The Pittsburgh Steelers took on Ravens at a ‘sold out’ Heinz Field (although there sure seemed like a bunch of empty seats out there and way too many Ravens fans for my taste) and narrowly escaped with a win. By looking at the score alone, one would think that this was the usual slap you in your mouth back and forth battle that’s decided by 3 points or less. Call it a game of missed opportunities more than a game of trading jabs. And with that, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from Week 7.
Another W: That’s win number two for the Steelers and the second in a row. That puts the Steelers at 2-4 and 1-1 in the division. Divisional wins will be crucial this season if the Steelers want any chance in making it to the playoffs this season. Think of the 2013 AFC North as the 2010 NFC West – the division winner could very will be .500 or worse. The team has to be feeling good after beating their rival Ratbirds and starting to show signs of ‘getting it together.’ I’m a bit skeptical still and won’t be convinced that the ship is headed in the right direction until the win convincingly against Oakland – the traditional ‘trap’ game for the Steelers and one they’ve struggled with the last three seasons.
The Run Game & Le’Veon Bell: Holy sweet baby Jesus – the Steelers actually had a solid performance with the running game. The Steelers came into the season next to dead last in rushing yards per game in the NFL. It has been attributed to a poor offensive line and a rocky start to the running back core. Much of that changed on Sunday, and the Steelers racked up 141 yards on the ground – the most they’ve had in 2013. Le’Veon Bell led the team with 93 hard fought yards and averaged a solid 4.9 yards per carry. The offensive line sealed off pursuits and made lanes large enough for Bell to get some decent gains. The Steelers also gained seven first downs from running the ball, and several were from 3rd and ‘short.’ They only had 15 rushing first downs all season long until Sunday. The running game was established early, which quite honestly led to good pass protection for Ben Roethlisberger. The Ravens were not able to stack the box often, which led to #7 getting some unusual lengthy seconds in the pocket. Still he was sacked three times, but I would have to say that all three of those were coverage sacks and on the QB. Big Ben also had some key runs in the second half, though I wonder how Ryan Clark felt about that….
Shaun Suisham: Dude is money. Like $haun $ui$ham money. Plain and simple. He is 14 of 14 for field goals. Nick Folk is the only other perfect kicker over 12 attempts (16 of 16) – even though he missed in an attempt on Sunday that was negated on a penalty by the cheating Patriots. Sushi’s bailed out the offense numerous times this season, and the team needed every one of his kicks on Sunday to put Baltimore away for good.
Inconveniently Soft D: If there is an absolute achillies to the Steelers right now it is the defense during two very particular situations – 1) end of halves and 2) the ensuing offensive drive of the opponent after the Steelers score points. These two things have been areas of improvements for several seasons, but are glaringly so in 2013. The Steeler defense gave up a field goal at the end of the first half for the second time in as many weeks. The defense also allowed the Ravens to march down the field in the 4th quarter with 9:53 left and tie the game at 16 a piece. That kind of stuff just needs to stop. For whatever reason, the zone softens up and opposing offenses are able to march down the field at will and rack up points. The really annoying thing the D did today was give up points in the very next drive after the Steelers scored. In fact, they allowed that to happen three times. THREE. One of them was the game tying score near the end of the game. At a time when the defense should help seal up the game by making a team go three and out or only get a few first downs then punt, the defense is allowing teams to keep stride by marching the field and scoring. If this kind of problem is at least controlled soon, you can expect they will continually blow leads which will then lead to defeats.
WR Penalties: Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders were guilty of penalties that were just dumb. The holding penalty by Sanders was his second in two weeks. AB’s seemed really unnecessary and they both hurt the drives in which they occurred. WR’s are never really expected to block well, unless your name is Hines Ward, but any kind of penalty coming from a wide out just seems senseless. Penalties can kill drives (especially holding calls) and the Steelers offense struggles with that enough as it is. Reign it in, guys.
Heath’s fumble: It was kind of a wacko play when Heath Miller caught a pass from Big Ben and fumbled the ball after taking a hit by D. Smith. Heath rarely ever fumbles the ball – once every other season or something like that. It was an ugly play from that stand point and that it led to points for the Ravens that kept them at pace with the Steelers before halftime.
Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil: Suggs is still one UGLY S.O.B. So, he wins the prize for ‘The Ugly’ outright. Elvis ‘Dummy’ Dumervil joins him this week with all of the stupid ‘goonish’ penalties he racked up during a drive that lead to a Sushi field goal. He was responsible for 30 of the Steelers 70 yards gained that drive. Numbskull – he deserves to be on a team like that.
Steeler Nation should be feeling pretty good going into next week against the Raiders. They head to Oakland and face a very beatable Raider team that continues its own struggles. Would be nice to collect another win and get to 3-4 before heading into Foxboro to face the crybaby Pats.in Week 9. There are many parts of this team that are starting to improve, and what once looked like a very bleak situation might turn out to be a salvaged and somewhat entertaining season.