Steel Durable: Baltimore Ravens Fail to Fly Through the Steel Curtain
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You hear that? That's the sound of 53 Ravens dropping like stones at Heinz Field.
In another close one, the Steelers manage to overcome a fourteen point halftime deficit to beat their rivals 31-24.
This wasn't quite the defensive shootout we were all expecting, but as long as it's a Steelers victory, who cares, right?
In fact, the unusual high scoring actually made the game a lot better. It made the hits looked harder and it made everyone fight harder.
It also made the refs throw more flags, but more on that later.
Overall not the best win by the Steelers, but a win nevertheless. Here is my breakdown of the game.
Hines, you have every right to smile.
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Things started off great for the offense. The Steelers capped off a long drive with a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown that gave them a 7-0 lead.
That lead quickly vanished as a fumble return for a touchdown and a Mendenhall fumble gave the Ravens a 21-7 lead at the half.
After that it was all Pittsburgh. Ryan Clark knocked the ball out of Ray Rice's hands, and the Steelers converted the turnover with a strike to Heath Miller to cut the deficit to 21-14.
That was just the beginning as on the next drive, Clark picked off Joe Flacco and the Steelers converted that into a touchdown with Ben connecting with Hines Ward.
After the two teams traded field goals, the Steelers got the ball back with about 3:48 remaining in the game. It looked like the Jets game all over again, but this time Ben came through.
On third-and-19, Ben aired the ball out to Antonio Brown, who caught the ball on his helmet and went out of bounds at the two-yard line.
Four plays later, Mendenhall punched it in to give the Steelers a permanent 31-24 lead over the Ravens.
A great job by the offense in the second half, but they have to find away to start games off better. The first-half offense was horrendous.
Harrison was a beast recording three of the Steelers five sacks.
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The defense started the game off on the wrong foot. They gave up few yards, but did give up two touchdowns.
However, it would be the only two they gave up all day.
The defense laid the hammer down in the second half with three turnovers, four sacks, and three points allowed.
James Harrison was an absolute beast as he registered three of the Steelers five sacks on the day. Ziggy Hood showed off as well, as he had five tackles (four solo) and a sack.
Surprisingly, Troy Polamalu had a quiet day. He didn't get any interceptions and only had two tackles. He played most of the game covering the back half of the field and didn't make a lot of noise.
Troy did miss a few tackles, one of which allowed Ray Rice to get into the end zone. It didn't seem like his ankle injury bothered him.
I'm guessing it was the lack of practice. He needs to get more reps this week, because the Steelers will need him against the Patriots most likely.
Another safety shined today and that was Ryan Clark. He was everywhere on the field today making plays. He forced a fumble on Rice and intercepted an overthrown pass for Todd Heap.
There was one scary moment in the first quarter when it looked like he knocked out Ike Taylor, but his helmet hit him in the shoulder instead of the head. Taylor did return to the game after missing a play.
I was glad the defense buckled down in the second half. Any more points allowed, and the Steelers might not have won the game.
Special Teams: F
Shaun wasn't so sweet today as he missed a 43 yard field goal right before halftime.
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Special Teams nearly cost the Steelers this game. Right off the bat, the Steelers allowed the opening kickoff to be returned to around midfield.
Luckily, Tomlin challenged the call and replay showed the returner's elbow was down at the 35-yard line when he was tackled by Shaun Suisham.
The play shouldn't have happened and it cost the team a much-needed challenge.
Not only that, they constantly held on punt returns and kickoffs. Due to these penalties, the offense constantly found itself inside its own 20-yard line.
Ever reliable Shaun Suisham missed a 43-yard field goal wide left right before halftime. If he had made it, the Steelers would have been down only 11 points at the half.
He did make a 35-yard kick in the fourth quarter and he saved the opening kickoff from being returned for a touchdown.
Then late in the fourth quarter, they allowed David Reed to return a punt for a touchdown. Thankfully, it didn't count as Will Allen was held on the return.
I don't know what it is about the special teams of the Steelers, but they are just terrible. I have no answer on how to plug up the gaps. The best we can hope for is that they stay together long enough for the Steelers to win the Super Bowl.
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The grade would have been an A+ on all fronts, but Bruce Arians brings this grade down.
The offensive play calling in the was horrendous. Arians basically fed Ben to the dogs. No slants, draws, dump offs to the running back, out routes, nothing.
All of that stuff would have neutralized the blitz, but they weren't called.
On the other hand, the offense did put up 31 points and against the Ravens no less. Arians did get creative with some fake end-arounds that Mendenhall took for big gains. With that, I can't be too hard on him.
Dick LeBeau called a great game despite the first-half performance. That was mainly on the defense not executing and tackling well. Boy, did he turn up the heat in the second half.
He threw blitz after blitz at Flacco and it worked, as Flacco folded like a lawn chair. Also props to LeBeau for choosing to blitz on the last drive on the game instead of play coverage.
Last but not least, Mike Tomlin. I don't know what he said to his men at halftime, but boy did it spark a fire. The Steelers came roaring back from a 14-point deficit to win the game when all looked lost.
With this win, there is no doubt, that Tomlin should win Coach of the Year. All season long, he has kept the Steelers focused no matter what came their way.
Today, it was leading a massive comeback and doing some serious reshuffling on the offensive line after both tackles went out. What more can Tomlin do?
I'm surprised the fans didn't shout refs you suck.
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I think we all can agree that the officiating was bad today, for both teams. This game would have been a lot better if the refs had just let some things go.
This is the best rivalry in the NFL and there was going to be a lot of pushing and shoving going on. Hines Ward and Ed Reed got into it on the first series of the game.
Ward was blocking Reed and the two wrestled around before Ward slammed Reed into the ground. He got called with unnecessary roughness.
My thing is, both of them were going at it, so if you call a penalty on one, call a penalty on the other as well.
Chris Kemoeatu cost the Steelers some valuable yardage at the end of the game when he hit someone after Mendenhall scored the game-winning touchdown. The Ravens got the ball back at midfield after the squib kick.
On defense, the Steelers had about three pass interference penalties, and those turned out to be killers as they aided a drive the Ravens turned into a touchdown.
Special teams was a disaster, as every time they went on the field, some kind of penalty was called. All together, the Steelers were penalized nine times for 93 yards and the Ravens six times for 74 yards.
The Steelers have to cut down on penalties. If they play the Patriots next week, they can't afford to give them cheap yards.
It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win. Anytime you get a victory against the Ravens, especially in the playoffs, it always feels good.
On offense, the red zone numbers were better today. Five trips resulted in four touchdowns and one field goal. Much better.
The offense line got manhandled, but they always get manhandled by the Ravens, so what's new? Even though they gave up six sacks, they came through when they needed to.
The defensive performance in the second half was huge and much needed. Let's hope they play like that for a whole game next week.
Special teams has to improve and cut down on the penalties. I don't know how. All I know is that they are becoming a serious liability for the team right now, and I don't want the road to No. 7 ruined by poor special teams play.
With this win, the Steelers advance to their fourth AFC Championship game in six years. Who they face will be determined by who wins the Patriots/Jets match up tomorrow night.
Right now, the Steelers need to head back to the lab, fix their mistakes, and come out more prepared next week. Another slow start for the Steelers could be their undoing.
Final Grade: C+