Pittsburgh Steelers: Grades by Position for the Loss Against the Ravens
Pittsburgh had a chance to take control of the AFC North, but instead made an average Joe look like an All-Pro in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The Steelers’ defense had trouble getting off the field all game, and the last drive was no exception, as Baltimore drove 92 yards in 12 plays to gain a 23-20 lead with only eight seconds left.
The loss was particularly disappointing considering Pittsburgh came back from a 16-6 fourth-quarter deficit.
Pittsburgh now sits in third place in the AFC North.
Here are grades for the loss to the Ravens.
Roethlisberger had a slow start, completing only 7-of-15 passing in the first half, but he heated up in the second. He finished the game 20-of-37 for 330 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Roethlisberger was effective at moving about the pocket and finding receivers open downfield, including Mike Wallace for a go-ahead 25-yard touchdown strike.
In the second half, Roethlisberger ran an effective no-huddle offense and helped the Steelers take control of the game—or though it seemed.
However, Roethlisberger also threw a costly interception to Terrell Suggs on an attempted wide receiver screen.
Season GPA: 2.88
Running Backs: B
Rashard Mendenhall appeared to be shut down by Baltimore, but he come on fast in the second half and finished the game with a respectable 52 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown.
Mendenhall was able to find holes in the Ravens’ defense in the second half and gash them for positive yardage. Pittsburgh may not have run him enough.
Early in the game when the passing game was struggling, Mendenhall got few opportunities, and when they were successful moving the ball on the ground in the second half, they did not necessarily go back to the run.
Isaac Redman only had two yards on three carries, and Mewelde Moore ran a bad route on an important third down late in the game, which resulted in a Pittsburgh punt.
Season GPA: 2.51
Wide Receivers: B
Pittsburgh was already playing without Emmanuel Sanders and they lost Hines Ward early in the second quarter following a helmet-to-helmet hit from Ray Lewis. (Of course there was no flag on the play.)
Mike Wallace was invisible for much of the game, but he did finish with 68 yards on four receptions with a touchdown.
Antonio Brown had another big game, leading the Steelers with 109 yards and five receptions while Jericho Cotchery made his first impact of the season with 44 receiving yards.
The receivers picked it up in the second half after struggling to find open space in the first.
Season GPA: 3.08
Tight Ends: B
Heath Miller had yet another solid game, burning the Ravens over the middle of the field for huge chunks of yardage. He had five receptions for 73 yards, but did have one go through his hands.
This was not as bad as David Johnson. While he had one big catch for 25 yards, Johnson dropped a pass on a first down play near the end of the game.
The play resulted in the clock stopping and did not force Baltimore to use a timeout. In the end, a completed pass likely would have meant the Steelers won the game.
Season GPA: 3.05
Offensive Line: B+
Pittsburgh's offensive line did a fair job for the ground attack, particularly in the second half when they gave Mendenhall room to run.
Roethlisberger was only sacked once after Marcus Gilbert and Ramon Foster were beat. Beyond this, the line gave Roethliberger plenty of time to throw from the pocket.
Maurkice Pouncey was aggressive throughout, and Chris Kemoeatu had several nice blocks while pulling.
Gilbert stood out on one particular play, shoving a pass-rusher around Roethlisberger to save a sack.
Season GPA: 1.95
Defensive Line: A-
Ray Rice scored on the first play from scrimmage.
Luckily for the Steelers the play was called back with a holding penalty.
That would be just about it for Rice, who gained only 43 yards and average 2.4 yards per rush, though he did score.
Ricky Williams did not do much better, averaging only 2.7 yards per carry.
As a team, Baltimore was held to 67 yards on 27 carries.
Brett Keisel had a very good game and was a presence rushing the passer. He forced Joe Flacco to step up into James Harrison for a sack.
Season GPA: 2.61
James Harrison made his return in a big way.
He looked like his old self at stopping the run and at getting to the quarterback. Harrison had three sacks and three other quarterback hits. He finished with eight tackles and caused havoc all night.
Larry Foote was also outstanding with 10 tackles and has been playing excellent football since stepping in for James Farrior.
However, the other linebackers were average.
Lawrence Timmons was nearly invisible again, though he did a fair job in coverage.
Jason Worilds was not beaten badly for any plays, but he did nothing productive on the field either, which led to him spending a lot of time on the bench in the second half.
Season GPA: 2.43
Defensive Backs: F
As great as the defensive backs played last week, that is how awful they were this week.
Troy Polamalu had eight tackles and was pretty active near the line of scrimmage. Baltimore pretty much avoided him through the air, though.
Ike Taylor played an alright game. He did get called for a pass interference penalty that set up a Baltimore score.
Keenan Lewis had his worst game of the year, as did William Gay, who had two pass interference calls. The first set up a Ravens field goal, while the second did not matter since he allowed Torrey Smith to make the game-winning touchdown reception.
Ryan Clark got called for a personal foul on a third down play, giving Baltimore a first down. He also dropped a potential interception in the end zone.
Pittsburgh was also aided with several drops from Smith and Anquan Boldin. The defense had no answer for Dennis Pitta.
Baltimore converted on 14 of 21 third down attempts.
Season GPA: 2.57
Special Teams: C
Antonio Brown had a fair showing in the return game, though he only had a combined three kick and punt returns.
Pittsburgh's kick coverage unit allowed David Reed an average of 32.3 yards per return, including a 45-yard return.
Jeremy Kapinos was unimpressive in his first game replacing Daniel Sepulveda. He averaged only 33.3 yards per punt and did not have anywhere near the hang-time Sepulveda has.
The special teams also took a costly delay of game, which prevented a 47-yard field goal attempt.
Season GPA: 2.44
Pittsburgh’s offense took too long to get going against the Ravens.
They did go to the no-huddle, which was pretty effective, but did not stick to a ground game that was gaining chunks of yardage against the Ravens' defense.
They also failed to convert a red zone attempt and had to settle for a field goal.
Pittsburgh's defense struggled to stop the Ravens and could not get off the field on third downs.
Flacco looked like a much better quarterback than what he actually is, especially on the game-winning drive.
Season GPA: 2.18
Study Up: What Must Improve
The third-down defense was pathetic, as the cornerbacks could not make plays on the ball. Pittsburgh cannot allow sustained drives because they cannot stop their opponents on 3rd-and-long.
Pittsburgh's offense still is displaying red zone woes, and if they would have been able to convert these attempts for touchdowns they would have won Sunday.
Finally, the coaches need to find a way to put games away. Pittsburgh was once again in position to win late in the game and could not run out the clock.
The Steelers escaped against the Patriots, but could not say the same about the Ravens.
While the two incomplete passes late in the game were safe throws, they were not playing to Roethlisberger’s strengths, nor targeting the best offensive weapons—unless you think Johnson and Moore were the best two options.
Better time management at the end would have meant the Ravens would not have had enough time to score.
It is off to Cincinnati in a very important game for the Steelers if they want to stay in the AFC North race.
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