Steel City Underground

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin
steelers.com

Steel City Underground presents our 2017 Recall: a brief look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games from last season.

Emotions ran high in this primetime encounter between heated rivals which once again lived up to its main event billing. Sunday Night Football would be treated to another close game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, as the contest went wire-to-wire with the deciding play once again occurring in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

The reason emotions where at an all-time high within Heinz Field was due to the injury to Steelers LB Ryan Shazier a week earlier. The team dedicated the night to the injured Shazier while fans made the hashtag #Shalieve a top trend on social media for the evening.

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The game started with the Steelers kicking off after winning the toss. The Ravens looked like they were going to have an easy time driving down the field but Sean Davis, who had several mental breakdowns in the game, grabbed an interception early that flipped the field and got Ben Roethlisberger into the game.

The Steelers marched down the field with a combination of rushing from Le'Veon Bell, catches by tight end Jesse James and then scored on a pass to Bell. Bell would go on to get three touchdowns in the game.

Antonio Brown had several nice catches in the game, especially when picking on Ravens corner Brandon Carr. His big-play ability kept things moving when the offense sputtered, especially in the second half. He had help getting open when James, Vance McDonald, Martavis Bryant and Eli Rogers all getting involved in the offense.

However, the Ravens kept coming back.

The Steelers defense was slashed by the running of Alex Collins. There was a concern entering the game that the Ravens would be able to get a strong run game going without Shazier in the lineup. At one point, head coach Mike Tomlin pulled the defense together and gave them a dressing down on the sideline about not tackling better.

The defense would rally only to see both Davis and Artie Burns make sophomore mistakes due to frustration (and drawing subsequent penalties). Cam Heyward was an emotional leader on and off the field, keeping the energy alive even on the sideline to get his teammates to step up and play aggressively. (You’ll see that his words paid off in a play below.)

The Steelers offensive line, especially Chris Hubbard (who had to contend with Terrell Suggs) worked their rear-end off in the first half. They kept Ben Roethlisberger relatively clean in the passing game and allowed Bell to get nice yardage on the ground.

The line was pivotal in keeping Suggs and the Ravens defense from being able to completely dictate the pace of the game based on their consistent rush. Roethlisberger also gets some credit for sticking in there and being able to take a hit or two to keep the offense focused, even when they were forced to punt the ball back to Baltimore several times in the second half.

Fullback Roosevelt Nix, who led the way in the clip above, also had a highlight of the night by being an unlikely end zone receiver. "Rosy" deserves a pat on the back for this fantastic touchdown catch as he bounced on the chest of Ravens S Tony Jefferson (a guy Bell trucked and ran over several times during the game).

Overall, the game was an ugly one that really exposed how poor the Steelers' run defense is against rushers that can break things outside like Collins and Javorius Allen were able to. Without Ryan Shazier, and his backup Tyler Matakevich, the team had to rely on patchwork solutions to attempt to stop the Ravens runners, something they were unsuccessful at doing all evening.

(Dare we say that this game was definitely the blueprint for the Jacksonville Jaguars playoff victory over Pittsburgh weeks later.)

In the end placekicker Chris Boswell was clutch for the Steelers. Though he didn't have to win the game in the final seconds this week, he had another game-winning field goal, putting the Steelers up by a point as the two teams continued to trade the lead throughout the second half.

The Ravens would get the ball back, but this time the game would be decided by the very Steelers defense that was getting gashed throughout the game. Baltimore got the ball with 42 seconds left and tried their best Big Ben comeback impression.

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Too bad Joe Flacco isn’t Ben Roethlisberger.

Flacco threw an incomplete pass intended for Jeremy Maclin on their first play, but an illegal motion penalty forced the Ravens to burn their final timeout as to not have a ten-second run-off on the game clock for the penalty.

Still on their own 25-yard line, Flacco silenced the Heinz Field faithful with a 14-yard completion to Mike Wallace to get to the 39. The quarterback would hurry to the line and spike the ball stopping the clock, setting up a close second down incompletion once again intended for Maclin, who stepped out of bounds. During the drive, the Steelers remained poised and didn’t fall for the Ravens “jump ball” tactics, where they attempt to draw a flag more than complete the deep pass attempt.

1-of-3 thus far, Flacco dropped back to pass once again but T.J. Watt made a last second sack as Flacco rolled to his left - grabbing the veteran quarterback from behind and forcing him to fumble the ball forward and out of bounds.

Seemingly unaware of the situation, the Ravens stood around in a huddle as the game clock ticked to zero. The Steelers came away with a Heinz Field win and earned AFC North divisional champion status.

What Stood Out

Bigger Ben

In what was Ben’s best game of the season thus far, the Steelers quarterback would be nearly perfect on the evening, throwing two touchdown passes and no picks.

However, the bigger stat was his 506 passing yards: it was his third career game with 500 or more yards, the most by any quarterback in the Super Bowl era.

Immaculate Antonio

Although he failed to score in this game, the Ravens were still unable to overcome the “Immaculate Extension” innovator who chewed up the opposing secondary for 213 yards with a whopping 19.4 yards per reception.

Brown was 276 receiving yards ahead of the NFL's second-leading receiver, putting him in the thick of the MVP discussion.

Frontline

Chris Hubbard filled in for the suspended Marcus Gilbert and practically shutdown the Ravens D. In particular, Hubbard was tasked with defending against Baltimore’s sack specialist Terrell Suggs and was more than effective.

Baltimore’s three sacks were all a result of something other than a breakdown by the line. As noted above, they pretty much owned the line of scrimmage all evening.

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Wizard of Boz

Boswell hit his fourth game-winning field goal in five weeks, solidifying his status as a 2017 Pro Bowler.

Turn Down for Watt

Although the Steelers defense was suspect, missing tackles and allowing Ravens RB Alex Collins to look like a superstar, T.J. Watt remained a force. The rookie stood out in this game, not only for the game-ending strip sack, but six total QB pressures and three run stuffs.

Tackling

Whether it was Sean Davis, Mike Mitchell, Sean Spence, Arthur Moats, or whoever, the Steelers tackling was nearly nonexistent.

Run Defense

Pittsburgh's defense made Alex Collins look like a Hall of Famer as he ran for 6.7 yards per pop. That’s because…

Shazier’s Replacements

If you could even call it that… Sean Spence wasn’t on a football team for months before signing with the Steelers earlier in the week. Arthur Moats, an outside linebacker with little inside linebacker experience, also rotated in and out of the game with Spence.

Neither were able to do much. In fact, it was much worse than you could even imagine (see Collins’ stats above). The linebackers had bad angles, slow reactions and added to the missed tackle issues allowing the Ravens to keep pace throughout the game: the pair would combine for only four tackles.

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Play of the Game

Just when it seemed as if the Steelers defense couldn't come up with a big play, one of their rookies ends the game with the biggest play of the evening.

Outside linebacker T.J. Watt had a heck of a freshman season in the NFL, piling up sacks and interceptions early in the year. In a game where the Steelers were having difficulty getting to Ravens QB Joe Flacco, who had yet to be sacked on the evening, Watt came up with the hit that would end the game.

Watt easily beats his man and turns on the turbo jets as the Ravens quarterback attempts to escape to his left... but Flacco isn't fast enough! Watt appears to be much faster, and catches Flacco from behind, swatting the ball away, which bounces in the field and then out of bounds.

The Steelers came back from a flat performance in the second half for a one-point win thanks to a sack of Joe Flacco by rookie linebacker T.J. Watt and the ball rolling out of bounds as time expired. Since the spot of the fumble was in the field of play, the game clock restarts as soon as the officials place the ball... so Watt's huge play below ended the game, as the Ravens weren't prepared to snap it!





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