Hard to swallow. It would also have been a painful loss If it had been with a close margin, as it seemed to be a trademark for these games, but we got pounded. And no one saw that coming.
“Two early hits lead Baltimore to victory on what was almost a shutout” could make a nice header for any billboard . And I’m not talking about baseball.
First series: Ben gets hit by Upshaw. 8 plays later, we reached Baltimore’s 17 yardline with a deep pass from Ben to Miller, which was called back by a holding penalty (DeCastro). One play later, Stewart hits A. Brown. That set the tone for the game as two plays later, on what had been an 8 minute- 65 yd drive, J Brown lost the football at the Baltimore 15 yard line.
That series pretty much foreshadowed what happened the rest of the game: We lost three major categories that usually decide who wins these kinds of games: Hits, penalties, turnovers. And most of that is execution.
The Steelers executed some pretty conservative playcalling, both O & D. I’ll elaborate:
Offense: Is run up the middle our solution to every down situations?
Bell not used at his potential. Bell had an average game, even though he averaged more than 5 yards per carry. He had some decent runs and a couple of nice catches. Why wasn’t he involved more in the passing game? He’s in clear advantage when a LB is covering him. Why are we still trying to rush him up the middle, when his biggest ability comes when he runs outside?
Where’s the deep pass threat? If Baltimore was without their best CB, why didn’t we challenge their secondary more often? No pass for more than 30 yards was intended, and D Heyward Bey was ignored most of the time (he had a holding penalty too).
Passing situations- only 3 targets? We usually went with only 3 receivers on passing downs (RB and TE stayed on pass protection), and while we had 7 people protecting Ben, the Ravens defense usually pressured with 5 and still made it to our QB. While you can blame playcalling for this, it’s also an execution problem from our OL, RB and TE for not blocking them. Particularly, Gilbert (yes, our RT who recently got a contract extension to ‘protect’ Roethlisberger through 2019) was abused all night by Dumervil.
Defense, dropping too many into coverage: all day to throw, open lanes to run.
Where are our Blitzes, part II? No sacks, no pressure on Flacco all night. The hardest hit he received came on a QB sneak, trying to score deep into the 4th Quarter. He wasn’t hurried and didn’t experience a knockdown. Coach DL dropped 7 men into coverage most plays, and tried to create pressure with 4. When none of your front 4 is able to win one-on-one matchups, either you excel in coverage, or you’ll end up giving the opposing QB enough time to let one of his receivers get open.
Lot of respect to their WRs… while covering them with 7 men? So, let’s get back to the dropping 7 man into coverage part of the equation: if you drop 7, why are your DBs giving 10 yards of separation from scrimmage to each one of their receivers? That allowed Flacco to make audibles and adjustments to throw short, quick passes that created an open field opportunity to their receivers challenging our tackling abilities, which were exposed for the 2nd week in a row.
No, our DL is not generating pressure. They are not a solid unit. Where are our Blitzes from our LBs and DBs?
The Plays Inside The Game
You will not win many games when you lose the turnover battle. If you also lose the penalty battle, your win probability chances get slimmer. And those two are exclusive responsibility from the players.
Our 3 turnovers were costly, as two of them were inside their Red Zone, ending potential scoring drives, and Millers fumble was at our 25 yard line, leading to the field goal that put the game out of reach for the Steelers.
Bright spot: Wheaton. This kid is developing into what Sanders was supposed to be, and he’s making a good impression, both on the coaches and Ben’s confidence. Yes, also within the fanbase.
Brown and Bell had good games too, but we already expect that from them. Here’s hoping Wheaton soon falls into this category, where we always expect a big game from him.
Dark spots: Mitchell hasn’t shown anything for him to be called a younger, faster version of Ryan Clark. I’m starting to think W Allen or Golden, or even Shamarko (who is a SS that hasn’t had enough reps at FS) could be a better option for us.
M Gilbert: One of your coaches will soon be calling for Mike Adams, to see if he can do it any worse. Pathetic performance from a guy who had the confidence of Coach Munchak (who will be under fire until his unit develops a complete game).
J. Brown had issues with route running, as he seemed to be off-spot on at least 3 passes from Ben, as well as his fumble. Last week he had some nice receptions, but seemed to take a couple of steps back. Could be on his way to the be deactivated on gameday as soon as Bryant and Moore get healthy.
Stats Of The Week
0 turnovers created by our D.
0 3 & outs from our Defense on the 2nd half.
2 turnovers lost at Baltimore’s Redzone
2nd consecutive season where what’s happening at PNC Park seems more competitive than what happens at Heinz Field.
6 Quarters without a TD.
6 Sacks given up by our Oline in 2 games.
20 Penalties in 2 games
37 passing attempts, and only 4 players with more than 1 reception
What to expect next?
While we have a lot of issues and priorities, the ones to highlight among them:
We have to stop the run and pressure the QB. If our players aren’t good enough to win individual matches, our coaching staff needs to get creative.
Our Oline needs to improve from within. We’re not getting any help from free agents. We’ll soon start hearing proposals about benching Gilbert in favor of Adams, even though It will not make our FO look smart (while they gave Gilbert a contract extension recently).
If we are not able to fix those issues, it will be a long season.