ReFo: Ravens @ Steelers, Week 7
Is it any surprise that a Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game came down to the final kick?
The two teams have been amazing equals in recent years with nearly every game coming down to the wire. Down 16-9, the Ravens made things interesting as they drove 73 yards on 16 plays taking up over eight minutes of the fourth quarter to tie the game on a touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to tight end Dallas Clark. That left Pittsburgh with less than two minutes to get into position for a game winning field goal and that’s just what they did as wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders returned the kickoff 44 yards and fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown picked up two first down conversions that set up a 42-yard field goal from Shaun Suisham. It marked the second straight win for the Steelers who are still digging out of their 0-4 hole to start the season while the Ravens lose their second in a row to fall to 3-4 as they head into their bye week.
Here’s a look at the top performances from this AFC North matchup.
Baltimore – Three Performances of Note
Offensive Line Shows Signs of Life
It’s been an ongoing struggle up front this season for the Ravens, but there were some positives on Sunday. It didn’t necessarily manifest itself in great running numbers as solo breakdowns accounted for a number of short gains, but some of the individual performances were impressive. It started with right guard Marshal Yanda who finished at +3.9 overall including +3.1 as a run blocker. His reach block on defensive end Ziggy Hood at the 1:27 mark of the first quarter was a thing of beauty as he not only got into great position but also finished the block to the ground. In addition to Yanda, the left side of the line had a good day as LT Eugene Monroe and LG Kelechi Osemele were near perfect in pass protection on their way to +3.1 and +2.4 respective grades. Osemele got into the act in the running game as he planted LB Vince Williams with a second-level block at the 9:29 mark of the second quarter.
Shaky Run Defense
This was not supposed to be the game that got the Steelers’ running game going, but they controlled the line of scrimmage early on. DE Arthur Jones (-3.0 run defense) had his struggles as he was sealed a number times, particularly in the first quarter. The linebackers were not much better, as all four starters graded negatively. Jameel McClain (-2.2 run defense) struggled in his first action of the season, particularly at the second level where he was unable to get off blocks. Even the generally reliable outside linebackers Terrell Suggs (-0.8 run def) and Courtney Upshaw (-1.2 run defence) were relatively quiet as Suggs overshot a gap and Upshaw was moved well off his spot at the 11:33 mark of the fourth. All told, it was a surprising effort from the usually stout Baltimore front seven.
The top grades on the Baltimore defense resided with the safeties as Matt Elam (+1.9) and James Ihedigbo (+2.4) made plays in the running game while keeping their nose clean in coverage. Elam got in on a tackle for loss as the Steelers ran power his way but he avoided the pulling guard to make the play in the backfield. He also got inside WR Emmanuel Sanders to force a holding call with 10:25 to go in the third. Ihedigbo did his best work in coverage where he surrendered two catches for 10 yards on his four targets. He was in tight coverage on multiple overthrows by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and he made a nice play on a wide receiver screen to Antonio Brown. As always, it’s often best when safeties go unnoticed throughout the course of the game and that was the case on Sunday.
Pittsburgh – Three Performances of Note
DeCastro’s Best Game to Date
It was obvious early on that RG David DeCastro was ready to move people in the running game as the former first rounder finished at +3.6 in that department. The Steelers’ opening drive was littered with positive blocks from DeCastro as he had his way with Arthur Jones. He also saved his best block of the day for Jones as he moved him right out of the gap at the 6:59 mark of the third quarter to open up a hole for RB Le’Veon Bell’s 7-yard gain. Perhaps the most fun of the afternoon was watching DeCastro battle with DT Haloti Ngata, particularly at the 5:04 mark of the third. Ngata delivers the initial blow to DeCastro who absorbs and recovers to move Ngata out of the hole. While things went smoothly in the running game, DeCastro did have issues at times in pass protection where he surrendered a sack and a hurry in his 29 attempts to finish at -0.3 for the day. Overall, however, it was a strong showing for DeCastro who remains the Steelers top-graded lineman at +8.4 on the season.
Miller’s Worst Since 2008
While the offensive line generally blocked well, the same can’t be said for Pittsburgh’s tight ends, particularly Heath Miller. He finished at -3.2 overall for the game including -2.3 as a pass blocker and -1.7 as a receiver. He didn’t fare much better in the running game as he was often being led to the ball carrier by his opponent. In pass protection, he surrendered a sack and a hurry, though the hurry was the more egregious of the two blocks as Suggs went right by him by was unable to complete the sack of Roethlisberger. In the passing game, Miller did find the end zone, but his other reception ended with a fumble and he dropped a pass for good measure. It was not Miller’s finest hour as he finished with his worst grade since Week 14 of 2008.
As matchup problems abound throughout the NFL, the need for versatile defenders grows almost daily. The Steelers got strong efforts out of slot cornerback Cortez Allen (+0.7) and strong safety Shamarko Thomas (+1.4). Both players moved around quite a bit and made their presence felt in all phases of the game. Allen nearly picked up a strip sack as he beat RB Bernard Pierce and hit Flacco’s arm to force the incompletion. He also got in on two stops in the running game and one while in coverage. Thomas saw the field for a career-high 50 snaps, and did a nice job working downhill against both the run and the pass. He closed well on the flat route to WR Marlon Brown at the 3:33 mark of the first, holding it to a short gain and one of his three stops on the day. Both Allen and Thomas will be key players against teams looking to spread the field as the Ravens did on Sunday.
– Flacco was 19-for-20 for 123 yards on passes traveling 10 yards or less.
– OLB Elvis Dumervil was charged with three of the Ravens’ four penalties
– The two teams combined for only five missed tackles
PFF Game Ball
Efficiency was the key for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger who finished at +2.5 for the day. The raw numbers won’t show the beautiful pass to WR Derek Moye that was dropped in the end zone and when faced with adversity, Roethlisberger moved the chains and led the Steelers to victory.
Follow Steve on Twitter.