Pittsburgh Steelers: Last Minute Ravens Touchdown Doesn't Tell Whole Story
When the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers play each other, it is never a pretty game.
Both teams go in knowing it is going to be a physical, hard-fought win for whoever comes out on top at the end.
This was actually the fifth consecutive regular-season game between these two division rivals that was decided by four points or less.
Over the first three weeks of the season, the Steelers found a way to do just enough to win with a dominant defense and a serviceable offense.
Was this performance just a continuance from last season’s bad defensive play?
Here are 10 things I took away about the defense from this low-scoring matchup.
Where Was Troy?
Maybe it was just me—however, I remember turning to my girlfriend at the end of the third quarter and saying, “Where did Troy go? Did he get hurt?”
In my opinion, Troy Polamalu had been the MVP of the league through the first three weeks of the season. But in the second half of the game against the Ravens, he seemed to disappear.
Usually you can find Troy flying around the ball and wreaking havoc on the opposing team’s offense.
The only play I can even remember Troy making was on the Ravens' first drive of the game, when he completely blew up a running play for a six-yard loss.
It just seemed weird not to see Troy everywhere, especially since he did not even record a tackle in the second half of the game.
That being said, everyone has an off game once in a while, and I have full confidence that he will be back to his normal self against Cleveland in Week 6.
James Farrior Finally Looks His Age
James Farrior has been playing great for the Steelers defense all season long, showing why he is still one of the leaders of this team.
James is 35 years old, however, and it finally showed a little bit against the Ravens with a few missed tackles and some poor coverage.
The Ravens' first touchdown exemplified this, when Willis McGahee pretty much ran right past Farrior.
In Farrior’s defense, for the second straight week the entire defense seemed off to start the game, and missing a tackle is going to happen and did happen to everyone in this game.
I was one of Farrior’s biggest supporters this offseason, when everyone said he was finished and that he would get cut, and I still believe he has more than enough left in the tank for this season.
Dick LeBeau Dialed It Down?
There are usually two things you can count on from Dick LeBeau’s defense each week.
One is that there will not be a lot of rushing yards posted against the Steelers, and two is that they will blitz the quarterback.
So far this season, Steeler defenders have pounded opposing quarterbacks into the ground, tying for seventh in the league with 11 total sacks.
This week against the Ravens, however, Dick LeBeau seemed to decide before the game to play more coverage and not blitz as much.
The defense seemed to rush only four guys for most of the game and racked up only one sack—by Casey Hampton of all people—and only two quarterback hits the entire game.
Maybe Dick LeBeau thought that the lack of blitzes would throw the Ravens off, but the Steelers need to get more pressure on the quarterback going forward.
No. 1 Rush Defense
And what about the other thing you can usually count on from a LeBeau defense?
Well, the Steelers' defense is currently No. 1 in the NFL in rushing defense, giving up only 62.3 yards per game on the ground.
The one rushing touchdown aside, the Steelers allowed only 70 total rushing yards to the Ravens, and Willis McGahee was the leading rusher for them with just 39 yards.
In defense of the Ravens, Ray Rice was hobbled with a knee injury and probably was not at 100 percent for this game.
That being said, I think the defense still should not have given up even that many yards to Baltimore, and would not have if not for their slow start to the game.
All in all, the Steelers' opponents know that they better just learn to pass against our defense because, more than likely, they will not get much yardage on the ground.
Ike Taylor Actually Caught One
Let me state this for the world to see just in case anyone missed it.
IKE TAYLOR ACTUALLY CAUGHT AN INTERCEPTION!
As unbelievable as that statement is, yes, ladies and gentlemen, Ike Taylor caught his first interception of the season against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
I wouldn’t get too excited: Ike had only one interception in each of the past two seasons, so it looks like he just decided to get it out of the way early this year.
The Steelers forced two turnovers on the day, with James Harrison adding a forced fumble on Baltimore’s opening drive of the second half.
Even though the Steelers defense seemed to be just a little off for some of the game, it was good to see them still causing turnovers and good to see Ike Taylor, maybe the most underrated corner in the league, get his first interception of the season.
William Gay Is Having a Good Season
William Gay has come a long way from being trampled by Adrian Peterson last year, and from everyone calling for him to be cut this offseason.
Now, I can't defend the kind of season Gay had last season, because he was pretty bad and looked lost the whole year.
All I kept saying, however, was that Gay deserved a chance to prove himself this season and could still develop into a good corner for the Steelers.
Well, Gay has proved me right so far this season and had two big pass defenses against the Ravens, with one coming on fourth down of the goal-line stand at the end of the game.
William Gay has been playing good football for the Steelers this season now that he is no longer the starting corner and has returned to his natural position of nickel cornerback.
Timmons Continues To Rack Up Tackles
Lawrence Timmons has been nothing short of a beast for the first three weeks of the season, and that didn’t change against the Ravens.
Timmons started off slowly with the rest of the defense and had some missed tackles, but he finished the game with a game-high 15 tackles.
Lawrence is now the NFL's current leader with 48 tackles and has not shown any signs of slowing down.
With the pace that Timmons is going, he could end up leading the NFL in tackles for the entire season.
This season, Timmons has been proving wrong everyone who doubted his ability to take over when James Farrior retires.
He has been flying around the ball, showing speed and explosiveness, and looking like the next great linebacker for the Steelers.
Penalties Hurt the Whole Team
The Steelers were penalized 11 times for 88 yards against the Raven, with three flags on the defense.
Even though three penalties do not seem like an inordinate amount, a first-quarter penalty on Ike Taylor for illegal use of hands set up the Ravens' first touchdown.
The offense was responsible for most of the penalties, however, racking up nine and putting the defense in bad situations the entire game.
Most of the time this season, the Steelers defense responded by stopping the opposing offense.
This Sunday against the Ravens, however, the defense could not overcome the lack of offense and the bad-field position they were put in at the end of the game.
This Isn’t Last Season
I don't think I have to remind Steelers fans how many games the team lost last season despite leading in the fourth quarter.
I know that this loss to the Ravens had that same feel. But I am here to say that this is not last season’s defense, and we do not have to worry about having more losses like this one.
This season, the defense has been dominant, ferocious, scary, awesome, and any other adjective that you want to throw out there.
Even on an off day against the Ravens, they still forced two turnovers and only gave up 70 yards rushing.
In truth, the defense did everything they could to win the game, only asking the offense to get one first down. If the offense had got that first down, then the Steelers would have won the game and Ben Roethlisberger would be coming back to an undefeated team.
Another reason this season’s defense is nothing like the one that lost us so many games last year is the goal-line stand at the end of the game.
The Ravens drove all the way down the field to the Steelers' 21-yard line, and I bet every Steelers fan was just waiting for the defense to mess it up somehow.
Two plays later, the Ravens had a first down on the eight-yard line and looked poised to punch the ball in for the winning touchdown.
We all sat there and watched as first, second, and third downs went by with only one rush for six yards and two incompletions.
So, on fourth down at the two-yard line with the Steelers leading 14-10 and 2:44 left in regulation, Joe Flacco throws a fade to Anquan Boldin and William Gay bats it away with no flags!
That should have won us the game; however, we all know what happened next.
The Last Drive
All the offense needed was one first down to run out the clock and go into the bye week at 4-0.
They didn’t get a first down, but they did commit three penalties, including a holding penalty on the punt that gave the Ravens the ball on the Steelers' 40-yard line.
So, despite doing its job the entire game and, just minutes earlier, giving the offense the opportunity to close out the game out, the defense still had work to do.
What happened was Joe Flacco completing four straight passes right down the field, including the game-winning touchdown on which he pump-faked a throw right to Bryant McFadden.
I can’t stress enough that the offense had only to get one first down for the Steelers to win the game. However, the defense should have stopped a Ravens' offense that had only only 55 seconds left and no timeouts to work with.
I just refuse to put this loss on the defense when the offense was as bad as it was, but again, maybe this is something that is just me.