Monday, November 3, 2014

Steelers Game 9 Recap - Steelers 43, Ravens 23

This was a route. In the first matchup against the Ravens the Steelers got beat down pretty handily but this game was pretty much the exact opposite of that. The Steelers started the game slow as Ben Roethlisberger was sacked three times and the Steelers offense gained only 29 yards in the first four drives. After that though the Steelers defense forced a fumble and the route was on.

The Steelers proceeded to score touchdowns in six of their last nine possessions of the game and all six of those touchdowns came off the arm of Roethlisberger. If you are keeping score at home that is the second straight six touchdown performance from Roethlisberger and he set a new NFL record for touchdown passes in consecutive games. It is true that the Ravens secondary is just awful but Roethlisberger hasn't played this well ever in his career. He completed 25/37 for 340 yards and didn't turn the football over. On the season he now has thrown 22 touchdown passes as compared to only three interceptions. That is silly. Dude is just playing great football.

Roethlisberger completed passes to eight different receivers but it was all Anotonio Brown all the time for the Steelers. He caught 11 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown and was targeted 16 (!!!) times. Brown has been targeted 103 times which blows away his next closest rival, Dez Bryant, who has 87 targets. Brown's fourth quarter touchdown broke open a somewhat close game as he jukes and jived and run away from what was the dead carcass of the Ravens defense. He just keeps getting better and keeps putting this passing attack on his shoulders.

Speaking of continuing to get better how about Martavis Bryant? Almost makes you wonder how he wasn't in the lineup earlier but maybe slowly working himself into the lineup was the way to go. A pair of touchdown catches for Bryant and while he isn't getting a ton of targets when the ball is going his way he's making something happen. Five touchdowns on 10 catches for Bryant. That is impressive.

The Steelers defense got after Joe Flacco. They registered 10 quarterback hits and sacked him four times. It really seemed like it was a lot more than that with how much they were in his face and it was a nice change of pace from the first game when Flacco wasn't hit once. Flacco was forced into turnovers and when he needed to step up the Steelers defense made sure it wasn't going to happen.

I wasn't overly optimistic when James Harrison returned to the Steelers. With the injuries and the depleted depth it was something where they needed someone familiar with the defense to come in and provide some immediate help but there wasn't much I was expecting from him. Last night he made the signing worth it all in one night. Harrison had a pair of sacks and had four quarterback hits and he honestly looked like the 2008 version that dominated opposing quarterbacks. He was a man possessed last night and it was certainly a fun thing to watch.

The Steelers running game was largely shut down. Le'Veon Bell has been as good as it gets through the first eight games but you could tell the Ravens wanted to try and neutralize him. He carried the ball only 10 times for 20 yards and made five catches for 38 yards that included a touchdown. LeGarrette Blount also carried the ball 10 times for 23 yards and no other Steelers player had more than one carry. Fortunately the Steelers didn't need the running game and to be honest I am not going to overly read into this. The running game has been really good all season and Bell has been one of the best in the league so one off game isn't going to change my opinion.

Another negative in the game was Jacoby Jones returning a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown. It came right after the Brown touchdown and quickly took the momentum back.

Really nobody came close to touching Jones. Mike Tomlin wasn't even there to help trip him along the sideline. Poor coaching IMO.

The Steelers were able to keep pace with the Bengals and Browns who both won on Sunday and with the loss the Ravens now drop to last place in the AFC North. Things are about as tight as they get as every team is above .500 and nobody has really been able to pull away from the pack. The Steelers still have a pair of games left with the Bengals which will most likely go a long way in determining if the Steelers have a chance to win the division.

At the end of the day this is about the Steelers offense. They have been about elite as it gets over the last two weeks with 94 points in the last two games and there hasn't been much that teams could do to stop them. Earlier in the year it was all about the defense that couldn't create a turnover and the offense that was wildly inconsistent. Right now the offense looks like it can't be stopped like the defense is getting better every single game. I still don't think the Steelers are a true contender in the league but they are miles closer to that goal than they were even a few weeks ago.

That is really what it is about, giving yourself a chance. The Steelers have done that and a lot more recently. The Steelers now go on the road for a couple of winnable games against the Jets and Titans before returning home against the Saints. You can't count wins in the NFL but winning the next two weeks would put them in a great spot as they get set for the stretch run.

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