The Baltimore Ravens had the look of a playoff-bound team in their season-finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. With second and third-stringers in a key offensive and defensive positions, the team moved the ball effectively on offense, and forced turnovers on defense.
But the look would only feel good to Ravens fans who have felt less than good throughout the team’s 5-11 campaign. They were able to hang on against the division winning Steelers for a 27-21 home victory, and conclude the season with some respectability outside of almost defeating the New England Patriots. Reserve players appeared not out of caution yesterday, but out of necessity to fill in for injured and disgruntled stars.
Questions will linger throughout the off-season regarding the direction of the franchise. Rick Neuheisel, the offensive coordinator that wasn’t, has departed the team for a head position at UCLA that Ravens’ head coach Brian Billick seemed dying for him to take weeks ago. Perhaps it was a good move to lobby for the departure of the guy most prepared to take his job, as sources around the team are reporting that Billick will return despite infighting and malcontent among the players.
Speaking of the players, the biggest concerns will be on returns. Jonathan Ogden, Terrell Suggs, and Steve McNair are the biggest names being tossed around as potential retirees, defectors or cuts. Fortunately, the draft is where the Ravens as an organization shines, and its good to have some fortune following a season of misfortune.