For a better part of the game last night you just had the feeling that the Steelers were eventually going to pull the game out. At the beginning of the week people, myself included, were really down in the dumps and not feeling good about the game thanks to the injury to Ben Roethlisberger. Things looked a little better when it was found out it was just a shoulder sprain and that Mike Tomlin said that Roethlisberger was questionable. Things then looked really bleak when we found out about the displaced rib that Roethlisberger had and then things swung sort of back to the middle when you actually sat down and thought about how banged up the Ravens were too and what these games really mean to both teams.
That being said, I was largely unable to watch the first three quarters because of some work things I had to do but I was following the game on my computer, either through a really shoddy online feed or the ESPN Gamecast. Because I was only able to watch the final quarter and a half I really don’t have a lot of substance to this but there are a few things that I saw:
-First of all the Steelers defense was absolutely outstanding. They held the Ravens to only 211 total yards and only 47 rushing yards for the game. Ray Rice was largely ineffective and Joe Flacco played like he usually does on the road, which isn’t very good. The run defense was great in filling gaps, the pass rush was getting to Flacco and the pass defense was in total blanket coverage for the entire night. We all need to remember that the Steelers defense gave up a mere six points last night and consistently shut the Ravens down on third down. After a shaky start to the season the Steelers defense has been getting better every week. The Baltimore offense has been pretty hot and cold and also has been pretty bad on the road but the Steelers made them look amazingly ordinary.
-The defensive backfield needs some love. Lots of people, including myself, had questions about everyone (sans Ike Taylor) coming into the season but overall, without Troy, they have really come into their own and covered a pretty talented receiving core and gave the team a chance to win. Taylor needs to be mentioned again as having a truly outstanding game. Tory Smith has been one of the better deep threats in the league and Taylor was a blanket on him all night and held him to one catch for seven yards. He is starting to play like he did last season and with that pretty much comes taking a receiver completely out of the game. Keenan Lewis and Cortez Brown have really been good opposite Taylor and afforded the Steelers a chance to have Ike on an island (sometimes with help) and is has made a world of difference for the defense.
-Going in the Steelers knew they were going to be hurting at the quarterback position. Byron Leftwich didn’t have a terrible game but he also was playing hurt for much of the second half and he just really wasn’t able to push the ball when he needed to. I am not sure if this falls on Tomlin for still keeping him in the game. He completed only 18-of-39 for 201 yards and a pick and just didn’t look really comfortable all day. He did run for a 31 yard touchdown on the first drive, which I missed, but I heard it was pretty awesome. I still think that the Steelers are better off than most in terms of backup quarterbacks but they are backups for a reason. Leftwich was missing some receivers that were open and just wasn’t putting the right touch on the ball. The Steeler nearly got a win with some bad quarterback play and in all reality it could have been a lot worse. I talked about Leftwich being banged up and it seems that he might have hurt his ribs a little bit but he did stay in the game which is debatable but to be honest I don’t have enough information on it. I don’t think the Steelers should go to Charlie Batch but if Leftwich is banged up then the Steelers need to find someone else if they don’t want Batch in the game.
-I talked about special teams in the preview and special teams is why the Ravens won the football game. Jacoby Jones has been outstanding all season returning kicks but it was returning a punt that did it today as Jones took a first quarter punt for a touchdown. The Ravens won by three and only scored one touchdown on the day and that was the Jones touchdown. The special teams was also pretty shoddy in the first half as Drew Butler shanked a punt for less than ten yards to set up the Ravens inside the 30 yard line. Luckily for the Steelers the Ravens missed a field goal on that drive but that doesn’t make the special teams problems any better. I thought the Steelers did a much nicer job on special teams in the second half but the damage was already done.
-If special teams didn’t win the football game for the Ravens then the turnover battle did. The Steelers gave the ball up to the Ravens three times and it absolutely killed the Steelers. One of the turnovers was at a time where the Steelers were in Ravens territory and another was a Mike Wallace fumble deep in Steelers territory. The Steelers defense was on another planet but they didn’t create any turnovers and that is something that the Steelers defense talked about after the game. When you give up special teams touchdowns and turn the ball over three more times than the other team you aren’t going to win very often.
-Wallace was bad. There is no two ways about it. His fumble was a killer and he just doesn’t look interested. I know he is interested but that is the perception he is sending off and he might be the most hated Steelers player right now. No player goes out to try and fail or not care, I believe that 100% but not everyone does. No matter what you think Wallace needs to step up and make plays like he can.
-Really weird last night how the Steelers approached the game. They let Lefwich go back and throw the ball 39 times when he clearly wasn’t making the throws and while the running game was pretty bad in the first half it really came alive in the second half, especially with Jonathan Dwyer. It seemed like when the Steelers were running the ball well they would ride that a few plays when drop Lefwich back three straight plays and it just wasn’t ideal. Dwyer was running the ball really well again after a down game against the Chiefs and with Isaac Redman getting banged up with a concussion you should see Dwyer getting some more carries against the Browns but I think I would have liked to see him tote the rock a little more last night, especially in the second half. The passing game really wasn’t working and it just seemed that the Steelers were forcing their own hand to throw the ball.
-It was semi discouraging to see the Steelers not take more advantage of the Ravens defense. Their secondary is amazingly banged up and the run defense was pretty bad and the Steelers just didn’t take advantage and score more points. They did gain over 330 yards of offense but I come away just feeling a little empty. They do play in two more weeks and hopefully they can work out the tweet if Leftwich is still going to quarterback or more forward with Roethlisberger.
Steelers have the Brown on Sunday and while they are still the Browns they have been playing better.