The Baltimore Ravens entered Heinz Field knowing that the Pittsburgh Steelers would give them nothing short of a hard time. The competition between these two teams is always fierce. The Ravens and Steelers are perennial playoff contenders and often fight for the division crown. In recent years, the Steelers have been the more successful team, but that has not stopped Baltimore from fighting hard against them. Like most of the matchups between the two rivals, the game was very close, and the result hinged on the final few minutes. The birds put up a fight against the men in black and yellow, but ultimately fell short. Here are my thoughts on Baltimore’s performance this past Sunday Night.
The Baltimore Ravens offense for the second consecutive week put up a surplus of points. For most of the game, Baltimore’s offense was able to move the ball both through the air and on the ground. The Joe Flacco led areal assault was potent, serving as an effective means of progressing down the field. The offense benefited from Alex Collins’ fantastic game rushing the ball. Collins, along with Javorius “Buck” Allen, and Danny Woodhead, were able to effectively serve as another vehicle to move the offense down the field. Baltimore was able to gain 413 yards and put up 38 points against a stout Steelers defense.
Ravens Passing Attack
The Baltimore Ravens passing attack this past Sunday Night was a significant factor in the explosive offensive performance. Flacco with the help of his receivers was able to throw for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco finished the game with a passer rating of 88.9, he also threw one interception. Flacco found the most success from receiver Mike Wallace, who was able to catch three of the five passes intended for him, for a grand total of 72 yards. Wallace also effectively served as a defender on multiple plays. The two passes intended for Wallace were frankly off target and almost picked off. Wallace was able to prevent the defensive back from intercepting the passes. Wallace is Baltimore’s best receiver, and his value is not just in catching the football. Wallace’s performance contrasts greatly with Jeremy Maclin’s. Maclin so far this season has been a disappointment. The receiver was assumed to be the savior of the Ravens receiving corps. Instead, he has largely been a bust, slightly better than Breshad Perriman. Against the Steelers, Maclin was targeted 11 times, more than double of any other receiver on the roster. Of those 11 targets, Maclin only hauled in three. Maclin’s failure was highlighted by him being unable to catch what would have been a game-altering pass late in the fourth quarter. The ball was perfectly thrown by Flacco, but Maclin failed to get both feet in bounds to make a catch near the sideline that would have set up a Justin Tucker game-winning field goal. As Maclin disappointed, one receiver showed his growth. Chris Moore, last year’s fourth-round pick, caught all three of his targets, for 48 yards and one touchdown. Overall. the passing attack was a crucial part of Baltimore’s offensive success.
Ravens Rushing Attack
The Baltimore Ravens have always been the most successful when the rushing attack performs well. This season has been no exception. When Alex Collins provides a massive amount of yards on the ground, the Ravens typically win. This almost occurred on Sunday, when Alex Collins played his best game all year. On the ground, Collins racked up a total of 120 yards on 18 carries, an average of 6.7 yards per attempt. Collins also rushed for one touchdown. The highlight of the night for Collins came on a reception, however, not a run. Collins caught a quick pass near the sideline from quarterback Joe Flacco. He then effectively became a runner out of the backfield, pushed through two Steelers defenders, and stayed in bounds for a 40 yard gain. Collins was efficient throughout the game and provided the Ravens a steady supply of yards. Buck Allen and Danny Woodhead also were handed the ball a combined 8 times for 32 yards. Despite the Ravens rushing attack being efficient all game, the coaching staff seemed to abandon it late in the game. The Ravens found themselves in a position to win the game by running the clock out late in the game but opted to throw the ball twice out of the three attempts they had to pick up a first down. The first play was an incomplete pass. The Ravens then responded with a 7-yard run but decided to throw the ball on next play, resulting in an incompletion. The Ravens were then forced to punt with 2:25 left in the game. The Steelers were able to take the ball down the field on the ensuing drive, and score a field goal that would be the daggar to end the game.
Ravens Offensive Line
The Ravens offensive line played well against the Steelers. The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the best teams in the NFL when it comes to sacking the quarterback. However, on Sunday, Pittsburgh was only able to bring Joe Flacco down once. The rookie linebacker T.J. Watt, brother of NFL superstar defensive end J.J. Watt, was the only player to sack Flacco on Sunday Night. Flacco was hit five other times, but none were able to force a loss of yardage. The offensive line was also very efficient in opening holes for Alex Collins and the other running backs. Without a strong performance by the offensive line, the running game has stifled. However, this was not the case on Sunday Night, as Ronnie Stanley and company were able to push their way through the Steel Curtain.
The Baltimore Ravens pitched three shutouts this season. Their performance for most of the season had led most to believe that Baltimore’s defense was of championship caliber. However, all of these beliefs were shattered on Sunday, as Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers offense tore apart the once respected Ravens defense. The defense failed to solidify themselves as legitimate, and failed to give Baltimore the edge in a game, that frankly should have been won.
Ravens Pass Defense
The Ravens pass defense in Pittsburgh was absolutely shredded. For the third time in his career, Ben Roethlisberger passed for over 500 yards. That is an NFL record. It was very disappointing to see a team that prides themselves in their secondary be completely dismantled by their most fierce rival. The case can be made that the absence of Jimmy Smith was a deciding factor. However, the depth the secondary should have been able to at least make it difficult for Pittsburgh. They were unable to, however. It’s difficult to pinpoint a single reason that rendered the secondary’s efforts futile, but there are a few reasons to be considered. Cornerback Brandon Carr was obviously not himself, getting smoked by Antiono Brown and others throughout the game. Linebacker C.J. Mosley had a difficult time both covering receivers and tackling. Dean Pees’ play calling was questionable, and Tony Jefferson flopped around all night long. The one silver lining in the atrocious performance by the pass defense as a whole is rookie Marlon Humphrey. Humphrey was able to bottle up Antonio Brown when covering him. His performance was stellar, but he could not prevent the Steelers from marching to 39 points all by himself.
Ravens Run Defense
Despite the defense’s inability to hold the Steelers back from victory, the Baltimore Ravens were quite successful in stopping the run. Le’Veon Bell is one of the most productive running backs in the NFL. The game-changing running back already had 1,000 yards rushing going into Sunday Night’s contest. Despite his typical abilities, Bell was unable to get started against the Ravens. Bell was given the rock 13 times, but only found 48 yards on the ground, an average of 3.7 yards per carry. Bell was also responsible for two touchdowns on the ground. Bell, who typically gives teams nightmares the night before the game, was taken down by defensive tackle Brandon Williams and his crew. Bell’s struggles were critical in keeping the Ravens alive in the game, and the defensive line along with the run stuffing linebackers was very successful in preventing major damage caused by Bell.
Ravens Pass Rush
The Baltimore Ravens have always prided themselves on having one of the best pass rush units in the NFL. The pass rush for most of the season has continued this tradition. The pass rush on paper was able to perform well, however, this is not the full story. Three sacks were recorded against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. One sack came from Tyus Bowser, another from Anthony Levine Sr., and another was split by Terrell Suggs and Tony Jefferson. The pass rush was also able to hit Roethlisberger eight times. Again, this all looks good on paper, however, the pass rush overall was disappointing. There were plays where the pass rush was able to put pressure on number seven, but the majority of the plays gave Roethlisberger too much time in the pocket. Roethlisberger was able to throw for 500 yards against the Ravens because the secondary failed to put a blanket on Pittsburgh’s receivers, and the pass rush was unable to hurry Roethlisberger.
The Baltimore Ravens going into Pittsburgh were supposed to lose. However, the roles of the offense and defense were expected to be the other way around. The defense was presumed to be the unit that would hold Baltimore close to Pittsburgh in a tight race, while the offense would serve as the Achilles heel. The flipped roles gave NFL fans an amazing game. The contest went right down to the final drive but ultimately gave the same result as predicted. The Ravens lost by one point, but instead of a 21-20 final score as I predicted, the final score was 39-38. The offense will obviously receive a good grade for their strong performance. I give the offense a grade of A. This is compiled by three individual grades. The passing attack gets a grade of B+, for being efficient throughout most of the game. The rushing attack receives an A+ grade for the domination of Alex Collins on the ground. The offensive line gets an A grade for their solid performance in protecting Joe Flacco, and opening up holes for Alex Collins. While the offense is recognized for their valiant effort, the defense is not. Overall, I give the defense a grade of D+. The secondary gets an F, the lowest grade possible, for allowing 500 yards by Ben Roethlisberger. The run defense gets a grade of B+ for shutting down a prolific running back. The pass rush gets a grade of C, for making plays, but not consistently pressuring the quarterback.