ReFo: Ravens @ Steelers, Wild Card Round

Ben Stockwell breaks down some of the impact players in the Ravens upset win of the Steelers in the night game of the Wild Card Round.

| 2 years ago

ReFo: Ravens @ Steelers, Wild Card Round

2014-REFO-WC-BAL@PITPlayoff football returned to Pittsburgh after a four year wait last night. This was not a happy return as the Baltimore Ravens rode into town and smothered a Steelers team deprived of one of their key offensive cogs. In the absence of Le’Veon Bell Pittsburgh’s running backs averaged only 2.7 yards per carry and failed to force a single missed tackle on the ground leaving the Steelers’ offense one dimensional and unable to exploit the Ravens’ corners.

On the other side of the ball the Steelers again were unable to make the necessary plays against a depleted Ravens’ offensive line to make their homefield advantage count. Joe Flacco was able to withstand the rush to make the necessary plays with Steve Smith making decisive plays to spark a victory in his playoff debut for Baltimore.

The Ravens are on to New England for a fourth playoff visit in six seasons while the Steelers head home wondering what might have been with a healthy Le’Veon Bell in the lineup.

Baltimore Ravens – Performances of Note

Steve Smith, WR, +2.6

Breakdown: The third in a string of shrewd veteran acquisitions at wide receiver for Ozzie Newsome. Smith came up big keeping the Ravens’ passing game ticking over along with Owen Daniels making plays down the field and making defenders miss for a trio of first downs including the Ravens’ two longest plays of the game.

Signature Play: Smith may not have put the ball in the endzone but at Q3 10:53 did make a difference to the scoring by evading Vince Williams on third-and-20 to put the Ravens into field goal range with a 14-yard gain.

Haloti Ngata, DE, +3.8

Breakdown: The Ravens pass rush has been driven by the trio of Pernell McPhee, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil all season. The return of Ngata last night from a four game suspension brought some physicality back to the inside rush. Collecting four hurries and a batted pass Ngata used a blend of agility and power collecting two of his hurries in straight one-on-one matchups while collecting another two on stunts that the Steelers’ struggled to pick him up on.

Signature Play: Collected his final pressure and his batted pass on the same play, driving through David DeCastro’s outside shoulder at Q4 1:09 to get in Ben Roethlisberger’s face to break up the third down pass.

Brandon Williams, NT, +3.2

Breakdown: Last year’s third round pick has in some senses provided the Ravens an upgrade at two positions this season and put in another strong display last night limiting the Bell-less Steelers’ ground attack. Providing a stout and active run defender at the nose tackle position Williams has allowed Ngata to return to a defensive end spot ensuring that, in spite of his suspension, the Ravens did not notice the departure of Arthur Jones.

Signature Stat: Williams had three stops in run defense last night adding to the 29 he had in the regular season, a mark bettered by only Bennie Logan (33) and Damon Harrison (31).

Pittsburgh Steelers – Performances of Note

James Harrison, OLB, +5.5

Breakdown: Harrison certainly showed last night that the Ravens’ weakness at left tackle in the absence of Eugene Monroe remains but he failed to take full advantage of it for the Steelers in spite of picking up seven hurries. Harrison had James Hurst on his heels all night with four of his five pressures against Hurst coming via bullrush but he couldn’t disengage to make the big plays against Flacco that he has in the past

Signature Stat: After missing the Steelers’ Week 2 visit to Baltimore Harrison racked up 13 pressures (2 Sk, 4 Ht, 7 Hu) in the Steelers’ two home games against the Ravens this season.

Antonio Brown, WR, +0.3

Breakdown: One big play didn’t prove to be enough for Brown and the Steelers last night, coming up just shy of the endzone on his 44-yard gain Brown setup Martavis Bryant’s score but was unable to replicate that to draw the Steelers back into the game. Brown’s work after the catch was a key factor in the Steelers’ Week 9 win but the Ravens did a much better job of limiting in terms of yards after the catch (2.9 per reception) and missed tackles (one) than in the mid-season defeat (8.5 and five).

Signature Stat: In only four games this season did Brown gain fewer yards after the catch per reception than the 2.9 he gained last night.

Steve McLendon, NT, +1.0 & Daniel McCullers, NT, +1.8

Breakdown: Though facing off with one of the Ravens remaining starters on the offensive line the Steelers’ nose tackle pairing had the measure of Jeremy Zuttah in the ground game. Zuttah struggled in both visits to Pittsburgh this season (-6.1 in Week 9) and was overpowered last night, driven back by both Steelers’ nose tackles to disrupt Justin Forsett and at times to trip Joe Flacco while he was working his way back for the handoff.

Signature Play: It was McLendon who disrupted the handoffs each time, first of all at Q1 8:27, taking Zuttah back to trip Flacco before the handoff then at Q3 14:52 Flacco was able to get the handoff away in spite of the trip but the play still resulted in a four yard loss.

PFF Game Ball

Whether it was a matter of rest or determination to make amends for his suspension Haloti Ngata came up with a big performance last night leading a Baltimore defense that stifled the Steelers at every level of the field.


Follow Ben on Twitter: @PFF_Ben

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Jay

    As a Steeler fan this was an extremely disappointing end to the season. I thought they could overcome the loss of Bell but they had no threat of a rushing attack and became one dimensional. And the Steelers Oline specifically struggles against the Ravens pass rush. The Steelers defense (secondary) isn’t good enough to carry the team to victories on its own.

    • davathon

      They should have been giving LaGarette Blount more carries just in case Bell went down. You have to diversify at RB.

      • Josh Knepshield

        Blount is not a steeler anymore tho

    • Lord Father

      I felt like the Ravens secondary covered well. Alot of time ben did not have his first or second read so u saw him pump fake or scramble. Both teams had no run game on the night.Credit the Ravens D for turning steeler redzone trips into FG’s while the ravens offence found the endzone more

  • Nick

    The loss of Bell was overblown in this matchup. In any other matchup, sure. But they actually rushed for a better YPC (2.7) than Bell had in the last game (2.0). The only place he was missed was receiving as he was played 1-on-1 by Mosley in the last game. Ravens would have taken that away easily this time with a different plan after the surprise of that last time. Ben Tate had almost the same pass blocking grade (.3) as Bell (.4) on less snaps.

    • JJ

      Bell doesn’t have great numbers against us on the ground, it’s his contribution in the air moving their chains that they missed. But then again we missed 5 our 5 cornerbacks on IR against Antonio Brown but nobody talks about that..

    • Madi

      Bell is an outstanding outlet for Ben, and would have made a difference throughout the game during any play with pressure on the QB. The running game would have been better, and the passing game would have been MUCH better. He also is about 10 times the decoy that his replacements are.

      If that’s not enough, his replacement dropped a pass and tipped it towards a defender for an interception deep in their own territory, with 8 minutes left in the game, virtually ending the comeback. At a point when it looked like Pittsburgh could pull out the win, it was the most crucial blow of the game. Think Bell drops that pass? He’s got better hands AND he has great chemistry with Ben.

    • Izach

      I won’t make excuses because Ravens beat us once with bell anyways, but I can definitely say steelers hd no hope in that game even if the score board wasn’t bad by half, as a steeler fan you could tell the game wasn’t in our hands and I think you could tell the steelers were playing like they needed help. a shame we depended on one player so much but it’s like a 3 legged stool it can’t stand with just 2

  • Filmstudy

    Have to disagree on the game ball. Ngata and Williams were terrific, but the defensive MVP was Darian Stewart, who made a number of excellent plays in 47 snaps (excluding penalties), including a hand in each of the final 2 turnovers and a huge forceout in the end zone on Brown (Q2, 8:16).
    For the first time this season, I thought the Ravens actually played effective Cover 2.

  • Ravenfan

    In 3 playoff meetings since 2009, the Ravens are 2-1 against the Patriots, outscoring them 81-50. #Domination. But we will see if the ravens can defeat the patriots.

    • Malachi

      denver is rooting for you guys

  • JJ

    Great contest and rivalry. Hopefully the Pittsburgh fans out there will finally pay Flacco and the Ravens some respect.

    • Ravenfan

      Agree Flacco deserve some respect

    • Jay

      Everyone plays well against this defense. From Flacco to Mettenberger

      • Rwoat

        Joe Flacco is also a Super Bowl MVP who has throw 20 TDs and 2 picks in his last 9 postseason games, he plays well against a lot of defenses.

  • EasternCali

    I love how everyone just wants to complain about Bell being out. How about the Ravens having 8 DBs on IR and losing their starting Left and Right tackles in the same week. Blah blah blah on the Bell crap, everyone deals with injuries. I get Bell is special, so is Wagner (#2 rated RT I believe) and Jimmy Smith (was playing top level CB). Injuries suck but every team has to deal with them.

  • Jason Williams

    I think Pitt wins this game with Bell – I was surprised to see Baltimore REALLY pushing the pace, almost Eagles-like even when they had the lead in the second half.

    • Rwoat

      Everyone uses Bell as an excuse for the Steelers, what about the 18 players, including 8 DBs and one of the top rated tackles, that the Ravens have on IR? Would they have made a difference? Every team has to overcome injuries, it’s part of the NFL.

      • Jason Williams

        if the Ravens lose Flacco, they have no shot – he is the heart and soul of that team. Same thing with Bell on the Steelers side.

    • Riffle,Rod&Fly

      Just because Bell is in the game, doesn’t mean Hamburger won’t need to be the center of attention.

  • Malachi

    thank you Bmore! plz take out the pats next.

    love, your friends -the broncos

    • bobrulz

      Did you forget about 2 years ago? Ravens looked mediocre coming into the postseason, then went on a huge run to win the Super Bowl (including knocking off the Broncos, who looked practically unbeatable).

      I don’t want to face either team in the conference championship, but it’s going to be one of those 2.

      • Malachi

        that 2012 ravens team was a “team of destiny”. we were better than them then and still are now. and to be honest, i want revenge against them and seattle. if we wanna be the best lets beat the best, and the last two champs would make it extra special

      • Malachi

        main point about rooting for Bmore is the location of the afc champ. game. would much much rather have it be in denver vs us having to go to NE

    • Riffle,Rod&Fly

      Baltimore is worthless. I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

  • Riffle,Rod&Fly

    I won’t say that he threw the game away like he did against the Tebow led Broncos a few years ago but Hamburger definitely made an appearance. The late game moment with Gradkowski driving them down the field just to have Big Ham come in and throw an INT in the inzone tells all. It turns out Bruce Arians wasn’t Big Ben’s problem. This tough nosed team still needs to coach some self accountability at the QB position.