Ravens vs. Steelers: Takeaways from Pittsburgh's 19-16 Win over Baltimore
The Steelers won with a combination of a balanced offense and stifling defense. This put the Steelers up to a mark of 2-4 on the season, as they crept ever closer to relevance in the AFC.
Here are some takeaways from Sunday's win.
All stats provided by ESPN.com.
Injuries Still an Issue
It only took moments for the injury bug to bite the Steelers on Sunday. When the TV announcers reported that starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert was questionable to return with a quadriceps injury, the collective Steelers fanbase recoiled.
In his place, reserve tackle Guy Whimper filled in admirably and, all things considered, played pretty well. The Steelers continued to use former starting left tackle Mike Adams as an extra lineman in heavy sets, but Whimper finished the game at right tackle.
Le'Veon Bell Is the Truth
If there was any doubt about how much better the Steelers' run game is with rookie running back Le'Veon Bell starting, those doubts should be erased after Sunday's performance.
Bell came in, and against a big, aggressive Ravens defense, put up 93 yards rushing on 19 carries. His mix of size and agility is impressive, and on more than one play Sunday, his ability to stop, make a cut and get up field was the difference between a loss and a nice gain.
Shamarko Thomas Has Something Special
This season has been unusual in that the Steelers have put rookies into significant roles early in the season. This includes rookie safety Shamarko Thomas.
Thomas' role with the Steelers defense has varied from reserve strong safety to nickel cornerback, and he has stepped up to every challenge. Sunday was no different as he made several big stops on crucial plays and flashed the athleticism that is going to keep him on the field going forward.
Antonio Brown Is so Smooth
Another game means another big performance by Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. It wasn't that Brown had a dominating performance, because he didn't. Brown finished with six catches for 50 yards, giving him 47 receptions on the season.
What made Brown's performance so good was how he got those catches and yards. His ability to make a short catch, pause to freeze the defense and accelerate past them is rarefied air in the NFL.
Defensive Play-Calling Went Wrong
For the vast majority of Sunday's game, the Steelers defense was in control of the Ravens offense. However, on the Ravens' final two drives, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau chose to turn away from the creative play calls of the previous drives and went straight vanilla in coverages and pressures.
This allowed the Ravens to score 10 points and accumulate 139 yards, which forced the offense to come back out and have that final game-winning drive. There's no reason to take your foot off the pedal when what you are doing is working so well.
Steelers Offense Gets Creative
If the Steelers offense could be accused of anything up until Sunday's game, it might be that they have been too conservative. Well, not today, my friends. The Steelers ran three times out of the Wildcat formation, including one zone-read play with Le'Veon Bell as the quarterback.
They even shirked the usual fade route near the goal line for a shovel pass to tight end Heath Miller which resulted in a touchdown. This sort of creativity just gives every team the Steelers play going forward more to plan for.
The Steelers Won the Matchups
There is an old adage that says football is all about matchups. I ascribe to this way of thinking, and on Sunday, so did the Steelers. The Ravens' top names were key matchups to win.
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, wide receiver Torrey Smith, running back Ray Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco were kept in check for the majority of the contest through smart calls and excellent execution.
And being able to keep those players from beating them is a significant reason as to why the Steelers won. They were able to minimize the damage by most of the Ravens' stars and counter with plays by their own top players.
Shaun Suisham Stays Perfect
If there is one thing all Steelers fans can be certain of at this point, it's that kicker Shaun Suisham is going to do his job. This Sunday was just another day at the office as Suisham hit all four of his field-goal attempts and one extra-point try.
On the season, Suisham is 14-of-14 on his field-goal attempts and 9-of-9 on extra points. He is the picture of consistency and the team MVP up to this point.