Wednesday, November 9, 2011

That Settles That: Steelers Lose


Let's be straight up about something right off the bat: this was a very well-played game by both teams, and one of  them had to lose. For a few years, we've had the luxury of getting the last drive against Baltimore and our quarterback having the ball in his hands with a chance to win the game. I am a big supporter of Mike Tomlin, but as we've seen all too often with his teams, they failed to put the game away when it counted and left the door open for the other team. In this case, Baltimore made the necessary plays to win the game. We're not out of it by any means, but we certainly have a long hill to climb. Cincinnati is 6-2 but hasn't played us or the Ravens yet. Those 4 games are going to decide the division race.

Game Recap

Steelers do a nice ceremony before the game to honor veterans of past (and present) wars. Still not sure why they play "Born in the USA," a song about a disgruntled Vietnam vet, during occasions like this.

Defense gets the nod for introductions.
What a picture.

Steelers win the toss and defer to the second half.

First Quarter

On the first play from scrimmage, it looked like Week 1 all over again as Ray Rice cut one back through a hole in the line and took it 76 yards to the house, but a holding penalty brought it back. Now, there have been some questions about why, with the hold, it was 1st and 10 again. Here's the rule: if a holding penalty occurs at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield, it is a 10-yard penalty from the line of scrimmage but if a holding penalty occurs past the line of scrimmage it is a 10-yard penalty from the spot of the foul. So, Torrey Smith's hold occurred 10 yards downfield, which brought the ball back to the original line of scrimmage. Interesting note - after the penalty, Vontae Leach went bezerk on the officials, possibly threatening to give them the Ray Lewis treatment.

(h/t PSAMP)

I don't know what Leach said to them, but it obviously worked. The refs only threw 2 flags on Baltimore the rest of the game, and that was a false start penalty that drew the defense off and a defensive offsides where there was contact.

The Ravens start driving after that, with Flacco picking up first downs by hitting running backs and tight ends. The Steelers defense did a good job forcing 3rd downs, but a bad job when it got to 3rd down. In the red zone, Flacco tried for Torrey Smith in the end zone and the refs give them a make-up call for the holding with a pass interference on Gay. Flacco decides to throw on first down and Ryan Clark almost picks it off, but the ball bounces off his hands.

Big missed opportunity there. 

The defense stands tall on Ray Rice at the goal line and forces a field goal.


Mendenhall gets 9 on the first play and things are looking good, but a failed pass and run turn a good start into a 3-and-out.

The Ravens drive back down the field, converting more third downs. Cundiff misses a 40-yarder at the open end of Heinz Field. Think it isn't hard to kick here? He had made like 35 straight field goals before that.

007 comes back and gets in a groove by getting the ball to Heath to get things rolling. Two plays later, he hits AB down the sideline who makes an ankle-breaking move to get past a defensive back but slips and falls as he enters the red zone. If he turns and runs rather than looks back at the defender, he's gone. 

Second Quarter

The Ravens hold to a 3rd down and Ben hits Hines over the middle who gets crushed by a helmet-to-helmet hit to the side of the head by Ray Lewis. Hines held onto the ball until he hit the ground and another Raven fell on top of him. No flag on Lewis for helmet-to-helmet.

Harbaugh challenged the call and it was ruled incomplete. Eerily similar to the Patriots game last year when Brandon Merriweather hit Hines with a helmet-to-helmet shot that wasn't flagged and Belicheat challenged and had the catch overturned.

Suisham ties it.


B-Mac makes his first positive play of the season, jarring a fumble out on the kick return but the Ravens fall on it.

To make matters worse, Flacco converts two 3rd downs to move the Ravens into scoring territory. Harrison makes a big-time stop on Ray Rice on 3rd and short. Cundiff converts in the closed end.


Ben comes back and tries to go deep a few times, which doesn't work. Punt.

The defense is finally able to force a 3-and-out and get off the field easily when Harrison gets pressure on Flacco on 3rd down.

Ben hits David Johnson, who seemed just as surprised to catch the ball as everyone was that he caught it, for a big gain down the seam. Johnson drags some Ravens with him as he barrels across midfield. After Mendenhall grinds a first down out, Ben's pass for Cotchery gets tipped but Cotch makes the catch anyways to get down inside the 10. After a WR screen gets a few (a really worthless play inside the 10 yard line), Ben can't hook up with Cotch then gets sacked on 3rd down. Suisham ties it.


With a minute left, Flacco comes back to drive for points. Harrison finally breaks through and is able to bring Flacco down, but Joe comes back and hits Boldin a few times to move across midfield. Flacco hits Rice on a check-down as time is winding down and he is able to get down, get the time out called, and Cundiff connects from 51 as the half ends.


Third Quarter

The Steelers came out determined to put points on the board, and went right to work with the no huddle offense. They started the drive running out of the no huddle (though at the pace Ben runs it, maybe it should be called the "Slow Huddle"). Ben connects downfield to Heeeeath and AB, moving us down into Ravens territory. The drive is rolling, everything is going great, and Ben is slinging it downfield. So what next? A WR screen to the right. Ugh. I've said plenty of times how much I hate this play, and lo and behold, Terrell Suggs reads it and jumps the route for an interception, ending the drive.

Flacco comes back converting more third downs by hitting tight ends. Dennis Pitta killed us all game on 3rd down. Looks like the Ravens found their replacement for Todd Heap. As the Ravens drive into scoring territory, Flacco takes a shot down the sideline for Boldin who is running stride-for-stride with Ike. The two are arm-battling, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Except that the refs wanted to see Baltimore score a touchdown.

Almost as bad a Pass Interference call as the one on Ike in the Oakland game last year.

The refs initially place the ball at the 1 and the Steelers run out their goal line defense, taking all their corners off the field. Then, the refs decide the penalty was at the 4 and move the ball back but don't let the Steelers substitute. We get lucky as Harrison gets pressure and Flacco air mails a pass out of the end zone. Bizzarre sequence there. Ray Rice scores on the next play.


Down by 10, Ben knows what he has to do.
Big completions to Heeeeeath for 30 and 12 to get us down into Ravens territory. 

Fourth Quarter

With the ball inside the 10, Ben tries to go the Jimmy Dean route on 3rd down.

He gets a lane and is able to dive for the goal line.

The initial signal is touchdown, but in another bizarre call, the refs overturn it upon review, saying Ben's knee was down at the goal line or that he fumbled or something. Not sure how you can call a QB's knee down when he wasn't down by contact and it looked to me like he had the ball across the plane before the ground caused the fumble. 

Raise Some pounds it in on the next play.



The defense comes out inspired and Harrison makes his second sack of the game. However, Flacco is able to convert ANOTHER third down while getting pressured by Harrison and keep the drive alive. The Ravens move down into Steelers territory but Harrison steps it up again and produces his second turnover of the season, knocking the ball out of Flacco's hands. William Gay is there to pick up the bouncing ball and get it back in the hands of 007.

007 wastes no time, hitting AB on a post down the middle then Tip-Drill Cotchery on another deflected pass. Three plays later, facing a 3rd and 5 at the Ravens 25, Ben does his Ben thing and scrambles away from pressure to the right and guns one downfield.
Mike Wallace comes streaking out of nowhere in front of AB in the end zone and makes the grab for the go-ahead score.



The Ravens go 3-and-out and the Steelers get the ball back with 4:30 to go. As we said at the outset, the "Four Minute Offense" has not been a specialty of Mike Tomlin's Steelers. Once again, it wasn't a specialty.

On the first play from scrimmage, David Johnson drops a pass that hits him right between the numbers. Crap, that could've run 40 seconds off the clock. That came back to bite us. After Cotch picks up a first down on a non-tipped ball, the Ravens start using their timeouts. A dump-down to Redman gets us into 3rd and 4 from the 29. Ben tries to hit Moore on an out-route, but the two can't hook up, stopping the clock with 2:37 left and leaving the Ravens with a timeout on the board. Here's the problem I have with the play - I don't have a problem with throwing to try to essentially put the game away there. But if you're going to throw, why throw for the sideline? Why not use the middle of the field where you don't risk running out of bounds and stopping the clock?

To make matters worse, Tomlin doesn't send the kick team out fast enough AND elects not to use one of our two remaining timeouts to think about it. A delay of game penalty sets us back. This is the most mind-boggling of anything. First: we have timeouts for a reason. If you're not sure, take one. Second: if you don't trust your field goal kicker to make a 46-yard field goal with the game on the line, then he shouldn't be on your roster. Period. Third: The excuse that there was a new holder was a bad excuse. Kapinos held for Suisham last year.

After the delay of game, Kapinos pins the Ravens back at the 8.

92 yards in 2:24 with 1 timeout? You honestly had to like our defense in this situation.

But Flacco had been torturing us all day, and in the hurry-up it was no different. He starts things off by hitting Boldin over the middle before the clock winds to two minutes. Two more completions get them near midfield. Larry Foote has a chance to put the game away when he gets his hands on a 3rd down pass but he can't make the pick. One of the innate rules of football is that if you don't make a key interception when you have the chance, the other team is probably going to score on you. The Ravens opt to throw rather than run for the 1 yard on 4th down and Flacco's pass is high but Boldin makes a leaping grab for the first down to keep things going. The clock starts to tick down and the Ravens make their way down to the Steelers 26. After two incompletions, Flacco goes downtown for Torrey Smith who is streaking past Will Gay. Gay tries to slow him up but Smith gets separation (in his post-game comments he said he "gave [Gay] a shove") and makes a diving catch for the game-winning touchdown with 8 seconds left on the clock. Ryan Clark seemingly was supposed to be over the top but for some reason tried to undercut the route. No idea what he was doing.

Gay got flagged for Pass Interference because it was a Ravens pass into the end zone, but it didn't matter.


The Steelers get it back with 8 seconds left.

Yeah, not happening.

Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Heath Miller
Defensive Game Ball: James Harrison

Honorable Mentions:
Mike Wallace
Rashard Mendenhall
Max Starks
Larry Foote
Casey Hampton
Antonio Brown
Jerricho Cotchery

Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game

Taking a Delay of Game before a Field Goal

I touched on this already, but there's absolutely no way you can take a delay of game penalty when you're on the edge of field goal range. If you honestly don't trust your kicker to kick a 46-yard field goal, then why not run the ball on 3rd down to try to get closer so you could go for it on 4th down? If you don't trust your kicker to make a 46-yarder, then why is he on your team? To cap it all off, we had 2 timeouts and took 1 home with us. Boy that one would've been useful to take here if Tomlin needed more time to make his decision.

Final Thoughts
  • I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't have a problem with the league enforcing blows to the head, but the enforcement HAS TO BE CONSISTENT. Ray Lewis can't get away with a forearm shiver to Hines Ward's head and get fined half as much as Ryan Clark does for a textbook hit. Ryan also got flagged and Lewis didn't.
  • The officiating was incredibly inconsistent in this game. Antonio Brown got spun around in the end zone with no flag, but the Ravens got 3 pass interference calls on Steelers DBs inside the 5-yard line.
  • James Harrison was an absolute monster tonight. 3 sacks and a forced fumble? What a comeback.
  • The No Huddle worked very well in the second half.
  • I hate the WR screen. Such a horrible play. No idea why you throw the ball parallel to the line of scrimmage when your offense is rolling.
  • William Gay had a bad game, but anyone who took to Twitter after the game to scrutinize Gay for his play needs to re-evaluate their life.
  • Antonio Brown is starting to make some big-time catches for this team. Only a matter of time before he takes it up to the next level and really becomes a game-breaker.
  • Thoughts & prayers with Emmanuel Sanders and his family. His mother died last week.
  • Great to see Heath Miller getting involved in the offense more. He's been a catalyst for the offense being able to move the ball and has dominated the middle of the field this season.
  • Big game against Cincinnati this week. Get ready to chase down that Wild Card.

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