By Samuel Njoku
The Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) stunned the Baltimore Ravens (9-3) on Sunday to end the Ravens’ 15-home winning streak. Charlie Batch orchestrated the 4th quarter game winning drive as Suisham hit the game winner as time expired. Many predicted Baltimore to beat the Steelers with ease. But as usual, nothing is guaranteed when the Ravens and Steelers meet on game-day.
Cam Cameron was back to his old tricks on Sunday as he failed to give the ball to the hot hand. Ray Rice had just come away with a huge touchdown run to give Baltimore the lead. Instead of feeding him the ball, he opted to leave the ball in the hands of Joe Flacco. The offense was unable to get in a rhythm. A large portion of the blame has to go to Cam. Though unfair, the lack of potency on offense will always fall back to him. The unit has not lived to its full potential this season, and that falls on the coach as well as the players.
Dean Pees did a poor job of making adjustments in the second half. It appeared as though Baltimore was comfortable with allowing Batch to beat him with his arm. When it became apparent that this feat was possible, Pees should have made the necessary adjustments. To put it bluntly, the defense gave up too many plays down the middle of the field. That has a lot to do with Pees being forced to bring in extra men to compensate for the poor pass rush. But the gamble he took was not paying dividends. Instead of playing more of a coverage based style of defense, he opted to focus more on interior blitzes. It didn’t work.
The offense played like they weren’t at M&T Bank Stadium. The usually dynamic Ravens’ offense struggled to find any rhythm in this game. The play was inconsistent at best. Sometimes they’ll look great and complete deep passes down the field, and sometimes they’ll look poor and throw into triple coverage. This team has yet to find their identity, and time is running out. Flacco may or may not be an elite quarterback, but he’s good enough to win. Playing beneath your skill level will never garner respect in the NFL. That’s the issue with Flacco. He’s better than he played against Pittsburgh on Sunday. He’ll bounce back next week, but this was one was ugly.
When given the opportunity, Rice made some nice runs on a defense that is stout against the rush. Rice only carried the ball 13 times, but one of them went for a touchdown. Pierce played well as a spell back and complemented Rice nicely when given the opportunity.
The offensive line for Baltimore has to improve. Flacco didn’t have much time in the pocket. The strip fumble caused by James Harrison falls on Michael Oher. The tackle still struggles with edge rushers, and that will be a lingering issue going forward.
The defense felt the loss of Dannell Ellerbe in this contest. The Steelers took advantage with cutback runs and deep passes to Heath Miller. Had Ellerbe played in this game, Baltimore would’ve done a better job of containing Miller. But that doesn’t excuse Baltimore for their lack of execution on defense. The defensive line barely got any penetration against an offensive line with a plethora of holes. Even when Pees dialed up the blitz, players were taking too long to get to the quarterback. They need to improve their pass rush, and with the injury to Suggs at the end of the game, that may be extremely difficult.
Jacoby Jones had a few opportunities to break long returns, but Pittsburgh did a great job of containing him. Koch and Tucker performed well as they have done all season. Baltimore felt pretty confident that Tucker could kick the game winning field goal given the opportunity. Baltimore never got the chance.
Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.