Game Recap: Ravens at Steelers
Well, that was interesting. The whole experience was rather surreal, between the equipment failures (mine) and the execution failures (the Steelers’.)
I did my usual thing of setting the game to record while I did useful things, and then sat down about an hour into the recording to watch. This way I can fast-forward through the commercials, which I hate to sit through with my stomach churning. When I started to watch, on my computer—I don’t have a TV—the sound had completely disappeared from my iMac.
I called in the jumbo set, brain-wise—I asked my husband to look at it. There was no obvious reason for the problem. But if I did a reboot I would lose the part of the game that was recording while I did so. This meant I had to watch it in silence.
It’s actually very peaceful that way, except for one thing—whenever they have sideline interviews or put graphics up on the screen or whatever, you can’t tell what happened in the ensuing play. It’s very annoying, and the peaceful part was spoiled by the comments and suggestions I felt compelled to make to the unheeding producers.
But I managed to see more than enough to make me feel that a) it was pretty unrealistic to think the offense would have a lot of continuity on one walk-through practice, since you have to at least pretend like you’re going to pass from time to time, b) this defense is really on its way, and c) it’s actually pretty entertaining to just see the various Harbaugh faces, without the commentary to go with them. Happy. Sad. Happy. Mad. It’s reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss book. I was hoping to end at “sad” but alas it wasn’t to be.
But on to the recap. As Ivan says:
52 Steelers played well enough to win.
Its not often that my reaction to a Steelers loss is one of such anger and frustration. What Josh Scobee just learned the hard way is that the margin of error in Steelers vs Ravens is too narrow to accommodate what he put out there last night. And while there were some other issues out that one might criticize, mostly having to do with some play calling decisions, it would be hindsight and nitpicking to say that those things were significant.
It would be a matter of tough luck if Scobee missed a makeable field goal once. Heinz is a tough place to kick. But he did it twice.
My first concern is whether James Harrison is going to go all Papelbon on our erstwhile kicker. And really, who could blame him?
The defense did their job. Okay, they gave up a lot of running yards. 191, to be precise. But they also sacked Joe Flacco five times, sharing the wealth while they did so, with Stephon Tuitt, Lawrence Timmons, Cam Heyward, James Harrison, and Sean Spence each getting credit for one.
Cameron Heyward also forced a fumble, and Ross Cockrell recovered it with a beautiful catch as the ball was going out of bounds. He managed to scrape both toes on the turf so it was a turnover. Cockrell also had an interception. He got beat on a TD throw, but overall he had a great game. As Ivan said:
Ross Cockrell. On a night where the defense generally shined, his two turnovers stood out. He looks like a keeper, don’t you think?
And let’s not forget the effort by Cam Heyward that led to that fumble recovery. Or some vicious hits by Lawrence Timmons and Antwon Blake, one of which wounded Steve Smith Sr., the other put him out of the game. Mike Mitchell breaking up a pass that probably would have led to the game winning field goal for the Ravens earlier. Stephon Tuitt and Deebo. Such a waste.
As for the offense, Ivan says:
Michael Vick did what he needed to do. Mainly, he took care of the ball, made plays with his legs in the first half, threw for one touchdown and threw a great block on another. If I could fault him on anything it would be not targeting Antonio Brown more.
Although I have to say Antonio Brown didn’t have one of his best games. He did something you seldom see—let a touchdown pass go through his hands. On the other hand he had a monster punt return during overtime which he might have taken to the house for the win if he hadn’t dropped it when fielding it. Nonetheless for a moment I think we all held our breaths and hoped this was the game. I’m just surprised he let all those Ravens catch up to him.
Le’Veon Bell also did his job. (Bob Labriola has named him the Digest Player of the Week.) He ran for 129 hard-fought yards, averaging almost six yards per carry (5.86) and had seven receptions for another 21 yards. (Ironically, Bell’s average per carry was substantially more that the average for all offensive plays, including his runs—4.2 yards each.) He was, in short, just what we hoped to see.
Brown’s 5 receptions/50 yards streak is over, and in some ways I think we can all be happy to see that slip quietly into the night. He did have five receptions, but only gained 42 yards on them. The TD pass would have pushed it over 50. Just sayin’, AB…
And really, what should we have expected? The Ravens came into Heinz Field determined not to start the season 0 and 4. And yet they could easily have left that way. One of the two missed field goals would have done it. It looks like I’m going to have to write that “kicker losing his confidence” article. That is, unless Mike Tomlin has lost his confidence in Josh Scobee and hands him a pink slip. It’s easy to see that the Patriots game was unlikely to be won even if those two missed kicks had been made. This loss appears to be a direct result of those bad kicks.
But let’s not put all the blame on Mr. Scobee, who I’m sure is absolutely sick at the moment. Let’s talk about the three-and-outs by the offense. Most of those resulted in excellent field position for the Ravens. For instance:
Beginning of the second quarter, the offense begins at the PIT 20 and actually loses five yards. Jordan Berry, who didn’t have a great night either, punts it out of bounds at the BAL 41. Although Ivan said “And please don’t bring Jordan Berry into this.” But I already had. His net average was 37.5 yards, and that’s below the line.
7:27 in the third quarter, PIT begins at the 20, loses six yards, and Jordan Berry’s punt only makes it to the PIT 47. It is run back for 14 yards, and Robert Golden tacks on a 5 yard penalty for, presumably, running out of bounds and back on the field. The Ravens get the ball at the PIT 28.
Very next Steelers possession, at 4:25 in the third quarter, they lose three yards. (This was after Sean Spence alertly dropped the receiver for a fake punt attempt, which turned the ball over on downs.) Berry manages to actually get the ball to the other side of the field, but Baltimore gets it at their own 40.
Then there were the situations where the defense got the ball back with excellent field position and the offense frittered it away:
For instance, at 8:24 in the 2nd quarter, right after the Ross Cockrell interception, the Steelers begin at the BAL 36 yard line, manage to only make it to the 32 in three plays, and Berry again punts. Actually, that punt was terrific, pinning Baltimore at their own 9-yard line.
The most heart-breaking of them all, though, was when the defense gets a stop on 4th and 10, turning the ball over to the Pittsburgh offense on the BAL 29 with only 2:04 left in game and the Steelers winning by three points. This ended in the second missed field goal, giving the Ravens the ball on their 31 with a minute left. They naturally manage to convert it into a field goal to force overtime. James Harrison, who got the stop and thought that was it, was not very happy to go back onto the field a minute later.
Fortunately the offense did manage to take advantage of the second gift from Ross Cockrell (the fumble recovery) and go 26 yards for a touchdown. Well, okay, they started at the BAL 26 but actually had to go 34 yards, since DeAngelo Williams ran for a -3 yards and David DeCastro had a false start penalty. But Vick did throw a pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey in the end zone which he came perilously close to losing, but he secured it before he hit the ground and continued to hold onto it. I am very heartened by some of the things I’m seeing from DHB. And Sammie Coates got on the field as well and had a first-down catch.
And another good thing—the offense actually did manage to score 20 points. It should have been 26. There were times during the game when it was hard to believe they would manage that many, looking at the festival of minimal competence out on the field.
But despite the doleful ragging I have to get out of my system, I see hope for the future from tonight. The Steelers should have won this game, and with a week and a half to work together they might well put together a much more impressive offensive performance.
Just as long as they don’t need any field goals.
I’ll let Ivan have the last word, as he might explode otherwise:
I cannot and will not blame Mike Tomlin for losing total confidence in his field goal kicker and going for it on fourth down plays that would be under almost any other circumstance ill advised. Where I was watching no one else took issue either.
We are not talking about distance or wind or rain or the holding. Scobee simply missed. And then he missed again.
You cannot do that playing with a backup quarterback against the Ravens, and we paid the price.