Fierce completion, intense hitting, and high stakes define the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens rivalry. Thursday night’s matchup delivered all three. The Steelers and Ravens entered Heinz Field as two teams seemingly moving in opposite directions:
- The Steelers aimed to validate their Super Bowl contender status sans Ben Roethlisberger
- The Ravens grasped at avoiding 0-4 and a chance to save a season they began as AFC Champion if not Super Bowl favorites
Steelers Nation now knows the result: Instead of kicking away the life preserver and delivering the Ravens a downward push, they handed their arch rival a lifeline as the Steelers overtime loss to the Ravens has created a new challenge for Pittsburgh.
Steelers vs. Ravens Volume 43, A Study in Contrasts
Thursday night’s game marked the 43rd contest between the Steelers and Ravens, and the matchup offered a study in contrast perhaps unlike any of its 42 predecessors.
If, before the game, you had told a Baltimorean…
- …Le’Veon Bell would break the 100 yard barrier against the Ravens
- …James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward, and Sean Spence all would sack …Joe Flacco
- Ross Cockrell would intercept a pass and recover a fumble while the Steelers gave no turnovers
- …the Steelers defense would hold make two key late 4th quarter stops plus another one in over time
The said Raven’s fan would have certainly concluded that his team would sadly fall to 0-4.
On the other hand, if you’d told any Yinzer in Steelers Nation fan…
- …Justin Forrester would rush for 150 yards at a 5.6 average
- …Michael Vick’s passing total would be lower than Le’Veon Bell’s rushing total
- …the Ravens would sack Vick 4 times
- …That Ravens defenders would drop Steelers ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage no fewer than 10 times
- …That Antonio Brown would be limited to 5 catches for 42 yards
- …the Steelers would go 2-13 on third down conversions
The said Terrible Towel twirler would likely concluded the Ravens inflicted a blood bath of proportions not seen since 2011’s Debacle in Baltimore.
The truth is, it was simply that kind of night.
The 43rd volume of Steelers vs. Baltimore featured gutsy, gritty performances from both teams. You certainly can’t declare the Steelers lost because “The Ravens wanted it more” any more than you’d have been able to say the reverse if Josh Scobee made one or two of his missed field goals.
But if desire, passion and intensity was present on both sides of the ball, “schizophrenia” best defines the quality of both team’s performances.
Steelers Offense Sputters and Soars, Simultaneously
This will not go down as one of the great offensive performances of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens game will quickly dispel any illusions that the Steelers offense can lose Roethlisberger and not see its rhythm disrupted.
- Michael Vick clearly isn’t on the same page as Antonio Brown yet. That must change. Fast.
- Vick himself, however, did move the offense with workman like quality on the Steelers four scoring drives
And no one should discount the success of Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers offensive line. Le’Veon Bell ‘s 129 yards rushing doesn’t simply a number, but the first time a Steelers running back has broken the century mark vs. the Ravens since Jerome Bettis did it in December 2004.
It’s far too early to panic over Michael Vick, given that he’s been with the team for less than a month and had all of 1 day to practice. But the Ravens clearly made an adjustment after the Steelers last touchdown drive that Vick could compensate for, because the Steelers failed to convert a single 3rd down for the rest of the night.
Todd Haley had better invest time in dissecting why, because opposing coaches will be doing the same.
Steelers Defense Offers Half Full, 1/3 Empty Performance
In any Steelers-Ravens matchup there are certain criteria the Steelers defense must meet if Pittsburgh is to win. On almost all fronts, the Steelers defense delivered above and beyond expectations. In today’s NFL, if a defense holds an opponent to 20 points in regulation on a night when its offense punts 6 times, and then forces a punt after its offense turns over on downs is performing “Above the line.”
- But the Steelers defense didn’t earn itself a “get out of jail for free” pass during this loss.
Justin Forsett is a pretty good running back, but against the Steelers defense he morphed into the
second coming of Jim Brown. Forsett had 5 double digit runs including scampers for 33 and 22 yards. He also had 6 more runs of 5 yards or more. That’s 126 yards per carry on 11 carries.
- You simply cannot give up that type of performance and expect to win in the National Football League.
Dick LeBeau’s departure and Keith Butler‘s promotion opened the door to applying more pressure on the quarterback via more aggressive use of the defensive line. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt have been terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, Joe Flacco included.
However, John Harbaugh and Marc Trestman appear to have found a way to exploit this aggressiveness through the running game. Keith Butler must respond in kind or the Steelers will be in for some long Sunday afternoons.
Steelers Challenge Following Overtime Loss to Ravens
“It’s painful tonight, but this game is not going to define us.” – Mike Tomlin
Steelers season have often been defined by how they fared against the Ravens.
- The 2006 Steelers started 2-6 then finished 6-2, but the two losses came to the Ravens, adding an exclamation point to Pittsburgh’s post Super Bowl XL hangover
- The 2008 Steelers won two tough regular season contests and Troy Polamalu’s dramatic AFC Championship interception reaffirmed that team’s identity for transforming tough situation into victories
So success against the Ravens defines Steelers seasons> Except when it doesn’t…
- The 2005 overtime loss to Baltimore started a 3 game Steelers losing streak, but Pittsburgh bounced back to win the Super Bowl
- The 2007 75th Anniversary Game victory turned out to be a peek rather than a preview of things to come
Mike Tomlin has indeed hit the nail on the head. The Steelers challenge in the wake of the overtime loss to the Ravens is to not let this disappointment define their season.
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