Ask most college-aged Ravens fans about what’s wrong with the team this year, and they’ll probably tell you, “They have no offense.” Ask Dan Steil that same question and he’ll give you an in-depth answer that rivals that of an ESPN analyst.
“Baltimore’s drug problem will be solved before the Ravens’ offense is solved,” Steil emphatically states. “They’re not creative, they’re plain vanilla really. You can’t win big games in the NFL being one-dimensional like that.”
How Steil, 21, became a Ravens fan is simple: it was the first time in his life Baltimore had a football team.
“Like a lot of kids growing up getting into football, I followed whoever was good,” Steil says. “First it was the Redskins, then the Cowboys, who were basically America’s Team then, like the New York Yankees of football, but I became a Ravens fan when they moved to Baltimore. I loved college football pretty much my whole life but it was a new ballgame when the Ravens came to town.”
Steil is armed with football knowledge to such a degree that he’ll never give you the simple answer you’re looking for when you ask him about the Ravens. He criticizes not only the Ravens offense, but gives sound reasons why he believes their defense isn’t what it used to be either.
“That defensive scheme they’re using, the 46, it’s a good scheme but just not good for these types of players,” Steil explains. “It worked so well for the Bears in ’86 because they had a monstrous front four that could tear you up.”
With that in mind, Steil had some unkind words for current defensive linemen. “[Terrell] Suggs is a moron. He’s a caveman,” Steil states. “He makes too may dumb mistakes and he’s way too aggressive. They don’t have the Jevon Kearse or Dwight Freeney type of guy, you know like a bull-rusher.”
With every major story coming out of Ravens camp, Steil had something insightful to say about it. Take his stance on Deion Sanders, for example.
“Deion needs to go,” Steil says. “He’s a nickel corner and he’s covering the slot receiver which is usually the fastest guy on the field. My initial reaction was that maybe it would work, kind of like what happened with Rod Woodson or Carnell Lake, but not now. The guy is just embarrassing himself.”
Bull-rusher? Slot receiver? 46 defense? Clearly these are the signs of the type of fan who is more than a fan, but a critic as well.
But despite criticisms left and right, there is much about the Baltimore Ravens that Steil loves to death. In fact, he exemplifies a rarity among football fans; he’s wide awake watching the defense and nearly asleep watching the offense.
“A lot of people love high scoring games, but with the Ravens it’s different,” Steil says. “I’ve followed them since they came to Baltimore, and really, after a couple of years, that defense became fun to watch. When they had the ball, you turned the TV off and when they didn’t you turned it back on. You could tell the atmosphere of the stadium was different when the Ravens were on defense, just from watching TV!”
Speaking of atmosphere, Steil’s love for the Ravens hit new heights the first time he attended a home game.
“When they say it’s so loud you can’t even hear yourself think, I never really got it until I went to a Ravens game,” Steil explains. “I was working at the game in the upper deck where all the real fans are. You really could not hear yourself think. There was something just awesome about it.”
In the end, however, since Steil follows sports so intensely, motor-mouthing his way through debates, it’s always about “what have you done for me lately?”
“I see [the Ravens] winning no more than 5 games this year,” he says with a grim look on his face. “They’ve clearly lost something, and it’s psychological more than anything.”
When your team is getting beaten up left and right in the 2005 season, what is on your mind more, the nostalgic memories or the current state of affairs? For Steil, it is unquestionably the latter, and that’s what cements him as Baltimore’s prototype “critic” fan.