the AFC West runnerup the first wild card, Pittsburgh is only one game behind in the loss column for the tightly packed conference’s final postseason berth. Perhaps 9-7 will be good enough to get in.
If Roethlisberger continues to play a clean game each week, then there’s a glimmer of hope.
If not, at least we always have those pics of The Duck.
(Steve Treu covers The Steelers for The News.)
NEW CASTLE —
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