It looks like nobody wants to win the AFC North at this point, especially the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens could have sent the 1-4 Steelers to 1-5 on their home field and all but eliminated them from postseason contention with a victory over their hated rivals. Pittsburgh entered today’s game with a sub-par offensive line, a non-existent running game, and a defense which had not created adequate pocket collapse or turnovers all season long. Baltimore however crapped the bed against the inspired Steelers, and Pittsburgh emerged victorious by a score of 19-16.
The Steelers started the scoring in the first quarter on a nifty three-yard shovel pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Heath Miller. Pittsburgh’s offense marched 60 yards on 10 plays, and won more than they lost at the point of attack in the running game. Kudos must go to the offensive line for their efforts today, as well as the efforts of Le’Veon Bell (93 yards), Felix Jones (16 yards), and Jonathan Dwyer (4 yards, and first down).
Baltimore’s offense could not get in sync during the first three quarters of play, and all they could muster before halftime was two Justin Tucker field goals sandwiched around one by the clutch Shaun Suisham. Pittsburgh’s defense played a solid brand of “bend but not break” football in the first half, and kept Joe Flacco & co. out of the end zone when it mattered. The defense came up big before Tucker’s second field goal, especially since the Ravens’ offense was given cake field position after Miller fumbled near midfield.
The third quarter was a defensive struggle which saw the Steelers doing the only scoring (Suisham 28 yard field goal) as Pittsburgh’s offense held the ball on a long drive (8:03) which ate up most of the frame. To their credit, Baltimore’s defense hunkered down in the red zone and kept the game at 13-6.
After they got the ball back, the Ravens’ offense cut the deficit to four points after another Tucker field goal. Down 13-9, this set the stage for John Harbaugh’s biggest gamble. Baltimore attempted an onside kick which totally backfired after Pittsburgh recovered it, Tucker was blasted by Stevenson Sylvester, and the Ravens were called for offsides on the play. The loss of field position helped Pittsburgh easily get in range for Suisham’s third field goal of the day, and the lead was extended back to seven points, 16-9.
To their credit, the Ravens’ offense finally came alive and cut through Dick LeBeau’s soft-zone like butter when they got the ball back with 9:59 left in the game. Baltimore drove 73 yards in 16 plays thanks to some solid plays by Flacco, Tandon Doss, and Ray Rice, and Dallas Clark tied the game at 16-16 with a 1 yard touchdown catch with 1:58 to go.
Needing a kick-start, Pittsburgh’s offense received a huge boost from Emmanuel Sanders on the ensuing kickoff when he took a squib kick into the end zone all the way back for an apparent touchdown. Although Sanders stepped out of bounds, his solid return (Pittsburgh’s 37 yard line) helped his offense immensely.
Like the field general he has always been, Roethlisberger drove his team 39 yards in seven plays to set up his team’s best offensive weapon, Suisham, with a 42 yard field goal attempt. Again, kudos must go to the offensive line for their efforts to not allow pressure on that drive. Moreover, kudos must go to offensive coordinator Todd Haley for calling the types of quick slants and pop passes needed for Ben to get the ball out of his hands in a timely manner on that drive as well.
Suisham’s kick, his eighth field goal in the last two weeks, was true as time expired, and the “Kicking Canuck” won the second-straight game between these two teams with a last second field goal!
As angry as Baltimore’s final scoring drive and Pittsburgh’s lack of success in the red zone made me, I have not seen the type of fight exhibited by this team in a very long time. Plus, beating Baltimore is always a positive thing as well.
The running game looked solid, particularly the use of the “Wildcat” by Bell who ran out of it during his days at Michigan State. Furthermore, the defense killed some big drives in the first half while William Gay saved two touchdowns when he batted away two passes during the game.
The Steelers cannot afford to be “asleep at the wheel” next weekend in Oakland, especially since they have done it so many times in recent seasons. Although they are 2-4 and not in postseason contention at the moment, this win could represent a springboard for a strong finish by this franchise during their final 10 games.
Plus, seeing the look on John Harbaugh’s face when Suisham’s kick split the uprights was nothing short of awesome.
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