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Steelers-Ravens Recap

The Steelers edge out the Ravens in another close game between the two rivals, 19-16, the victory brings the Steelers record up to 2-4 and keeps the slim playoff hopes alive for another week.

The Good – The playcalling was inventive (nice shovel pass to Miller for the easy TD) in the 1st half on a couple of drives but maybe the biggest gamechanger was the play of the O-line which consistently pushed back the Ravens defense on run plays. When that happens it makes a huge difference obviously and makes the playcalling all the better.

– Rookie RB LeVeon Bell had his best game in his short career thus far, rushing for almost 100 yards, showing some good patience and vision and actually running a variation of the wildcat offense on a number of plays with generally good results. He looks to be a solid, if not spectacular RB. Felix Jones chipped in some nice runs as well as the Steelers amassed the most rushing yards so far this year in a game.

– Ben played a solid game.

– Watching  CB Cortez Allen show some great hustle in run support and looking very good in pass coverage for the most part. He also almost had a sack on Flacco but did force an incompletion on the play, although honestly it looked like it was a fumble.  Probably one of the better games of his career.

– Watching  Joe Flacco underthrow an open Jacoby Jones in the 2nd half as he beat Gay deep on a post pattern for what would’ve been a TD. Gay managed to recover and break up the underthrown ball. Very risky defense on the play given that Gay had absolutely no support deep, Steelers dodged a bullet on that one.

– Speaking of which, Willie Gay had another game of solid coverage including breaking up what would’ve been 2 Raven TD passes. The first was the already mentioned underthrown Flacco deep ball, the other was in the 4th quarter on a huge 3rd down play into the endzone.

– The secondary overall had a very solid game, Ike had another game of super tight coverage. Flacco did end up with decent numbers and a high completion percentage but part of that is because of the dink and dunk offense the Ravens employ. The other reason is the lack of pressure for most of the 2nd half on Flacco.

– The defense stuffing the Ravens on 3rd and 1, forcing a FG in the 1st quarter. Hood helping to make a key stop on a short run play? Say it ain’t so!

– Rookie WR Derek Moye with a very impressive somersault grab on 3rd down as he is hit and manages to hold on to the ball as he flies up to grab the ball and is flipped upside down by two Raven defenders.

– Lawrence Timmons was a tackling machine in this game helping to slow down the Ravens run game.

– Felix Jones with a fantastic 40 yard Kick off return after the Ravens FG in the 1st quarter.

– Good heads up play and recovery of the ball by youngster Vince Williams on a sneaky onsides kick early in the 4th quarter by the Ravens. The Ravens were penalized twice on the play but good play by Williams nonetheless. Very bizzare decision by Harbaugh to attempt it with the score 13-9 at that point. It’s not like the Steelers offense was lighting up the scoreboard.

– The defense played hard for most of the game which was good to see.

– Manny F’ing Sanders almost was the hero of the game as he returned the kickoff at the end of the game for a TD but just barely stepped out of bounds on the play.

The Bad – Once again the Steelers can’t seem to buck the trend of scoring and then allowing the opposing team to march down on the ensuing drive for a score as the Ravens match the Steelers first TD with a FG in the first half and then at the end of the 4th quarter with the Steelers leading 16-9 after a FG, the Ravens march down pretty much uncontested for the game tying TD. This defense ranks high year after year but the truth is when push comes to shove in big moments  of games this defense has repeatedly let the team down more often than not.

– Watching the offense go into “Slo-Mo” mode with over 3 minutes left at the end of the 1st half ending eventually in disaster as Heath Miller has a ball popped out of his arms for a Ravens recovery around midfield. On the “drive” Bell is called for a facemask penalty which pinned the offense deep in their own territory, very, very ticky tack call by the refs. Haley called numerous draws which sucked away at the clock. Overall,  this is a good example of the Steelers playing way too conservatively and scared. Go for the jugular. One of my biggest problems with this kind of playcalling and mindset and use of the clock is even if the Steelers managed to get some first downs or if Miller managed to hold onto the ball it would still be very unlikely the Steelers would’ve had enough time to score a TD, let alone a FG in decent range. Gotta keep the scores close! The Steelers motto for some time now. And this was the mindset for the offense for most of the 2nd half as well, settling for FG’s or settling for simply eating away some of the clock in a close game. It won the game today but it’s hard to picture this kind of approach working the rest of the season for a 2-4 team with no room for error. The Steelers simply let the Ravens hang around which is the MO for this team under Tomlin.

– Speaking of which, seeing the Steelers offense imploding in the 3rd quarter with the ball inside the 5 of the Ravens with a second and short and ending eventually in a FG. Penalties, poor O-line protection, questionable playcalling, in other words – business as usual. Where was the unpredictable playcalling that worked well in the 1st half? Why is there still an avoidance of using RB’s in the passing game?

– Seeing the O-line’s play revert back to mediocre throughout a good bit of the 2nd half in pass protection, especially at sealing outside rushers. Decent run blocking continued for the most part.

– Bad drop in the endzone by Moye in the 4th quarter. Perfectly thrown pass by Ben on the play.

The Bizarre –  As mentioned, Seeing rookie RB LeVeon Bell run a variation of the Wildcat offense numerous times in the game and doing it with good results. What’s bizarre is the Steelers using a rookie player in such a role, especially a rookie that hasn’t even had that much game experience this season due to injury.

Summary – Overall, it’s another win which is now 2 in a row, let’s see how far the team can take this momentum because that’s what it’s going to take based on some of the issues on this team (defensive letdowns, questionable coaching, mistakes) that still continued even in this win. Next week is a very tricky west coast roadtrip out to Oakland. Another pivotal game.

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