Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and everything else really is just the best. Adding the Steelers and Ravens in prime time made it a lot better. After your second (or third) Thanksgiving dinner you usually have no motivation to do anything and it is a little depressing. The Steelers and Ravens playing made it a lot more interesting and really gave me a reason to slug a few more beers and wind the night down the right way.
Unfortunately for the Steelers fans of the world the game did not end the way you would have liked it. Actually the whole game was pretty bad from the Steelers perspective. They were able to move the ball some in the first half but really never threatened to do anything. Then when the Steelers were in fringe field goal range this happened:
(via Kissing Suzy Kolber)
Yikes. That was about the whole Steelers first half drives in one gif. Just really embarrassing times. The defense wasn't much better as Ike Taylor had a night to forgot and the Steelers were torched in the secondary with little help from the pass rush. It is really amazing that the Steelers were only down 10-0 at the half.
The second half served a lot better for the Steelers as they scored touchdown on three of their four possessions and made the game very interesting at the end of the game, to the point where the Steelers were a two point conversion away from sending the game to overtime with only a minute left in the game.
The defense for the most part held their ground as the Ravens were forced to kick five field goals on the night and only found the back of the end zone once. Any of these other five times the Ravens score a touchdown instead of a field goal and we are probably talking about a route and not a two point game that almost went to overtime.
Jason Worilds was one of the best players on the field for either team last night. He's been given a lot of chances and hasn't been able to break through but last night he had 10 tackles (six solo) and had the only two sacks of the night for either team. Sure, he was working against Michael Oher (who is awful) but the fact still remains that he showed a flash of life with LaMarr Woodley out of the game. Lawrence Timmons also had a pretty outstanding game with eight tackles (five solo) so there were some things that went well for the defense.
The problem was that the Steelers gave up way too many big plays and way too many third down conversions to expect to not give up points. The Ravens finished the night 10-of-17 on third downs and at one point they were 8-for-10. Receivers were running wide open routes on third and longs and Flacco was able to scramble for a couple of first downs, one of them I think was like a 3rd and 13. That stuff just can't happen and a lot of those were converted to first downs. Just not good. The Ravens had five plays of 20 yards or more. One of them was a bomb to Torrey Smith on the Ravens first drive that set up a touchdown, one was a huge pass interference penalty on Taylor in the second half and another was a Jacoby Jones 73 yard kickoff return right after the Steelers scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 13-7 but that return set up an easy field goal shot.
Maybe the worst part of the night was the situation with Le'Veon Bell. The Steelers had the ball on a goal line situation and Bell got the carry with the Steelers down eight with about two minutes left to go. This is what happened:
(via Sports Grid)
That is some scary stuff. As I am sure all of you know that the touchdown didn't count because per the rules once the helmet comes off the play is dead. So even though Bell didn't touch the ground yet the play was dead and he wasn't in the end zone. Now, I don't really think I have as much of a problem with this as most do. I don't think when they made this rule they envisioned the situation that happened last night. Most times when a helmet comes off players are continuing to play. That is the intent of the rule and when you create rules you don't think about every possibility. Just not what happens. I do think that the rule will probably get tweaked to allow for the forward progress but this was just an unfortunate situation.
Bell was knocked out. I don't think that it was penalty either. Bell lowered his head and the defensive back went low for the hit (which they are basically taught to do). It was really ugly and the reaction from all the players on the field told you how serious it was. He was knocked unconscious and even Heath Miller was pushing away an NBC cameraman that came onto the field to get a closer look. I hope Bell is OK but he should not play next week. I don't give a shit what test he passes. That was not good.
Besides that Bell had a really nice night. It was night like last night that make you realize that he and guys like Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, etc. are just out of a different cut. He rushed for 73 yards on 16 carries and caught seven passes for 63 yards and scored a touchdown where he made a pretty sick cut. I think he has got better every week and while the Steelers have had no luck with running backs since Willie Parker this seems to be something that should turn into a good running back.
Ben Roethlisberger was pretty good last night. He started off slow like the rest of the team but finished with 257 yards and two touchdowns while not turing the ball over. That is key. The only part of the game that somewhat worries me about him is that last night his yard per attempt average was 5.8 and that is ridiculously low. He has been consistently over 8.0 throughout his career and whether this is Todd Haley or Ben looking off receivers too quickly because of the little time he has the fact is that he isn't getting the ball down the field. With how good Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery have been you would like to see them at least hit those intermediate routes but it just hasn't been working recently.
There might not be a more disappointing guy to me on the offensive unit than Emmanuel Sanders. This isn't because of the drop on the two point conversion either, that is just part of the overall big problem. Sanders has dropped an amazing amount of passes this season and a lot of them have been on third down and passes that could have been touchdowns or first downs. When the Patriots were toying with the idea of brining him on I was in favor of that since it's not like third receivers can't be found and for the fact that I didn't think Sanders was all that good/special. He was targeted 11 times last night and made six catches for 43 yards. He had a couple of huge drops and when I think of Sanders in the 2013 season the overwhelming memory I will have is the inconsistent play and the inability of him to be able to catch the football.
The offensive line was beat up in a big way. I have no idea what the line is going to look like as the Steelers finished the game with their #3 left tackle and their #3 center (when you include Maurkice Pouncey). I would have never said that Kelvin Beachum was going to be a key piece to the line but he has been playing some pretty damn good football. He shut down Terrell Suggs down and when Mike Adams had to come in and play Suggs was beating him like a rented mule. It was not good times. Fernando Velasco has played well at center for Pouncey but he was banged up at the end of the game too. The offensive line played another decent game as a whole as they didn't allow a sack but there comes a point where you can't overcome the injuries. I think we might be seeing this point if those two guys are out next week.
This was a big game with playoff implications and the Steelers failed the test. I have said it all year but this team isn't all that good but they still had a pretty decent shot going into this game of getting into the playoffs. Now they will probably have to win out to get in and while anything is possible I think this might have been as close to a "must-win" as you can get without it actually being a must-win.