ReFo: Steelers @ Ravens, Week 13

An unexpected outcome to a classic Steelers vs Ravens clash. Trey Cunningham looks at how the Steelers, and Charlie Batch, beat the Ravens.

| 5 years ago

An unexpected outcome to a classic Steelers vs Ravens clash. Trey Cunningham looks at how the Steelers, and Charlie Batch, beat the Ravens.

ReFo: Steelers @ Ravens, Week 13

This AFC North rivalry, considered among the best in the NFL by more than a few, unfolded as many Baltimore Ravens versus Pittsburgh Steelers games play out. The animosity between these two squads was apparent on the opening kickoff when refs had to intervene, despite the play resulting in a touchback.

The reeling Steelers were already at a huge disadvantage with Ben Roethlisberger still not ready to play, but things got worse when their No. 1 cornerback Ike Taylor was injured on his second snap of the game. Despite these factors, playing in a hostile environment, and trailing 6-13 at halftime, the black and gold showed resilience in grinding out a victory with a last-second, game-winning field goal. Here are some performances that allowed Pittsburgh to keep their postseason hopes alive.

Pittsburgh – Three Performances of Note

Charlie Batch

The 37-year-old backup signal-caller (who turns 38 on December 5th) has been under fire recently, but Charlie Batch was the better QB on this day. It didn’t start out well — on their second offensive play, Batch underthrew Mike Wallace on what would have been a first-down conversion, and later missed a wide-open Wallace in the end zone. Heading into the second half, he had only completed 9 of 16 passes for 57 yards, and he wasn’t perfect in the final two quarters either (the end zone pick to Ed Reed being one example) but he ended up compiling 276 yards on the day with a TD throw. His stat line would be better if Emmanuel Sanders had not inexplicably fumbled after hauling in a 21-yard pass, and Batch showed a gritty willingness to help his squad in other ways with his heads-up downfield block on CB Cary Williams that helped Jonathan Dwyer scamper into the end zone.

Tenured Steelers Making An Impact

Due to injuries, and possibly father time, long-time Steelers James Harrison (+3.3) and Troy Polamalu (+1.6) have not contributed very much so far this season. That changed on Sunday with both being healthy enough to play. The Steelers were content to ease their Pro Bowl safety back into the lineup (50 out of 64 snaps), but he was still able to make three tackles in run defense (one of which was a stop) and got by Ray Rice to pressure Joe Flacco on the second play of the game. He was not thrown at once. Harrison’s impact was bigger though, as he had his most productive pass-rushing day of the year with a knockdown of Flacco on the first series, another QB hit later on (nullified on the stat sheet by a flag on the play), a further hurry and the strip-sack toward the end of the game. He was less successful in run defense (a missed tackle on Bernard Pierce didn’t help) but still pitched in three stops to go along with the crucial forced fumble on his sack. The play, and health, of these two going forward will play a role in determining if the Steelers still playing in January.

Lawrence Timmons Had A Bad Day

The Steelers’ defense deserves a lot of credit for this much-needed win, but Lawrence Timmons was the weakest link on this day. Aside from a penalty-free day, the LB graded negatively in all categories, especially run defense (-3.1). Though he had two stops, he had trouble getting off linemen’s blocks at the second level and was absolutely dominated on a 10-yard run by Vonta Leach (12:03, 2nd quarter). Add in a missed tackle on Pierce, no pressure on six blitzes, and allowing all three passes into his coverage to be completed (two of which led to first-down conversions) and this is by far the worst we’ve seen Timmons play all year.

Baltimore – Three Performances of Note

Home Turf Let Down

The popular notion is that Flacco plays better at home than on the road, but his performance in this contest did little to reinforce that trend as he compiled his fourth red-graded passing performance on the year (-3.2). He did deliver an accurate deep ball on the second play of the game despite Polamalu getting in his face (Taylor prevented the completion), but otherwise completed just 47.1 % of his 33 passes. A large part of that was a handful of over-and-under throws (14:02, 2nd Quarter on third down is a good example, and nearly got Torrey Smith killed). Another part of his struggles can be attested to his underwhelming play under pressure — on the 10 plays he was under duress he completed just three of seven passes for 32 yards, and an ill-advised throw that was intercepted. He also held onto the ball too long, all but gifting Ziggy Hood with a sack, and displayed poor ball security late in the game when Harrison got to him.

Leach Leads the Way

Our highest rated full back in terms of run blocking (+11.6 on the year) put on another clinic in this game. Vonta Leach soundly beat both ILBs in paving the way for his running backs, some of which were highlights like the aforementioned manhandling of Timmons. He also had a nasty, de-cleating lead block on Casey Hampton early on. He was valuable as a receiving weapon as well, catching all four passes thrown to him for 40 yards, while forcing a missed tackle and picking up three first downs. Though he did have a false start penalty, he was perfect the eight times he was called upon to pass protect and continues to prove his worth to this football team.

Bernard Pollard

Many people still remember Bernard Pollard as the guy who injured several New England Patriots, but ever since joining the Ravens last season he has been a consistent contributor. That was the case in this game as well (+3.5). He was most effective around the line of scrimmage, beating  Sanders (twice) and FB Will Johnson to disrupt the running game — even though he missed two tackles, both times his contact was enough to trip up and slow the back down enough to allow others to converge (4:50 in the 3rd quarter illustrates this). In coverage, he quickly swarmed Dwyer for a mere 1-yard gain, and made Sanders pay for wandering into his area with a big hit following a drop. The Ravens have some well-publicized weaknesses on defense, but Pollard has been one of the Ravens’ more consistent performers this year.

Game Notes

— The Steelers missed four tackles, while the Ravens missed five.

— Despite Ray Rice averaging 6.5 yards per carry, he received only 12 carries, all the more baffling since the Ravens were leading in the second half.

— In relief of Lamar Woodley, Jason Worilds could muster only a single hurry in 25 pass rushing attempts.

Game Ball

Charlie Batch. It wasn’t always pretty, but Batch maintained his composure (9 completions on 12 throws for 120 yards on the 14 plays he was pressured) and led his team to victory in the second half.


Follow Trey on Twitter: @PFF_TreyC

  • Jad

    I think the notion of Flacco being much better at home is a bit misleading since, at a glance, it seems like they’ve faced much easier defenses at home this year compared to their road opponents. The Steelers, I believe, exposed this.

    Would you guys consider analyzing this hypothesis?

  • szp

    Vonta Leach was great all day, but his pass protection was not perfect, just watch 11:19 2nd quarter.

    • izach

      im a steelers fan but i wish we had a FB like leech, his block on hampton was AMAZING, i know hampton isnt what he used to be , but he is still 325+ and proably more like 340+ so blocking him out of the way is an achievement DE-CLEATING him earns leech my respect and admiration.

  • pierce weber

    How did the Steelers Corners grade in Taylor’s absence, Cortez Allen specifically.

  • PFF_TreyC

    Keenan Lewis (+1.8 coverage grade) Cortez Allen (+1.2)

    I’ll check out the Leach play you are talking about later

  • CC

    It’s pretty tough to grade any qb or receiver against the Steelers secondary when they hold on literally every play (uncalled, of course). Literally every time they showed a close up of the coverage on Boldin, there was obvious holds/DPI’s that went uncalled. The third down attempt to Boldin in the first quarter over the middle that ended with a PD by Lewis was a completely blatant hold (that even Simms called out), they showed Boldin even on his TD catch and THAT was egregious PI (again, Simms expressed shock that it went uncalled), then on the sack by Hood where Flacco held the ball, CBS attempted to explain that no one was open by showing the receivers- Boldin’s out was jumped by the CB, so he turned upfield on a double move. The CB, beaten badly, wrapped both arms around Boldin’s waist, restricting his run to a crawl- again, no call. These were literally the three times they showed close-ups of the Steelers in coverage against Boldin, and all three times were blatant penalties. So what happens when Boldin does the only thing he can do to break from the holding and pushes off? HE gets called for the penalty.
    But don’t take my word for it, after the game Boldin said that they were holding him all game, and it never got called, so he did the only thing he could do. By the way, this is the exact same thing Torrey Smith said when he pushed off on the game-winner in Pittsburgh the year before- he said he was being grabbed all game without it ever being called, so the only chance he had was to give a slight push. The Steelers play by a completely different set of rules. I mean, could someone explain how a secondary with THOSE players ranks first in the league in pass D? Their games are essentially rigged.

    • izach

      thats just press coverage, most times boldin initiated contact with the CB, as evidenced by his OPI call, and to be completely honest OPI is probably the most underated call in football with DPI the most over rated. your whining doesnt change anything the steelers play press coverage more than ever this year and while it gets alot of PI calls it limits more big plays.

    • izach

      to answer the last part of your question,
      the system is meant to keep the CB position a low priority becuase it was quickly becoming the most over piad position in the NFL thus a system was developed in part to limit the need for “top tier” CBs and thats how there Defense is usually ranked not just in the top but #1 year after year. its the system

    • joe21sp

      CC, actually Simms said that the first call against Lewis wasn’t a good call. He said you have to let them play. Besides the fact that your ignoring that it was within 5 yards. The DB is allowed 5 yards to press without the ball in the air, which it wasn’t. It was a bad call that extended your drive. It should have been 4th down. The pass in the end zone, the TD was definetely PI but he caught it so stop complaining.

      Your complaining about hand checking that happens every game with all teams. You should be more upset that your QB almost threw 4 picks.

      I was also wondering if your were complaining that the refs missed Boldins block in the back on the famous 4th and 29 vs the Chargers. Or did you choose to ignore that?

      CC, did you miss the time that your boy Ngata broke Ben’s nose with no penalty?

  • CC

    “They get away with murder”- pretty much every Giants player (and every player who plays the Steelers)

    • Dan

      stay salty

    • joe21sp

      The Giants also say that the 49ers do, the Falcons do, and the Saints players still talk to Sean Peyton with no evidence but good source you got there.

  • izach

    also watching the game idk about stat wise but ray rice seem ineffective outside of his big TD run, the steelers D focused on him IMO, they seemed to take a break when rice wasnt in and let pierce get big chucks also on leechs PA catches every defender was keyed in on rice they let leach slip out

  • Jacob

    Anyone rate Kelvin Beachum’s play at right tackle? I’m curious how the rookie played