Welcome to “Quick Yinzing”, a fast reaction article where a member of the SCU staff gives their initial post-game impressions without digging into any films, stats, or other analysis. It’s as real as that car ride home or sobering down at the bar following the game!
All of us on the staff of Steel City Underground talked about the loss last week to the Chicago Bears and the things that had to be cleaned up as well as keys to success in the Pittsburgh Steelers' fourth game of the season on the road facing the Baltimore Ravens.
First half observations
Aside from winning, one of the top keys to this rivalry game mentioned by the panel was improved run defense. Predictably, the Ravens came out on the opening offensive drive and handed the ball off to Chris Collins but the Steelers sniffed out the run on the very next play as Ryan Shazier stuffed it for a loss. Pittsburgh's Javon Hargrave, Bud Dupree and Vince Williams got into the offensive backfield and then Shazier stripped the ball as Cameron Heyward grabbed the fumble. They were stout enough to force Joe Flacco to turn to the passing game with little to no success.
Offensively, Ben Roethlisberger was true to his media conference words that he needed to be patient and not zero in on Antonio Brown. In the longest offensive possession by any team in the NFL this season (over ten minutes of game time), the Steelers mixed the playbook between run and pass with a healthy spread of personnel packages. Four wide, fullback ahead of halfback, two tight ends - Todd Haley kept the Ravens defense from predicting the calls and the Steelers went up 19-0 at the half.
Second half observations
The Steelers got the ball first to open the third quarter and in a strange play, Brown grabbed a pass and went to the ground - the ball popping out as he rolled over into the air. Eric Weddle grabbed it and ran it into the endzone. On review, a pass that looked incomplete was ruled an interception but the score did not count.
With Shazier making a nice play on Mike Wallace and Mike Hilton putting Flacco into the turf, the Steelers held the Ravens to a field goal.
Things continued to get a little weird as Chris Boswell missed a field goal in the wind and the Pittsburgh run defense fell asleep temporarily and allowed Collins to rumble for 50 yards until Joe Haden brought him down. Flacco hit Mike Wallace for the score but they were unable to convert the two-point play, making the score 19-9.
Heyward and the defense came alive as the Steelers applied consistent pressure on Flacco for the remainder of the game and limited the Ravens to short carries and underneath passes. With T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree charging the edge, Heyward and Dupree earned sacks. Shazier jumped a route for a nice interception as L.T. Walton pressured and a Mike Hilton interception a few plays later set the Steelers up for the win.
Bell ran behind Roosevelt Nix and an offensive line that continues to show great pull blocking and was able to get down into the end zone for a touchdown. Boswell's kick made the score 26-9 and Pittsburgh was stingy, forcing the Ravens into desperation with time ticking quickly off the clock.
As J.J. Wilcox broke up a last-ditch pass on fourth and goal, all Roethlisberger had left to do was strap on his helmet for a kneel to send Pittsburgh to 3-1 on the season.
Special teams coverage was improved this week after a let down against the Bears. Yes, Boswell missed a kick, but the squad was better all around with Coty Sensabaugh making his presence known.
Outside of penalties, of which the Steelers had too many on offense, the only real frustration shown was an early sideline meltdown by Brown when Roethlisberger didn't see him wide open over the center of the field. The Gatorade jug paid for it, as it was tossed, but Brown should have been aware that 'Big Ben' said this week that he'd take what the defense gave him instead of turning Brown into his only target. Brush it off, young man, and celebrate the team win.