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Week 9 Steelers-Ravens

Steelers get outplayed and outcoached as they lose to the Ravens at home in a huge game, 23-20.

QB – Ben had a fairly subpar game until the 2nd half. He routinely looked tentative in the pocket, hesitated on throws and didn’t seem to read the Ravens defense very well at times. After last week’s terrific performance, Ben reverted back to looking downfield way too much. And the strange thing is he had open WR’s on at least a few occasions and simply failed to throw the ball to them. Ben finished the game 20/37 for 330 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. The INT was simply a bad read by Ben on yet another WR screen play that was so obvious that the entire Ravens defense seemingly knew it before the ball was even snapped. Suggs dropped back on the play and made an easy INT. Overall, a decent game by Ben (especially in the 2nd half) but not consistent enough for a franchise QB.

RB – Mendenhall had a few nice runs and few runs where he ran like a complete pussy. He finished the game with a 4 yard average, which is good but seemed to have little impact on most of the Steelers drives. Redman had just 3 runs and was barely involved in the offense. Same goes for Moore.

WR/TE – Brown had a fantastic game, showing his usual toughness with catches over the middle. He did drop one short pass when he was hit and stripped by two Raven players. He also made maybe the best grab by any Steeler WR this year on a 3rd and 17 in the 2nd half. On the play, he managed to get his hands out to grab a low pass. Wallace seemed to be quiet for most of the game, even though he was open deep on at least a couple plays. In the 1st half Ben underthrew Wallace on a deep sideline pass but nonetheless it should’ve been caught but was not. Wallace finished with 4 grabs and a TD grab. Miller had a good game with 5 grabs including a great catch and run as he ran over two Raven defenders. He probably should’ve been thrown to more, though (especially in the redzone). Jerricho Cotchery made his presence felt for the first time this year grabbing 3 passes, including a key 1st down at the end of the game. DJ Johnson made a rare grab for 25 yards and then reverted back to usual form with a big dropped pass at the end of the game as the Steelers were trying to milk the clock with the lead. The RB’s were barely used in the passing game.

OL – No real complaints here. Probably some of the best pass protection against the Ravens in a long time.  The pocket consistently was pushed back but most of the time the blockers kept the pass rushers in check. Run blocking was good as well.

DL – On a few plays Hampton, Hood and Kiesel would be pushed back by the Ravens O-line to create running lanes for RB’s Ray Rice and Ricky Williams (this guy is still playing football?). But overall a good job against the run as they held their own most of the game. Not much in the way of pressure on Flacco outside of a few plays.

LB- Harrison had a monster game in his return to the starting lineup. 8 tackles, 3 sacks and a huge forced fumble. Foote made his presence felt in the run game with some real nice tackles. He even knocked down a pass in coverage. Timmons, Sylvester and Worilds all were OK. Nothing to write home about. Sylvester, in particular, didn’t seem to play much. Worilds showed off some nice speed but needs to work on the rest of this game. Timmons had a couple nice pressures on Flacco.

CB/S – Oh boy, where do I start? Gay was picked on the most by Flacco and the Ravens passing game. He didn’t have a good game as he was called for pass interference on a couple of plays, one of which was on Ravens game-winning TD. That call was bullshit but Gay was simply mediocre on a number of plays. He also made some nice plays, including a great open field tackle in the 2nd half. Ike Taylor also had a pretty mediocre game, as he was lolly gagging a good bit of the game and in the process giving up a number of 1st down completions with half-assed coverage. On the Ravens final drive, Taylor seemed to have quit on a deep sideline route and the WR he was covering simply dropped the ball in the endzone. Rookie CB Cortez Allen was once again given TE coverage duties but at times seemed to be a good step or two behind his man. Troy was solid in pass coverage and made a couple nice plays against the run. I guess Lewis had a decent game as Flacco barely threw his way when he was in the game. Ryan Clark was exposed as the mediocre FS that he is in this game. On the Ravens opening drive, Flacco throws a high pass to a TE that Gay has good coverage on. The TE makes a great grab as he jumps up to get the ball. Where is Clark on the play? About 10 yards away and not doing anything to stop the completion. On the Ravens game-winning TD pass, where is Clark? Well, he’s supposed to be covering the area of the field where the game-winning TD catch is made. Instead, he’s about 10 yards away and ends up running into his own man. What is the point of having a FS in today’s NFL that can’t cover anyone???

ST- Suisham continues to make Steeler fans everywhere nervous. His kickoffs tonight sucked and his FG’s barely made the uprights. Brown had a couple decent returns. Punter Daniel Sepulveda is once again on IR and filling in was Kapinos, who was OK.

Arians – Another barf-in-the-bag-anything-goes gameplan. You’d think Arians would’ve learned something from last week but alas it was not to be. Ben, at times, didn’t help things with some indecisive passing but I’m still trying to figure out (like in most Steeler games) just what the offensive gameplan was in this game. There was hardly any of the short and quick passes that worked so well last week. There was some but most of the time the offense seemed to be intent on going back to the vertical offense that has consistently been inconsistent. The RB’s were never used in a concerted way in the passing game, which could’ve helped the offense. The redzone offense struggled once again to get TD’s (just one tonight). Miller caught 5 passes but almost always seemed to be an afterthought. One thing I did like (apart from the further use of the hurry up offense) was the nifty short rollouts the offense ran a couple times with good results. Why the Steelers don’t use more of these is beyond me.

Lebeau – Allowing a Flacco-led offense with 2 rookie WR’s and an over the hill Anquan Boldin to go 92 yards in 2 minutes and score a TD to win the game is simply and absolutely unacceptable. No way are the Steelers going back to the Super Bowl with this kind of performance from the defense. Allowing the Ravens to go 14/21 on 3rd downs is simply and absolutely unacceptable. NBC showed a graphic that Flacco was 11/13 for 144 yards on 3rd downs at one point in the game. JOE FLACCO. For fuck’s sake! Who knows how bad it could’ve been if not for Harrison’s performance. And I don’t know what happened between last week and this game but the secondary was simply bad. Part of that is player execution as the Steelers defense still played a good bit of man coverage in this game. But I still have to question some of the personnel moves, like why was Kiesel and Foote covering Ray Rice? Seriously??? Why, on the Ravens final drive, do you refuse to put pressure on Flacco? Why was Harrison covering Ray Rice on the game-winning TD pass? Why the hell wasn’t he rushing the QB??? Why are the CB’s playing bump and run coverage with less than 20 seconds left in the game and the Ravens needing 20+ yards for the TD? Why is Ryan Clark still the starting FS? Why isn’t Gay playing more nickel and inside coverage? Why not give Lewis outside responsibilities? This game is like the opposite of last week. Maybe the most inexcusable thing about this defense’s performance is how everyone (outside of a few players) played this game like it was a preseason game.

Tomlin – Another game where Tomlin gets completely outcoached by John Harbaugh. Last week the coaches showed me something and I felt pretty damn good about the Steelers chances going forward. Amazing what a week can do. This week the Steelers coaches showed me they are fine reverting back to complacency and predictability. Team showing up flat? Check. Team sleepwalking through first half? Check. Mental mistakes? Check. It’s only the biggest game of the season so far! No big deal! I had a pretty bad feeling about the game when Tomlin was interviewed right before kickoff and said something like “players need to execute better, get the fundamentals down, etc.” in regards to preparing for the Ravens rematch. That is “Tomlin speak” for “as coaches, we’re not going to do a damn thing differently than in the last game against the Ravens” And sure enough, they didn’t! OK, that may not be 100% accurate, but close enough! Did Tomlin already forget about last week? Gameplanning is just as important as player execution and it was poor and predictable in this game. It feels like last week’s game didn’t even occur.

Overall, a very disheartening loss. A huge loss. It looks like the Steelers, all likelihood, will be a Wildcard if the team makes the playoffs. Maybe the Steelers can beat the Ravens in Baltimore in route to another Super Bowl appearance. Sort of like in 2005 when the Steelers lost twice to the Bengals, only to beat them when it really mattered in the postseason. That would be hilarious and awesome. But this team still has a lot of concerns. I saw some glimmer of hope last week only to have those hopes crash down tonight. Let’s see what happens going forward. I have to comment on the officiating in this game. It was downright horrible. I’m not blaming the loss on it (bad calls on both sides, although mostly on the Steelers), but it’s amazing how many poorly officiated games there are this year. It seems like it gets worse each year with more and more horrible rules being put in place. Amazing that the NFL is seemingly OK this.

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