BAL-PIT grades: Brown, Bell, O-line clinch AFC North for Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Baltimore Ravens 27
Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from Pittsburgh’s 31-27 win over Baltimore in Week 16, which clinched the AFC North title for the Steelers:
Quarterback grade: Ben Roethlisberger, 78.3
Big Ben rallies after poor start to second half
The Ravens looked to be in a strong position early in the second half thanks to a pair of interceptions, including a really bad miss that resulted in an interception by Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley. He rallied, though, and delivered the drives that the Steelers needed in the fourth quarter, including a game-winning drive when all seemed lost. By the end of the game, he had completed six of the seven passes he attempted traveling between 10 and 19 yards in the air, and completed three of the four passes he attempted while under pressure.
Top offensive grades:
OT Alejandro Villanueva, 84.9
G Ramon Foster, 82.1
OT Marcus Gilbert, 82.1
G David DeCastro, 81.1
RB Le’Veon Bell, 81.1
Brown delivers late with game-winning touchdown
With the Ravens missing their top cornerback in Jimmy Smith, this game was always set up to be a potential big outing for wide receiver Antonio Brown (PFF grade of 80.6), and with the game-defining play, he delivered the AFC North title to the Steelers. Brown was targeted 11 times and came away with 10 catches for 96 yards and the division-clinching touchdown. This game saw Brown pass 100 catches on the year for the fourth straight year, an incredible feat for a receiver who wasn’t drafted until the sixth round of the 2010 NFL draft. On the year, Brown has forced nine missed tackles, and is a constant threat to take the ball for a touchdown whenever he touches it.
Top defensive grades:
DI Javon Hargrave, 84.9
CB Artie Burns, 80.9
ED James Harrison, 80.8
S Sean Davis, 76.8
CB William Gay, 74.8
Ravens go after Steelers linebackers
Although the Steelers’ defense did not allow many big plays against the Ravens offense, they struggled to slow them down due to some weaker performances in the middle of the unit. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco targeted the Steelers’ linebackers on 27 of his 44 attempts, and the Ravens gained 184 yards on these plays. However, there were several promising performances on the Steelers defense, starting with interior defender Javon Hargrave. Pittsburgh’s rookie had an excellent day both against the run and as a pass-rusher, as he kept collapsing Baltimore’s pocket and pushed blockers into the backfield. In addition, rookie cornerback Artie Burns made several plays in coverage after a rocky start, including forcing a turnover on the last play of the game.
Quarterback grade: Joe Flacco, 76.7
Flacco plays game manager role in loss
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco was not asked to win the game with big passes against Pittsburgh. In fact, only four of Flacco’s 44 aimed attempts travelled 20 or more yards from the line of scrimmage and he completed only one of those passes – the touchdown pass to Steve Smith. However, he did distribute the ball very efficiently underneath, as he was on target on 32 of his 40 attempts within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage. One aspect of the game where Flacco struggled was under pressure, as his passer rating dropped from 108.8 to 30.5 on the 18 dropbacks when the Pittsburgh defense was able to get to him.
Top offensive grades:
G Vladimir Ducasse, 79.7
OT Ronnie Stanley, 78.5
G Marshal Yanda, 78.2
OT Ricky Wagner, 78.0
WR Steve Smith Sr., 73.3
Smith shines as other skill players fail to step up to the occasion
Veteran Steve Smith Sr. once again came to play against Pittsburgh, as he caught all seven of his targets for 79 yards and a touchdown, and forced five missed tackles in the process. As a result, Flacco had a passer rating of 153.3 when targeting Smith. However, other receivers failed to help out Flacco, as they dropped three of his passes. On the bright side, Baltimore’s offensive line had a solid game, as the unit did not surrender a single sack or quarterback hit – Pittsburgh’s lone sack was due to Flacco’s movement in the pocket. Furthermore, they were able to open big holes for rookie running back Kenneth Dixon on several occasions.
Top defensive grades:
S Lardarius Webb, 84.4
CB Tavon Young, 68.3
S Eric Weddle, 60.6
CB Jerraud Powers, 60.0
LB C.J. Mosley, 56.7
Top offseason need for the Ravens? Pass-rushers
One thing that was abundantly clear during this game, and something which has been noticeable throughout the year, was that the Ravens go into the offseason with pass rush being their primary need. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are aging, and they haven’t found success in the draft there in recent years, with the jury still out on Kamalei Correa and Matt Judon. In this game, the Ravens pressured Ben Roethlisberger on just four of his 33 dropbacks, and finished the game with just two quarterback hits, and no sacks. With a stacked draft class looming, Ravens fans can begin looking ahead and hoping a player like Auburn’s Carl Lawson or Alabama’s Tim Williams is there when they pick in the draft.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Steelers WR Antonio Brown
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