By: Rudy Reyes – SportsGuyMike.com Contributor
This game was bound to be something other than a rivalry, a spoiler one may suggest. After all the Steelers have one of the premiere offenses in the NFL with Ben Roethlisberger, Markus Wheaton, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, and Martavis Bryant. Ben Roethlisberger came into this game: 336.9 Passing Yards, 18 TDS, 12 INT, 67.9 Comp % and Tied for 3rd in NFL History. The game plan is simple, continue to do what you have been doing offensively and defensively to be able to get a post season bid with no need for other teams to dependent on. The best Free Agent available in DeAngelo Williams has not only shown his ability to fill in for an untimely injured LeVeon Bell not once but two times this year. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been a scoring dynamo with points scored in 21 quarters not only on the ground but through the air.
On a failed end around attempt on 3rd down with Toussiant and Martavis in the first quarter, was not successful and put them in very tough territory at M&T Stadium. Jesse James wasn’t utilized as he should have been and now a predictable run play which could have required more trickery, resulted in a minimal gain by DeAngelo Williams. This resulted in their first 3 and out, where as in early run plays have attained more yards per carry. The ball was turned over untimely.
As Baltimore, deferred and now start at their own 29-yard line and with various Quarterbacks under center up to this point in Matt Schaub, Joe Flacco and others until an unsuspecting Ryan Mallet who has had 12 days to prepare for a formidable team in Pittsburgh who have been doing a much better job in Pass Coverage to prove his arm strength. Mallett has had many opportunities to showcase his talent during his tenure in the NFL and in the first quarter he did with a touchdown to Ryan Matthews to take a 7-0 lead in the First Quarter. The Ravens pounded the line with a running game that up until this point the Steelers were able to control the line with Lawrence Timmons, Stephon Tuitt and the ageless one in James Harrison (who currently has 5 sacks on the season). Many miscues defensively for the Steelers enabled the march downfield from Boykin being lost in coverage off the line, Ryan Shazier out of position including hits (and not tackles).
As the Steelers head onto the field with their 2nd possession. The first play lead to a minimal game by DeAngelo Williams and not a passing play which translates into potentially a better offensive possession which can take time off the clock as you move the chains. Antonio Brown who has been (as exhilarating of a player even when a goal post is asking for a hug), outstanding on practically every down he plays and The NFL’s no.# 1 receiver in multiple categories’ this season. However, even Antonio Brown could extend that play, for which they ran the ball so effectively (now 3rd and 7). Ben Roethlisberger hits Antonio Brown on a corner route for a much needed 27-yard pickup to keep the chains moving. DeAngelo Williams with a 2nd down play for a minimal gain which transitioned into a make shift end around my Martavis Bryant and with his speed you wonder how many of those type plays he could run now and in the future. DeAngelo Williams in a single back set [76 yards rushing on 7 attempts nearing the end of the 1st qtr.] with a hand off by Ben Roethlisberger and it would seem a daunting task by the Ravens Defense to stop but they seem to be playing soft to not allow the explosive plays that the Steelers are capable of performing.
As the Steelers seemingly are able to pass and open things up, Antonio Brown is the recipient of a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown pass or is it? Actually the call on the field was overturned because he didn’t retain possession of the football as his feet completely tapping and ball not touching the ground. However, this was in fact a catch and the call wasn’t accurately called ever after going under the hood by the referees on site. Steelers settled for 3 points by a sure footed Chris Boswell.
Baltimore certainly is having the capability on running this drive through David West whilst gaining ground on the Steelers Defensive backs. Tomin quickly pulled out and threw the challenge flag refuting Ravens WR Givins called down by contact, due to William Gay making leg contact to call him down and wipe out his huge gain as they explained it to Harbaugh. He in turn challenged the call on the field, the went back under the hood. They confirmed that he in fact had been in contact by William Gay.
On The Ravens ensuing possession, in a two back set Allen had a 3-yard gain after being stopped by Rob Golden. Now 3rd and 6, Mallett takes the shotgun snap with an incomplete pass. This sets up a FG attempt by Justin Tucker which is good from 37-yards. This is a 10-3 lead by Baltimore, early in the 2nd qtr. Steelers needed to force the Ravens to a FG which means a touchdown would tie this one up with 10:02 left. Steelers starting on the 20-yard line, play action to DeAngelo Williams that went to Will Johnson which was almost intercepted by #22 Jimmy Smith. This was an over thrown pass by Ben Roethlisberger, and it seems to be an issue thus far in this game, thus far. Next possession, DeAngelo Williams in the backfield in the season averaging 57.1 yards per carry (ypc), today 85 yards. One of those reasons is Ben Roethlisbergers’ throws have been consistently off target and you must have a balance attack between Run/pass to keep the defenses honest. Steelers are averaging 7.9 yards per rush attempt, and now Dumervil committed a neutral zone infraction which gives them a new set of downs. 1& 10 at the 30-yard line. Steelers looking inconsistent by opening the gaps allowing DeAngelo Williams to gain large pieces of yardage up-field and what didn’t help was DeAngelos’ hair was pulled down by Ravens LB #20 Allen. Many opportunities in this game that would have given the Steelers better field position and now a penalty comes in, committed by Ben Roethlisberger for delay of game. Antonio Brown tied an NFL record with 239 catches, and most in a two-year span (Marvin Harrison).
Antonio Brown was on the outside looking at gaining yardage with a big catch on 3rd and 16, incomplete as he couldn’t get his left foot inbounds which now forces a punt by Jordan Berry. This game isn’t what I’d call Ben Roethlisbergers’ finest by any means and with incompletions, over throws makes this a very long game and it’s not even half time. Ravens start at their own 33-yard line, Mallett in shotgun formation, quick pass to #11 Aiken with a 3-yard gain making this 2nd and 6. Ben Roethlisberger 3 for 7, 29 yards, 0 TD’s whereas Ryan Mallett 11/14, 91 yards, and 1 TD and it would seem that thus far Mallett has had the better half of the two quarterbacks in this half. Steelers come with pressure on Mallett which forces and incompletion, and up to this point haven’t brought that pressure they have been needing to do in order to force even more incompletions to this “12-day old” Ravens’ Quarterback. This forces a 3rd and 6 for Balitmore, and now the Steelers need to clamp down in order to force a punt. Movement on the offensive line of the Ravens #72 Osemele, put them back ever farther at 3rd and 11, which are currently 5/6 on 3rd downs.
Looking at this from a different perspective, when Steelers faced the Broncos last week they performed on 3rd down doing a much better in pass coverage than I had seen in this game vs Ravens. One of those reasons is the insertion of Brandon Boykin into the game for the secondary, and removal of Antwon Blake which seemed to be burnt multiple times in pass coverage and looking lost in coverage. Here the Steelers forced Baltimore to punt with 6:10 left in the 1st half. Antonio Brown has been able to do it all up to this point between punt returns, touchdowns, and the ball had taken a Pittsburgh bounce. Ben Roethlisberger in a shotgun set, throws complete to Antonio Brown which makes it 2nd and 3 and pushed out by Wright. Brown has been thrown to 5 times, with 3 receptions, for 35 yards. The Steelers change it up with DeAngelo Williams in the backfield, this results in a huge 1st down for Ben and company, to throw one of two interceptions to Ravens Defense #51 by Darryl Smith which shifted momentum. This was poor decision making for Ben Roethlisberger which had otherwise been decent with ball placement up to this point. He forced something that just wasn’t there when you had Heath Miller wide open to keep the drive alive. The Ravens in this game had plenty of opportunities to pick Ben Roethlisberger off in this game finally came up with one. Ravens first play from scrimmage after the interception, ran the ball with a relatively decent run stopping defense looked lost off the line, somewhat confused also as to who was supposed to stop Allen. Lawrence Timmons fell down after attempting to over load one side of the line opening up a lane for him to run through. Mike Mitchell made a potential touchdown saving tackle with (this left shoulder injury has been re-occurring due to his style of play). This play came back due to the Ravens center, #64 John Urshel committing a holding penalty on #50 Ryan Shazier. Next play, Mallett completes a poorly covered (Timmons tries to go underneath, no avail) #17 Butler to set them up just passed midfield on a very manageable 3rd and 2. Keith Butler called a deep zone which set all Defensive backs deep in coverage assuming Baltimore was going to throw deep, they didn’t account for the slot receiver, #37 Allen coming off of the line and a big first down for the Ravens.
Terrance West hand off by Mallett, which was stopped by #55 Arthur Moats for no gain on 1st down. Ravens after that incompletion makes it 2nd & 11, with 2:10 on clock left in the 1st half. Now an abysmal statistical 1st half by Ben Roethlisberger, 5/10 (Comp/Attempts), 49 yards, 0/1 (INT/TD) with fewest passing yards in 1st half this season 98 yds. vs Cincinnati. Terrance West with a hand off by Mallett which was stopped by #91 Stephon Tuitt. Mallett is running a two-minute drill in a one back set, #11 Aiken with a catch, short of the first down. Steelers deciding to take a time out with 1:22 left in the half. Ravens deciding to attempt a 50 yard FG by Justin Tucker which is good to extend the lead by 10. Justin Tucker is 0-5 this season and 1/11 in 50+ yard FG at home this year.
Steelers setup at the 20-yard line with only a 5-yard gain by DeAngelo Williams with 2 timeouts before the half. Ben Roethlisberger trying to run a two-minute drill, the Ravens applying pressure which forces a sack and now a timeout by the Steelers. Now a false start pushes them back by a ticky-tack motion penalty of Antonio Brown pushing them back 5 yards. Heath Miller is the recipient of a short pass from Roethlisberger however short of a 1st down. Jordan Berry punts this ball to Baltimore with a solid tackle by Special Team Player #29 Shamarko Thomas. Baltimore calls a time out with :26 on the clock on 2nd and 4. Steelers Defensive back out of position again with another 1st down and the play calling defensively just isn’t being called correctly and shows no real preparation previous to this game.
Ravens after a disconnect on 3rd and 15, Steelers show some improvement nearing the end of the 1st half of the game in coverage and pressure on Ryan Mallett. As time expires in the 1st half, Tomlin on Ravens’ offense: “Nothing really, there personality hasn’t changed whatsoever like we talked about earlier in the week” Regardless of who plays quarterback for those guys, their personality has been the same, we just have to play better”. “We’re taking what they are giving us, we have to win on possession downs.”
Ravens’ recipient of the 2nd half kickoff, which are penalized on the 1st play, 5 yards for motion. Mallett was hit hard at the legs by James Harrison which was explained by the refs as Harrison was blocked into Mallett. It came as Cockrell was able to defend that pass, making it incomplete. Steelers defense looking better in this opening part of the 3rd qtr., to force the Ravens on 3rd and out. Antonio Brown back on the punt return with no gain at the 20 yd. line. Now setting up the Steelers on their first possession in the 2nd half. Ben Roethlisberger targeted for a 4 yd. gain at the 25 yd. line. The Steelers on 5 possessions had only scored once from the 20-yard line on 10 plays for 64 yards with a FG. Ravens give the ball back to the Steelers on the 26 yd. line, Ben Roethlisberger back in the shotgun formation with a throw to Martavis Bryant (consistently, not catching ball when he’s been targeted). Rookie mistakes don’t apply here considering he’s no longer one. Martavis needs better hand eye coordination as a WR to get to the next level. Steelers facing 3rd and 5 after that incompletion, now they call a time out because of the incorrect play call that was made initially. Antonio Brown was targeted again for a chain moving first down and knowing where the marker was enabled him to acquire it. Now 1st and 10, with DeAngelo Williams in the backfield. #22 Smith was caught with his hand in the cookie jar against #10 Martavis Bryant with holding onto his sleeve. Ben Roethlisberger now targets Darrius Heyward-Bey (First Catch of the day) for a dire 1st down vital to keep moving the chains. Roethlisberger with a single back set (DeAngelo Williams) handoff gains 3 yards. Steelers with an empty backfield, Roethlisberger (with Miller in motion) with pressure throws a rainbow to Antonio Brown in the end zone. Penalty for pass interference on Baltimore on #22 Lewis. This sets up the Steelers at the 1-yard line, two back set with #45 Nix and DeAngelo Williams (Blocking for Williams, #89 Matt Speath) straight ahead for a much needed touchdown, 10-13 Steelers. Speath was called for unsportsmanlike conduct by throwing his hands up. Unsure what the refs seen on that play to throw a flag, however. Perhaps it was extra shoving after the touchdown. DeAngelo Williams with his 10th rushing touchdown this season, very noteworthy.
Ravens receive it at the 35-yard line, which sets up decent field position for Baltimore. Mallett attempts a pass on the left side which was batted down by #95 Jarvis Jones, intended for #87 which didn’t seem to matter since the next play was #37 Javarus Allen ran up the middle for 1st down blown coverage by #25 Boykin and tackled by #20 Will Allen. Stopping the run is something they haven’t done too well in the matchup this year consistently. Ravens at 2nd and 5, Boykin comes into and registers his first sack as a Pittsburgh Steeler on Ryan Mallett. That sack puts the Ravens back to the 42-yard line and now facing a long 3rd and 14. Steelers apply pressure up the middle forcing Mallett to throw an incomplete pass, now 4th and 14 in the 3rd qtr. with 9:24 in the 3rd. Ravens punt putting Steelers into better field position on the 23-yard line as Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown at the 40-yard line to make the chain gang work here.
Steelers setup with a familiar single back set with #10 Bryant and #11 Wheaton in a bunch set. Roethlisberger with an over thrown ball to Heath Miller extending his arm to try and bring it in, making this a 2nd and 10. Bryant, Wheaton, and Miller again on the left side in a near bunch formation, as Bryant catches the ball and crosses the 45-yard line. 16 Rush and 20 Passes, and this appears to have an unbalanced offensive look especially when you abandon any run efforts making you look one dimensional. Personnel wasn’t properly set in formation and forces Ben Roethlisberger to call an unnecessary timeout leaving them with 1 remaining in the game. Steelers setup with 3rd and 4 and haven’t even been passed mid field, Ben Roethlisberger too took much time in the pocket as the Ravens defense moved passed Villanueva for a sack. Ultimately, Roethlisberger didn’t have anywhere to go with the football after all options were covered. Ravens received punt, first play from scrimmage Ravens sacked at the line for no gain 2nd and 10 carried by #27 West. Ravens tried running it up the middle where they have found success during the 1st half of the game. #31 Cockrell attempted to strip the ball along with #94 Timmons making the tackle. Mallett with a one back set, #23 Mitchell hit #11 Aiken very hard, but not without a vital 1st down catch to keep the drive moving late in the 3rd. Again with the single back set, Mallett handed off to the RB for a 1-yard gain. Here at 2nd and 9, Ravens looking for a key first down but come up shy with a tackle by #50 Shazier. 3rd down with Juszczyk gaining ground with a catch to convert 1st and 10. Arthur Moats and Will Allen gang busters on a 1st and 10, force a ball out but the runner was down by contact. Makes this 2nd and 10 for the Ravens, #84 Chris Matthews with a stretch play but now 3rd and 5. Mallette to #17 Jeremy Butler converts to make it 6/6 on 3rd down for the Ravens. Mallett attempts a rainbow ofhis own to #84 Matthews just to come up incomplete, covered by Cockrell and Mitchell. Mitchell playing on the ball by coming in early could have picked it off but settled for the hit.
#37 Allen was slowed down by Timmons and Will Allen, forcing 3rd and 8 with 1:33 in the third. This is a long 8 for the Ravens, Mallett and #44 Juszczyk, hit by William Gay which forces the Ravens to punt and possibly pin the Steelers deep. It’s caught on the 10-yard line pinning the Steelers deep. Ben Roethlisberger to DeAngelo Williams with a 2nd and manageable. Steelers wild card chances are hanging in the balance here and with that comes a tackle by CJ Mosely on DeAngelo Williams for a 1 yrd. gain. Ben Roethlisberger with a massive amount of time to get rid of the ball and does so with Markus Wheaton for a huge gain starting out in the 4th qtr. Ben Roethlisberger in a one back set and seems common to do such in the game thus far. Williams picks up about 3 yards on the hand-off from Roethlisberger. Here is 2nd and 7 and Steelers looking to capitalize, but intercepted by #22 Smith (2nd of the game for Ben Roethlisberger).
Ravens with a one back set, but play action for Mallett throwing an improbable reception near the 45-yard line by #11 Aiken. Ravens offense looking for an opportunity near the 50 -yard line, #87 Williams which falls incomplete. However, a penalty has been called on #66 Jensen creating a 2nd and 22 for Mallett to work from. Mallett finds an open #13 ____ covered loosely by William Gay and Mike Mitchell who failed to play on the ball, too late and played on the receiver. The coverage wasn’t existent down field and enabled Mallett to find an open receiver, this is a monumental mistake defensively by the Steelers secondary and up front to apply the pressure vital to force a 3 and out. Ravens misfire by Mallett, false start pushes them back 5 yards committed by #66 Jensen. As if the Steelers wouldn’t leave that much wide space open to a receiver and had learned from the error of too much cushion they did it again, this time #50 Shazier was busy looking at the ball and not the player. Ravens down at the 1-yard line with a catch by #44 Juszczyk. Mallett over threw it to #87 Williams now makes it 2nd and goal. 4th quarter with 10:40 to go, Ravens scored with ease while #37 Allen punched it in. Ravens with 1st running touchdown made since week 10. Ravens are now up 10 on the Steelers, with 10:35 in the 4th. With this lead, and time closing the Steelers are now hurrying up to the 20-yard line, first catch to Heath Miller from Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger looking around for an opportunity to spread it around but find Heath Miller for a huge gain. Heath Miller caught a ball on a play action, from Ben Roethlisberger to gain over 20 yards on that play to the 49-yard line. DeAngelo Williams with an effective scuttle just shy of the 1st down. Steelers in a hurry up offense, and throws another quick pass to Heath Miller for another first down. Ben Roethlisberger utilizing DeAngelo Williams in the flat for a massive 1st down necessary and reached the 15-yard line despite CJ Mosely on the coverage.
Ben Roethlisberger finds an open Markus Wheaton at the 10-yard (with 2 yards after catch) line and appears to be a two-minute drill they are trying to orchestrate here. Steelers are on the move in the Red Zone, which makes it 2nd and 3 at the 8. Pass interference in the end-zone against #22 Jimmy Smith will put the Steelers closer to the end zone with a whole new set of downs at the 1-yrd. line. Roethlisberger in the shotgun, 3 TE and #22 Smith with an interception runback for a touchdown. However, there is a penalty against Upshaw for being in the neutral zone. Roethlisberger with a nice block by Will Johnson to the right side for DeAngelo Williams for a touchdown making it 17-20 with 6:33 left in the 4th qtr. They didn’t take that much time off the clock, however they did this in 8 plays, 80 Yards.
Raven are in receipt of a Jordan Berry punt, late in the 4th. Mallet hands off to #27 Allen with a run right up the middle exposing the inability to stop the run in this game, as a whole. #27 Allen is running all over the Steelers right now, they don’t seem to have an answer. Mallett is familiar enough to know when to use the clock. Ravens’ West continues to run to keep the clock running and Steelers only have one timeout remaining. Ravens now punting after the Steelers stopped them forcing a 3 & out as they punt goes into the end zone for a touchback putting them at the 20-yard line. Steelers need to force the issues offensively here with a pass to Antonio Brown just across the 20-yard line. Markus Wheaton with a bullet from Ben Roethlisberger to take it just across the 42-yard line now with 2:42 remaining in the game. Steelers with a practical 2 min drill. Villanueva beat low on that sack of Ben Roethlisberger facing a 2nd and 18 and a saving grace is the two-minute warning. Martavis Bryant couldn’t come up with a bomb from Ben Roethlisberger. Last play of the game shows a lobbed pass from Roethlisberger to Markus Wheaton which was batted down and the game is over.