The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens 17-10 at Acrisure Stadium to enter the 2023 bye week with the lead in the AFC North.
The 17-10 score suggests that this was yet another, hard-fought defensive battle in the iconic series between these two rivals.
- Yet there was nothing simple in how the Steelers scored their 17 points.
And that’s fitting. There’s something about this young Steelers season that escapes the numbers. The Steelers have struggled for much of this year just as they struggled against the Ravens. Yet the takeaways from this latest rebound win against the Ravens suggests that maybe those struggles might be bearing fruit.
First Half = More of the Same from the Steelers Offense
As an organization the Steelers seem to have an uncanny ability to tune out the noise from the peanut gallery. And that’s good because during the first half Matt Canada’s offense gave this critics plenty to crow about. While the Ravens were busy putting 10 points on the board, Brad Wing was busy staking his claim to NFL comeback player of the year by punting the ball away for Pittsburgh.
Canada’s offense only suffered one three and out and even put together one 10 play drive before sending Wing out. So theoretically, there was progress. The Ravens might have only scored 10 points, but Baltimore receivers had dropped 2 passes in the end zone. A more lopsided result only seemed to be a question of “When” and not “IF.”
- But like any good drama, this game’s first chapters foreshadowed things to come.
If the Steelers defense hadn’t been giving up points, it was keeping fantasy owners happy by giving up yards. Yet late in the third quarter Lamar Jackson hit Justice Hill for a 10 yard gain, he seemed to be destined for more only to have Larry Ogunjobi come up from behind an knock the ball loose.
Damontae Kazee picked it up and 7 plays later, Chris Boswell was getting the Steelers on the board. That did little to satisfy booing fans. But the attentive eye noticed that Kenny Pickett to George Pickens had accounted for 25 of the 26 yards the Steelers offense earned. Could this be the start of a trend….?
There wasn’t much time for back patting in Pittsburgh, because the Ravens marched down the field with authority. They reached the Steelers’ 23, until John Harbaugh overplayed his hand, going for it on 4th and 2 passing up an automatic field goal.
Alas, Lamar Jackson misfired in the end zone 2, burning Baltimore’s a chance to put points on the board. Could another trend be forming….? That’s why we play second halves.
3rd Quarter Uneventful – And that was Half Good
Peyton Manning recently tried to dispel the notion of “half time adjustments” and “Half time momentum.” The effort of the Steelers offense in the third quarter would seem to support that.
- Brad Wing punted another three times.
The Steelers offense started with a three and out. Then they managed 8 plays for 27 yards on their next possession. And on their final possession of the third quarter they managed another 8 plays for 43 yards, including two more Pickett to Pickens hookups.
That did little to quite the “Fire Canada” chants, but punting aside, Kenny Pickett’s passing seemed to get more precise as the quarter progressed, didn’t it?
On defense the Steelers defense forced the Ravens to put twice. But perhaps more importantly, they were starting to get to Lamar Jackson. That was only the beginning.
Fourth Quarter Fireworks — for Everyone
Has there ever been a more exciting fourth quarter in Steelers history? Perhaps. But this one literally had fireworks on every side of the ball.
The staff at Acrisure Stadium got the 4th quarter started in style with Renegade. The Ravens tried to respond, but with Kwon Alexander stuffing Justice Hill for a losses, the Steelers secondary locking down Baltimore receivers, and Cole Holcomb to cutting off a Lamar Jackson run, forcing a punt.
- Special teams coach Danny Smith decided to get aggressive.
The Steelers failed to take the lead, but Jaylen Warren almost single-handedly moved them 49 yards, setting up another field goal. Could the Steelers really turn this around?
The Steelers defense followed with another shut down led by Elandon Roberts making spectacular plays first in pass coverage, then in stuffing Justice Hill. The Ravens punted, but return man Gunner Olszewski, as he is wont to do, fumbled with only Rodney Williams’ tackle saving a touchdown.
- Perched on the Steelers seven yard line, the Ravens were ready pounce and to put Pittsburgh away.
But Kwon Alexander tackled Mark Andrews for a loss, bringing up 3rd down on the Steelers five. Lamar Jackson fired for Odell Beckham Jr., but Joey Porter Jr. had other ideas, intercepting the ball in the end zone.
- Kenny Pickett took over at the 20, a Steelers quarterback in command of his offense.
He wasn’t perfect, misfiring on his first two passes. But that didn’t phase him. On his next two he found Allen Robison and George Pickett to convert third downs moved to midfield. The Steelers only needed a field goal to win, but Pickett saw the Ravens line up in zero coverage, crowding the middle of the field. He called an audible went for all the marbles, launching at George Pickens for a 41 yard bomb and a touchdown.
- Yet that was not the end.
A minute 17 is a lot of time to give Lamar Jackson. And Jackson hit Zack Flowers for 19 yards on his first try. On his next try Alex Highsmigh hit the ball out of Jackson’s arm and T.J. Watt scooped it up, returning it to the 18, seemingly sealing the win for the Steelers,
- Yet that was still not the end.
A penalty prevented the Steelers from running out the clock, giving the Ravens the ball back with a chance to tie with 49 seconds.
Jackson made four drop backs. He hit Mark Andrews on one of them, but T.J. Watt hit him on his last.
Four Takeaways to Put the Steelers Rebound vs Ravens into Perspective
What to make of all of this? Suffice to say, the Pittsburgh Steelers have taken one of the strangest routes to 3-2 and a hold on the division lead in franchise history. The drama underlying this comeback win shouldn’t obscure the fact that the Steelers cannot allow their punter to audition for the offensive MVP award week in and week out.
And the Ravens dropped 2 touchdowns in the end zone and another in the open field that likely would have resulted in another touchdown. That won’t happen again.
But even taking that into account, there are 4 takeaways from this win:
- Rookies, such as Broderick Jones and Joey Porter Jr. are finding their NFL footing
- The re-made inside linebacking crops is starting to gell
- Kenny Pickett finally seems to have recovered the poise he showed late last season
- And Pickett seems to be developing a rapport with Pickens
If Mike Tomlin can find away to sustain these trends coming out of the bye week, the next 12 weeks could get interesting.