View Full Version : Welcome back, Flacco

09-29-2008, 12:13 AM
Welcome back, Flacco
By Scott Brown
Monday, September 29, 2008
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 90621.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_590621.html)

The irony is not lost on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco that he did not start a game at Heinz Field the two seasons he played for Pitt but will do just that in only his third career NFL contest.

"It's kind of weird that my first start in Pittsburgh will be on Monday night in an NFL game," Flacco said, "not a college game."

The Steelers hope Flacco looks back on the experience as a humbling one.

Flacco, the Ravens' 2008 first-round pick, has led Baltimore to a surprising 2-0 start, but he'll face a challenge tonight when he returns to the city where he started his college career.

The Steelers' zone-blitzing defense is enough to confound even the most seasoned of quarterbacks.

"You don't expect a rookie quarterback to come into this type of game and perform at a high level," Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said.

Foote did give Flacco an endorsement, if not exactly a ringing one.

"I've seen worse quarterbacks on film that are a lot older than him," Foote said. "Looks like he's doing all right the first two games."

The Ravens' third game offers a different challenge. It is Baltimore's first road contest of the season, and it will come on "Monday Night Football."

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can offer a unique perspective on what Flacco is going through as he makes the transition from small-school star to NFL starting quarterback.

Like Flacco, Roethlisberger played much earlier than expected. An injury to starter Tommy Maddox in 2004 thrust Roethlisberger into action in the second game of the season -- against the Ravens in Baltimore, no less.

Roethlisberger ended up winning all 13 games he started in 2004, broke several records for rookie quarterbacks and was named The Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year.

But, as Roethlisberger recalled, the game didn't come as easily to him as it appeared, especially during the early part of the season.

"I don't know what (Flacco) is going through," Roethlisberger said. "For me, it was confusion. It was just trying to figure out what the snap was on, who the 'mike' linebacker was, who I was going to hand off to.

"From watching a little bit of what they've done so far, I think they're being really simple to put him in the best position possible."

Indeed, the Ravens have followed a blueprint similar to the one laid out by the Steelers when they eased Roethlisberger into the pro game.

They have run the ball 90 times in their first two games, and the benefits of a robust ground game have been two-fold: The Ravens have not had to rely on Flacco's right arm, strong as it is, and they have kept the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder out of a lot of third-and-long situations.

Flacco has posted anything but gaudy numbers. Given the success the Ravens have had running the ball -- they lead the AFC with 190 rushing yards per game -- and shutting down opposing offenses, they have only needed him to be a caretaker.

"With each game and with each repetition, your vision gets better and better," said Flacco, who played at Pitt in 2003-04 before transferring to Division I-AA Delaware. "You start seeing the field better, you get a feel for your offense. Next, you've got to get a feel for how the defense plays."

Good luck with that against the Steelers.

"You never know who that fourth rusher is or if there is a fifth guy (rushing)," said Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who has two sacks. "We kind of mess around a lot at the line of scrimmage. We do a lot of disguising. Quarterbacks (can) get kind of confused because they don't know who's going to come in and hit them."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

09-29-2008, 12:42 AM
His only two games have been at home against the weak Cincy and Cleveland defenses. Even then, he only managed to throw for 129 yards in each game and couldn't even toss a single TD pass in either game. Now he faces a loud, hostile crowd with "Bad Word" fixing up some exotic blitzes that are far from anything he has ever seen as a Blue Hen. Good luck, rook. Steve McNair, still shellshocked from the last time a throwback-wearing Silverback ravaged him on Monday Night Football from Heinz Field, sends his condolences.