The Matt Spaeth Effect

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
By Tiger Rowan
Steelers Fever Columnist

A few years ago, Jim Rome referred to the Ravens-Steelers games as “The Crowbar Bowl.” In case it was not obvious enough, this moniker was bestowed upon these match-ups, because both of these teams have a penchant for fielding hard-hitting defenses, rife with physical players. Or, as Rome described: “The Ravens and Steelers line up and take turns taking punching each other in the face, until one of them collapses.”

And, this past Sunday’s game was no different.

For every time that Big Ben got sacked, Joe Flacco got knocked to the ground. Every time you looked up, players were getting hit, and footballs were being dislodged. On both sides of the ball, there were enough hard tackles to ensure that after the game, all of the ice tubs in both locker rooms, would be full of aching players. In fact, forget the training room, LaGarrette Blount was inches away from being sent to the hospital via a cheap shot from Terrell Suggs.

Speaking of defense, James Harrison became only the second player over the age of thirty-six to record back-to-back multi-sack games; the other player was former Steeler, Kevin Greene. Likewise, Martavis Bryant became only the second player to score five touchdowns in the first three games of his career; the other player was former Steeler, Eric Green. Last but not least, Ben Roethlisberger became to only player ever, to throw six touchdowns in back-to-back games… and he did so on a night when the jersey number of the most famous Steeler, Joe Greene, was being retired.

In other words, on this night, the Steelers made the Ravens “green” with envy.

(I’ll wait for the groans to stop, before I trudge on.)

Really though, there has to be some jealousy sprouting up in Baltimore, because they may have just realized that their $100 million dollar quarterback folds when pressured; whereas, Pittsburgh’s gunslinger gets better when he gets hit. Last week, Big Ben played against one of the best defenses in the league (Indianapolis)… and had a career game. Then, he follows up that performance by throwing six touchdowns against an even stingier Ravens defense. In turn, since the Jets might have the best defense of the three, the indication would be that Big Ben should have yet another six-touchdown performance this upcoming Sunday.

I kid, I kid… sort of.

Joking aside, I am extremely confident in this team, and it is not just because of Big Ben’s twelve touchdown passes (although that helps). My conviction is not based solely on the fact that Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, & Heath Miller are the best receiving corps in the NFL. It is not even because Le’Veon Bell is the best pass-receiving running back since Marshall Faulk. My confidence is based on something much more meaningful.

Allow me to illustrate the reason for my confidence, with one play: the touchdown pass to Matt Spaeth.

First off, I know that I am going to be lambasted for this, but it was a dumb touchdown. Think about it for a second. Take the emotions (of Roethlisberger setting a record) out of the equation. If Matt Spaeth stops at the one-yard line, and since the Ravens only had one time out left, the Steelers could have knelt down three times, kicked a field goal with twenty-four seconds left… and essentially iced the game. The Ravens would have been down by sixteen points, with only twenty-four seconds left… as opposed to down by twenty points with almost two minutes left to play.

I know, I know… the odds were that the Ravens were not going to score three times in less than two minutes anyway (although, the Steelers did against the Texans… albeit, under totally different circumstances). BUT, statistical probability suggests that two scores in twenty-four seconds is far less probable than three scores in nearly fives times as long.

So, again, I felt that it was a dumb touchdown… until I saw the post-game interviews.

Michelle Tafoya was interviewing Big Ben, and Ben selflessly deflected the spotlight towards his cohorts (which he does so admirably). Then, the topic of the Matt Spaeth touchdown was mentioned, and Ben beamed from ear to ear. It was apparent in his words and in his demeanor, that Ben was truly happy for Spaeth.

Then, an hour later, Ben walked to the podium to give his press conference, and that same pure joy that he had displayed earlier, was still evident: “I’m so happy for Matt. He does so much for this team; I’m glad that he got that touchdown.”

And, at that moment, it finally sunk in.

That final touchdown was not about Ben’s record. That touchdown was not about rubbing the Ravens’ noses in it. That touchdown was not even about winning the game. That touchdown was about one teammate respecting another teammate.

In other words, twelve passing touchdowns are great. Scoring in the forties, against two good defenses is awesome. And, having arguably the best skill players of any NFL teams is amazing. But, those are not the reasons that I have such wholehearted faith in this team. I believe in this team, because the players are selflessly playing for one another, for the team, for the greater common good. In a word: chemistry.

And, chemistry wins championships.


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