30 degrees / cloudy
- While entertaining, this was a strange game. The Steelers ran off to a quick 14-0 lead at home, but we feel that because they chose 66 pass attempts, they ultimately let the Ravens back into this game. On the other side, the Ravens got back into this game not because of the passing game, but because of their run game – yes, running the ball helped the Ravens close the deficit.
- Steelers: 66 pass attempts tells you this wasn’t classic Steeler football, but they got away with it – barely. They somehow let a 14-0 first quarter lead turn into a 9-point deficit late in the 4th quarter. That’s a hard thing to do, especially when you have RB Le’Veon Bell and 3rd round rookie RB John Conner, as well as Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and Pro Bowl guard David DeCastro.
- Ravens: On the Ravens first series, they tried using empty formations and spreading the field. Their first possession resulted in an interception. On their second possession, they went four wide and even no-huddle, and utilized 3rd down back Danny Woodhead. This possession resulted in a punt as well. To their credit, they went I-formation on possession three, used their fullback, and that possession led to a TD.
- Ahead 31-29, the Ravens faced a 3rd & 2 at the Steelers’ 17. They lined up in an offset-I, and for the first time in the game, called a toss play to RB Alex Collins, which caught the Steelers off-guard. The play gained eight yards and led to a RB Buck Allen TD and a 38-29 lead. It was a brilliant play call by OC Marty Mohrninweg.
- But sometimes with the good, you have to take the bad, and in this case, there was some bad. After the Steelers closed to 38-36 with 3:29 left, the Ravens had a 1st & 10 on their own 25. The Steelers had three time outs; the Ravens obviously needed a first down, but they also needed to try to force the Steelers to use at least one time out. On first down, the Ravens went two TE to indicate run, but they tried to pass, which fell incomplete, and which stopped the clock. On 2nd down, they ran for six yards to Collins. The pivotal play of this game for the Ravens came on 3rd & 4, and they needed their best play call in this spot. They lined up four wide, and somehow chose an RPO play for Flacco – the Steelers wisely didn’t honor Flacco running – Flacco threw incomplete and the clock stopped again. The Steelers would get the ball back and drive for the winning FG.
- Steelers: New Steeler TE Vance McDonald helped the Steelers by allowing them to use multiple TE looks; he really isn’t an in-line player, but he gives them just enough to be effective. He caught four balls tonight to keep the chains moving. He’ll be a player to watch going forward, although the suspension of WR JuJu Smith-Schuster may have led to McDonald’s targets.
- Ravens: Fullbacks don’t get a lot of attention, but once FB Patrick Ricard came into the game, the Ravens offense started to have success. Rickard even caught a pass for a TD.
- Steelers: They opened the game in I-formation, but that was the last we saw of it. They clearly made the determination that they could not run against the Ravens (even though it’s a young front), and would rather throw. Not many teams win throwing the ball more than 40 times a game, but they got away with it this time.
- Ravens: Like the Steelers, they tried to go gunslinger early with empty formations, but that didn’t work well at all. Their personnel clearly indicates they are a run first, play-pass team, and once they reverted to this style of play, they had a lot of success.
- Ravens: On offense, they made a brilliant adjustment switching to an I-formation, running the ball with Alex Collins, and then allowing QB Joe Flacco to throw off of that. The Steelers really had no answer for it, and the Ravens gained over 400 yards of offense – a rare yardage total for the Ravens this season. While they adjusted well on offense, they did not do so well on defense. CB Brandon Carr wasn’t given much help on WR Antonio Brown, and the results were poor.
- Steelers: While the Steelers won, they have to be concerned about their defense. They were gashed on the ground and in the air, and on numerous occasions, there appeared to be communication issues in the defensive backfield. S Sean Davis really struggled this game; this is something the Steelers will have to address.
- Uncharacteristically, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh burned time outs early in the 1st quarter and 4th quarter. And losing a two-score lead with less than seven minutes to go speaks for itself.
What We Liked:
- The Ravens adjusting their offense on the fly and finding an identity with the I-formation and running the ball with a fullback.
What We Didn’t Like
- Steelers: With 9:15 left in the 4th quarter, the Steelers scored a TD to close to 31-29. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin chose to attempt a 2pt PAT, which failed. This meant that if the Ravens could score a TD, and successfully kick a PAT, they would have a two-score lead, late in the 4thquarter, which is exactly what happened. At that juncture, the Steelers’ win probability was 3.3%. Voluntarily creating a potential two-score deficit in the 4th quarter – we did not like that.
- Ravens: The Ravens led 38-29 with 6:38 left in the game, with the Steelers having the ball with a 1st & 10 on their own 32, with three time outs left. The Ravens went into a prevent – sometimes rushing only three – and gave QB Ben Roethlisberger a lot of short completions, which to his credit, he took. The Steelers scored in just over three minutes, and on the Ravens’ ensuing offensive series, they went three and out in just over a minute. A coach of Harbaugh’s quality typically doesn’t lose a game when leading by two scores that late in the fourth, but it happened on this night.