Steelers 16, Ravens 13 : Week 17 – Ravens Recap & Grades :
Offense – The same old theme. Running the ball all night but getting nowhere, a broken passing game & terrible play calling. However, a new trend showed up in this one – the disappearance of Gus Edwards. J.K. Dobbins gashes the Steelers front 7 all night long to the tune of 17 carries for 93 yards, an average of 5.5 yards per carry w/ a long of 22 & they rush for 120 on the night as a group. Tyler Huntley carries it 7 times for 24 yards, an average of 3.4 yards per carry & goes 14/21 through the air for 130 yards, an average of 6.2 yards per pass & 1 TD pass to TE Isaiah Likely. The TD pass happens after the Ravens drive is extended on a unnecessary roughness call on Steelers DE Cam Heyward. Huntley is also sacked once by Pro-Bowler T.J. Watt for a loss of 10 yards & throws 1 game-sealing INT. Edwards however, only carries the ball 3 times for 2 yards on the night, an average of 0.7 yards per carry in one of the biggest games of the season as OC Greg Roman didn’t at all feel the need to use him & there is absolutely no excuse for that. Given the broken passing game, using Edwards & even RB Kenyan Drake would be the best options & even w/ J.K. Dobbins running hard, they could help spell him & take some of the load off. You cannot have a stable of 3-4 RB’s & only use 1 on a night when running the ball was the recipe for success. Not using Drake or even Hill & only giving Edwards 3 carries is an absolute mind-blowing feat & it makes no sense that an actual NFL OC could operate & use his personnel that way. Mark Andrews catches 9 passes for 100 yards, an average of 11.1 yards per reception w/ a long of 19 yards as the team’s leading receiver. Likely catches 3 passes for 12 yards, an average of just 4.0 yards per reception w/ a long of 11 & a 7-yard TD pass catch from Huntley. The pass protection holds up well despite allowing some pressure but Huntley gets out of the pocket & avoids the rush on more than a few occasions. The run blocking did their thing again, opening up gaping holes for Dobbins to run free & mauling in the trenches as usual. This group goes 5 for 12 on 3rd down, while Pittsburgh goes 10-16 & for the 2nd straight week they do not go for it at all on 4th down, which is shocking in this new era of Harbaugh’s analytics. Pittsburgh doesn’t attempt a 4th down play either. They are out done or outgained in almost every single offensive category, including turnovers (1 to 0) yards per play (4.8 to 5.0) passing 1st downs (9 to 8), rushing 1st downs (6 to 13) total plays (50 to 70), total yards (351 to 240), rushing yards (198 to 120), passing yards (153 to 120) & drives (9 to 8) as this anemic offense goes 3 & out 3 times & has 1 drive of just 4 plays in 9 drives, so 33% of the drives were 3 & outs & 4 went for under 5 plays. They even lose the T.O.P. battle 34:14 to 25:46 & also snap a streak of 14 straight games out rushing their opponents. However, all 3 of their scoring drives were long – they put together a 15-play, 61-yard opening drive that ties the game on a FG, they go 62 yards on 11-plays on their only TD drive to take the lead & then go 42 yards on 8 plays to add another FG before 3 straight punts & an INT on their last 4 drives. This offense once again, as it has done in almost every single loss this season, fails to close out a team when leading by 10 or more points. The strategy & game plan should of involved more usage of Drake & Edwards, not 1 RB when you have 3 or 4 capable backs in a game where the running game would of been successful no matter who the back was. This group continues to struggle in the passing game but there seems to be absolutely no stopping them on the ground which is why it is so puzzling as to why Roman keeps trying trying to fit a square peg into a round hole by forcing a passing game to make plays when it simply does not have many play makers in that aspect of the offense. If this team has any hopes of a deep Playoff run, or even winning a single Playoff game, they need to lean on the running game more than they ever have, even if Lamar Jackson is back.
Grade : C
Defense – This unit played well but deeply missed DT Calais Campbell. The Steelers ran the ball at will & kept running it all night to the tune of 198 rushing yards, the most against this defense in the Mike Tomlin era. RB Najee Harris has a huge night running for 111 yards on 22 carries, and average of 5.0 yards per carry w/ a long of 12 yards & becomes the first player all season to rush for 100 yards against this unit all season. He also catches 2 passes for 12 yards an average of 6.0 yards per carry w/ the go ahead TD catch against ILB Roquan Smith w/ :56 seconds left. RB Jaylen Warren rushes for 76 yards on 12 carries, an average of 6.3 yards per carry w/ a long of 31 yards & hauls in 3 passes for 22 yards, an average of 7.3 yards per reception as the backfield of the Steelers does the brunt of the work against the Ravens front 7. They basically used the strategy the Ravens should have used, getting the ball into the hands of multiple backs out of the backfield & letting them do the rest. They only throw for 153 but when they did it was efficiently effective as Rookie QB Kenny Pickett looked like HOF Ben Roethlisberger at times, shaking off defenders, getting away from the pass rush & making throws on the run to extend plays. Pickett goes 15/27 for 168 yards, an average of 6.2 yards per pass & & 1 TD, he is sacked twice for a loss of 15 yards as DE Justin Madubuike & OLB Jason Pierre-Paul each record a sack of the Pittsburgh QB on the night. TE Pat Freiermuth catches 3 passes for 36 yards, an average of 12.0 yards per catch w/ a long of 20 yards as the Steeelers passing game didn’t need to do much in the way of making plays w/ the running game doing the damage it was doing. Allowing a 15-play, 70-yard drive to open the game & set the tone is really what had this defense on it’s heels all night & they never recovered. Missing CB Marcus Peters for the 2nd straight week was huge but didn’t play as much of a factor as it could of w/ ST ace, Kevon Seymour & 2nd year converted Safety Brandon Stephens playing CB but you could see the drop off, despite Stephens making a few plays. They allow the Steelers to drive 80 yards on 11 plays to score the game-winning TD when they hadn’t allowed a 4th quarter TD at home since before Halloween, yet they allow the first TD at home at all for the first time in 4 games. Missing Peters & Campbell hurt but it can’t be the reason why this defense wasn’t as good as it has been. The strategy was simple & the Steelers beat the Ravens at their own game. They lined up & won in the trenches, simple & plain. They pushed around this front 7, at times they won favorable matchups when they forced the linebackers to cover & when they had to make plays against the secondary they did that too. DC Mike McDonald’s group has been great of late & simply had a bad game in this one, it was one of the few games they got beat up front & failed to force a turnover. They have been carrying so much of the weight that they finally broke & unfortunately it came on prime time on national television against their divisional rivals, only the third loss in 22 prime time games under John Harbaugh. SS Chuck Clark leads the way w/ 10 tackles, 6 of them solo, Williams & Smith each total 9 w/ Williams getting 5 solo & Smith 4. The effort was definitely there from this group but the lack of communication showed up again & that is something that killed them earlier in the season but had so much better in the recent months. This group just needs to dust itself off & lick their wounds. They got beat in every phase, it’s time to put this one behind them & move on to their biggest game of the season in Cincinnati. Overall, the effort they put forward should of equaled different results but the lack of communication & attention to detail is what did them in. Allowing plays that they normally don’t allow, giving up over 100 on the ground & allowing a team to go 80 yards in the final 4 minutes to take the lead. Definitely not the football that we have seen lately from this group.
Grade : B-
Special Teams – For the first time in 2 weeks this unit looks like it’s usual self. No missed FG’s, no blocked FG’s, a long kick return & good kick coverage. They do their job all night but just like the offense & defense, it is not enough to carry this team to victory. Justin Tucker connects on both of his FG’s from 30 & 51 yards out & Rookie P Jordan Stout punts it away 4 times for 179 yards, an average of 44.8 yards per punt w/ 2 inside the 20 & 1 touch back. He doesn’t allow a return at all for Pittsburgh on the night. WR Stephen Sims returns 1 kick for 29 yards on the night & is tackled by WR James Proche II & Josh Oliver which comes after the TD pass to Likely. Proche II returns 1 punt for 2 yards & is once again a non-factor, although Steelers P Pressly Harvin only punts it away 2 times for 99 yards, an average of 49.5 yards per punt. RB Justice Hill totals 83 yards on 2 kick returns, an average of 41.5 yards per return & breaks loose on a 56-yarder that takes the ball all the way down to the Pittsburgh 40 after a FG by Chris Boswell had cut the lead to 4 in the 3rd quarter. Yet the offense goes 3 & out, even loses 2 yards on the drive & is unable to capitalize on it. Hill has been a nice surprise as a fill-in for WR Devin Duvernay, a Pro-Bowl return man who lost last month to a season ending foot injury. After 17 weeks & 16 games, this group has had only 2 hiccups, unfortunately they came in back-to-back weeks, while only 1 played a part in a loss. They look like they took offense to their recent struggles & have fixed any of the issues they might of had of late. There were no breakdowns in protection or blocking, while the coverage was solid & all the kicks went where they should of gone. Steelers K Chris Boswell misses off the right upright just before the Ravens TD drive to take the lead on a kick that may been partially tipped but definitely would of put the Steelers ahead. ST Coach Chris Horton loves to challenge his guys & you can bet there were more than a few things said to them after the way they looked against Cleveland & Atlanta although this veteran unit doesn’t need much motivation. This unit will continue to play their part & do their job for however long this team’s season lasts & you get the feeling that any struggles they’ve had, they’ve put behind them or at least for their sake they have to hope so. They have seen some great development in guys like Kevon Seymour, Del’Shawn Phillips, Justice Hill & Kristian Welch to name a few, they have replaced long time Raven greats like P Sam Koch w/ Rookie Jordan Stout & LS Morgan Fox w/ Nick Moore while hardly missing a beat in doing so. The future is bright as the young guys like Josh Ross, Tylan Wallace & A’darius Washington are waiting in the wings to make a name for themselves. This was basically just another day (night) at the office for this unit & they all did their jobs.
Grade : A-
Coaching – When your own Head Coach admits that he was upset about Gus Edwards not playing more, you get it but you ask the question, well aren’t you the HC, John? He has the power to override play calls but he doesn’t have the ability to call plays. He was never an X’s & O’s guy, he was a Special Teams guy & that there lies the issue. You have an OC in Greg Roman who constantly gets away from what his offensive group does best & a HC who has no choice but to trust him because there is no other option but to do so. The bottom line is John Harbaugh constantly gets out coached by superior coaches & coaching staff’s & it happened again in this one. The Steelers came into Baltimore & beat the Ravens at their own game by running all over them, playing better defense & winning in the trenches, they nearly dominated the line of scrimmage all night long & took advantage of a coaching staff that continues to not be able to make in game adjustments while the opponent does. That falls 100% on the shoulders of the entire coaching staff but it starts at the top & John Harbaugh does not have control of his staff, his assistants & coordinators are relied upon way more than a HC should have to rely on them & that is due to his inability to grab a clipboard. It has been like that for years but in classic Harbaugh fashion, he has constantly made scape goats of his coordinators at the right time to keep saving his job after being loyal to a fault for the entire time during their tenure. Now it has finally come light. OC Greg Roman continues to get away from what works without being held accountable. Harbaugh says the guys gave an A+ effort while also saying that his coordinator needed to use certain players more. It’s a like sideshow act in a circus – like a car full of clowns trying to get out of the car. DC Mike McDonald’s defense has been good, they have gotten after the passer, stopped the run all season (up until this game) forced turnovers & had some big plays but one thing that continues to show up is the way teams have been able to work the corners & any team w/ 2 or more good WR’s will pose a serious threat to his group. This team does not posses a single coach on the staff that any team really fears. It is not a Super Bowl coaching staff by any means & one would argue this staff has actually held this team back more than they have helped them be at their best. This team is way too talented to continue to perform at this level, even w/ the lack of weapons in the passing game, any coaching staff that used any little bit of creativity could get more out of this team. Not using 2 of your best players on offense in Kenyan Drake & Gus Edwards in January, in a game that was going to be hard nosed & physical, against your divisional rival w/ a chance to put yourselves in position to possibly win the division, makes absolutely no sense. Super Bowl teams don’t make those kind of errors in using their roster & personnel properly, they don’t take the ball out of the hands of some of their best guys in the biggest moments. The entire coaching staff needs a makeover & it’s time to hit the reset button before hard headed Harbaugh & his stubborn ways ruin this Franchise. Steve Bisciotti needs to act like an owner & make a business decision, no more buddy buddy between him, Harbaugh & GM Eric DeCosta. This team has had so many chances to seize control of the AFC but continues to lose games due to a lack of discipline, bad coaching, analytics & ego. They could be sitting in the top spot in the AFC & thinking about a 1st round bye & home field advantage throughout. They had a chance to put themselves in position to go to Jacksonville in the 1st round & get a possible favorable matchup but that opportunity is now gone & it looks like they will be headed to Cincinnati two times in a row now. This coaching staff laid a complete egg in 2 of the last 3 weeks, that is very uncharacteristic of a Harbaugh team this time of year but quite honestly, nothing about this coaching staff is suprising anymore.
Grade : D
Overall Grade : C-