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Steelers-Ravens playoff recap

It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pretty at times. But what a win as the Steelers pull away in the 4th quarter to advance to the AFC Conference Championship, beating the Ravens, 31-24.

– Ben got off to another erratic start with some inaccurate passes mixed in with some nice throws. And once again, there were times where Ben thought he could sit back in the pocket waiting for someone to get open which resulted in 6 sacks for the Ravens defense and stalled drives. But as the game went on Ben started to heat up with some nice throws on scoring drives. The highlight of the game may have been, on a 3rd and 19 with time ticking down in the 4th quarter and the game tied, Ben’s beautiful deep sideline pass to rookie Antonio Brown that set up the game-winning TD. What a play!

– Mendenhall had a poor game on paper (20 carries for just 46 yards) but he also had 2 TD’s. The last of which was an incredible score where literally 4 Ravens had a shot on him before he even got the goal line. It was an incredible effort by a player that still has some question marks. Overall, his game was fairly unimpressive (and he had a disastrous fumble in Steeler territory that led to a Ravens TD in the 1st half) but all is forgiven on that last TD score. Moore chipped in with 2 nice runs for 12 yards.

– The WR’s had a good game overall. The rookie WR’s let their presence be felt as Sanders and Brown finished the game as the top two WR’s in yardage. Sanders showed off his ability to get open and solid hands, while Brown caught a deep pass late in the game that set up the game-winning TD. That is clutch and an encouraging sign from these youngsters going forward. Miller led the team with receptions with 5 and a TD. Ward was reliable on some big 3rd down conversions. Wallace was surprisingly quiet but still snagged 3 catches for 20 yards.

– The O-line had a somewhat sloppy game. On the opening drive the line did a fine job of run blocking. After that it was a mixed bag. At times Scott, Essex (filling in for an injured Adams) got manhandled and embarrassed in pass protection. At other times Ben simply held onto the ball too long. Overall, not the worst game by these guys, but there is definitely room for improvement.

– The D-line did their job today. Hood actually got a key sack on the Ravens last possession of the game. There wasn’t much room for the Ravens run game. Kiesel really stood out at times in the run stuffing department.

– James Harrison, what can you say about this guy? He is a truly great player that steps it up even more in the big games. Harrison finished the game with 3 sacks, 5 tackles and 2 assists. After a slow start, Harrison was constantly in Flacco’s grill, all the while getting held on virtually every play (which were never called of course). A truly awesome game for Harrison. Woodley helped on the other side, getting some good pressure at times and finishing with a sack. Timmons had an active game, leading the Steelers in tackles with 7 tackles and 2 assists. Farrior had a fairly quiet day, finishing the game with just 3 tackles and 2 assists.

– Ryan Clark had maybe the game of his career, finishing the game with an INT, a forced fumble and 3 tackles and 2 assists. If this guy played like this every game (or at least once in a while) I wouldn’t be bitching about him after virtually every game! Clark really helped out on a couple run plays, slicing in to nab Rice and McGahee for losses. He also had a nice pass defense on Todd Heap on a 3rd down play. Taylor and Gay (filling in for an injured McFadden) both had really solid days in coverage. Taylor had at least 2 or 3 pass defenses and Gay almost came down with an INT on the Ravens last possession of the game. Troy had a very disappointing game. He ended the game with just 2 tackles and two missed tackles, one leading to a Ray Rice TD run and another leading to a 3rd down conversion. For most of the game Troy was pretty much invisible, it was almost like Troy and Clark switched roles in this game. Bizarre. Hopefully Troy isn’t still injured. Anthony Madison filled in at nickel back and played a fairly poor game.

– The ST’s were once again horrible. Too many long returns allowed, there was a block in the back and twice punt returners fielded the ball around the 3 yard line! What team does that? I guess the Steelers! Suisham also missed a FG.

– Lebeau’s defense came out and stopped the Ravens offense on the 1st drive of the game but then allowed a long TD drive on the next drive. This drive was aided by a very questionable PI call on Madison but still the defense didn’t play very well overall in the 1st quarter or so. Later in the game the defense came alive, putting constant pressure on Flacco (mostly thanks to James Harrison) and holding the Ravens offense to just over 100 yards of total offense. Lebeau didn’t do too much in exotic looks or anything different in the game. It was nice to see Lebeau apply the pressure on the Ravens on their last drive of the game. It paid off nicely.

– Arians didn’t do much in the way of new wrinkles, adjustments or much of anything in this game. It was a true grab bag-rely-on-Ben-to-bail-out-the-offense type of game for the Steelers OC. Case in point, on the Steelers offensive play of the game, the 58 yard bomb from Ben to Antonio Brown on 3rd and 19 late in the game, Ben actually audibled out of the play Arians called. There were way too many downfield routes once again when it simply was not necessary and as a result, Ben held onto the ball too long waiting for WR’s to get open, resulting in incompletions and sacks. Arians did have a couple nice calls, like the screen to Mendy and an end around to Wallace. But it’s a pretty damning statement on the OC when these are his highlights of the game. With the Steelers clinging to a 3 point lead with 6-7 minutes left in the game, Arians calls two straight run plays resulting in next to no yards. The Steelers of course end up punting, giving the Ravens golden field position and the game-tying FG.

– Tomlin had his team ill-prepared across the board in this game. The team seemed lethargic and flat throughout the 1st half. The ST’s were horrendous, allowing long returns. A number of players were called (Kemo flying onto piles over and over again) or could’ve been called (Taylor headbutt) for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. When Ben was hit and fumbled, none of the O-linemen fell on the loose ball on the ground. No whistle, where is the preparation? The Steelers finished with a very high number of penalties. Some of which were unwarranted, but still some that most definitely were, which ultimately is a reflection of the coaching staff. Overall, this team pretty much won in spite Tomlin and the coaching staff.

– Overall, a fantastic win over a hated rival which allows the Steelers to advance to the AFCC game. The Steelers will need to play better, however, next week. The ST’s need to improve, the offense needs to improve, the turnovers need to stop. All three will have to happen if the Steelers are going to advance to another Super Bowl.

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