Steelers execute gameplan, hand Ravens another season loss

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!

There were few highlight-reel moments in the rivalry game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, but the lack of fireworks was due, in part, to the solid execution of their gameplan – to win time of possession by converting what Mike Tomlin called “possession downs” in his Tuesday press conference. The Steelers were almost surgical in how they played, which may leave fans feeling that something was missing in what is typically a physical showdown with their AFC North counterparts on the East Coast, but the level of patience shown on offense was well balanced with an efficient defense that kept the Ravens offense playing from behind. With the 23-16 win, the Steelers take a lead in the division (5-2-1) and the Ravens fall below .500 on the season (4-5-0).

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Steelers doing what(ever) it takes to be successful

The biggest takeaway from the win on Sunday was that Pittsburgh is determined to do whatever it takes to be successful on the field. Ben Roethlisberger didn’t have his biggest game of the season, but “Big Ben” took a hit for the team on a scramble (that scared nearly every Steelers fan into a faint) that knocked the wind out of him after having sacrificed his body a bit by going for the QB-keeper into the end zone and having to be pulled from the bottom of the pile after the touchdown. The good news was that Roethlisberger was the one responsible for the grass stains on his jersey as the offensive line did a fantastic job in pass protection, allowing just one sack and providing Roethlisberger the room and time to convert several key third downs.

Matt Feiler stepped in for Marcus Gilbert and was solid with Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Alejandro Villanueva in paving the way for James Conner to have another 100-plus yard rushing game. Conner had another impressive outing, offering hits of his own as he lowered his shoulders to punish defenders at the end of several plays. Conner was an important option in the short-pass offense as well. After rumbling into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game thanks to a nice block from tight end Vance McDonald, Conner returned the favor on the next offensive drive to set up a touchdown pass play between Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.

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The fact that the Steelers have become a very unselfish team hasn’t gone unnoticed. Offensively, it wasn’t a one-man show. Roethlisberger was able to get JuJu Smith-Schuster heavily involved and still find ways to get James Washington, McDonald, Jesse James, Jaylen Samuels, and Ryan Switzer involved as well. The defense, too, fielded different personnel packages that showed that the Steelers have found success in a full-team approach.

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If the overall master plan was to control those critical possession downs, as Tomlin inferred, then the Steelers executed that plan to near perfection in limiting the total number of rushing yards and forcing Joe Flacco to find open receivers. Flacco was able to complete a couple long passes to his tight ends, but there were no real barn-burners that put the Steelers defense on their heels.

The Steelers’ front seven did a great job in not only neutralizing the run game but kept the pressure up throughout the game. That pressure, stalled a few times with a couple penalties on both teams, finally dialed up to the next level when Bud Dupree and Vince Williams combined for a swarm sack that forced Baltimore to punt. At the end of the game, Stephon Tuitt recorded a sack (he tried to strip the ball loose but was unsuccessful) that effectively ended the Ravens’ opportunities to even try for a Hail Mary final-second pass play.

All-in-all, the game may not have been the most exciting this rivalry between Pittsburgh and Baltimore has ever put together for fans, but it was encouraging – seeing the Steelers make the adjustments that should propel them through November and the remainder of the season.

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