Game Recap: Ravens at Steelers

via Post-Gazette, Peter Diana photo

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.

 

 

 

 

 

22 comments

  • I liked the defensive play. It was good enough to win. Won’t comment more on that.

    You all will have to clarify a play for me, because I had stepped away and completely missed a series. Vick didn’t turn it over…but did he fumble a ball to lose a boatload of yards?

    One thing I was irritated by was the excessiveness of the game plan. Sure, you want to keep him to short passes… but so many passes were less than 3 yards. Folks raved about the deep ball ability, but he threw 3 passes over 15 yards? That’s what it felt like. In situations when you should feed Bell, the call was instead for a screen or too-short pass. Antonio Brown was badly misused, and I think part of that stems from one of the old criticisms of Vick (and other short QBs)… I don’t think Vick could see AB. Haley had AB working the middle of the field often…and Vick mostly threw very short or to the outside.

    Scobee is the scapegoat this game, deservedly so. Though when the Steelers got within range again in OT, I wish they’d have kicked it. Better chance than the play that was actually called. His misses will be the story, but I think the offensive game plan was disjointed and tried to be too safe….yet also put more on Vick in short situations when a handoff to Bell may have been best.

    All I know is that I actually felt gross after the game ended. I want to be angrier and have more pointed criticism…but the shadow of Ben in street clothes on the bench tempers things. Basically, there are many legitimate reasons for the Steelers to have come into the game unprepared; yet I felt the loss was due more to errors in playcalling and special teams.

    (btw, between Boykin and Scobee… the FO might want to keep its picks for the draft, because using them in trades doesn’t help the team much)

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    • I’ll have to go back and look at my notes, which are elsewhere at the moment, but I think the series you’re talking about is one in which he took a sack on 2nd for a loss and then I think the snap was low, a defender was coming, and he had to fall on it for another sack.

      Interesting point I hadn’t thought of, about a short QB throwing to a short receiver.

      I’m not sure a Bell run would have gotten the yards on those fourth down plays, either, because for whatever reason the Steelers don’t seem to have a power run up the middle play which can reliably gain a couple of yards. (Could the reason be they are playing a back-up level center?)

      And given the relative paucity of available quarterbacks, I suppose you don’t try a QB sneak either. Bell was fantastic, but he also had some runs where he was stopped for no gain. The short yardage stuff the Steelers have in the playbook all seems to be predicated on spreading the defense. I don’t know why Jerome couldn’t have come in for one final appearance. It would have been a fitting postlude to his career : )

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      • Every RB gets stuffed on occasion. But I’d rather see Bell get stuffed (or even Williams) than the QB on obvious runs or a gimmicky pass play that also hasn’t worked all day — and has more risk involved to begin with.

        When you need a yard, no coach can be faulted for going with his best player. I just wish the coaches had gone with their best player.

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  • Excellent recap. I agree with the analysis for the most part. It’s on Scoobey and he will not have the confidence, much less the ability to go on from here. Vick was far from perfect but he still was effective enough to win. That said, the overthrow on 4th and 2 with the game on the line was gut wrenching. The receiver, I forgot who, was wide open.

    I was up with the inebriated masses at the game, but heard little criticism of the decisions to go on 4th down. I fully supported them, based on the performance of This Kicker. I can’t even write it.

    The defense was stout. Stephon Tuitt is a beast. I think he is having a Pro Bowl season. He was a monster last night. The defense definitely played well enough to win. I think we missed Shazier, but again, two 4th down stands late in the game would have won it. Totally deflating.

    The effort gives me hope that the season is not all lost. The offense needs to open it up a little more and the return of Bryant will help that. The defense will be just fine when Shazier gets back. It’s just fine without him, but we need all the playmakers we can get.

    Let’s go out and win the next one, dammit. All is not lost. We need a Cinci loss. And some health. . . and a different kicker.

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    • “All is not lost. We need a Cinci loss. And some health. . . and a different kicker.” Perhaps as eloquent and economical summation as one will ever see in sports journalism. I like it : )

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    • Amen on the different kicker. Is there a minor league soccer team around that Tomlin can go get a kicker from?

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      • One of the Trib writers suggest Meghan Klingeman (or however you spell the Pgh. soccer player.) I’d be up for giving her a tryout. After all, the guys on the street at the moment are there for a reason…

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        • There are fewer kicker positions in the NFL than QB positions. No team carries a backup, after all. That’s why trading a pick for Scobee was so odd to me. There can be good kickers that are unsigned simply because a) there aren’t that many spots and b) teams tend to get fascinated with name guys. Scobee is old and it should have been telling that the Jaguars were looking for his replacement in camp.

          But if Klingeman can nail a 45 yarder, give her a tryout.

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          • I’d settle for one of the Radio City Rockettes. Or, on a more serious note, I’d take a look at what’s available in the CFL, Suisham’s a Canuck, and is/was your basic All-Weather Kicker. When the skies of October turn gloomy (take that Gordon Lightfoot), you need a guy who is experienced in kicking in wind and rain. That’s especially true in the open end of Heinz Field.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Plus one for the Edmond Fitzgerald reference.

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              • cold_old_steelers_fan

                I always thought of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald to be one of his lesser works but maybe it is just a personal preference. The one of his I have most often heard performed by my friends and contemporaries is the Canadian Railroad Trilogy though I am more partial to Steel Rail Blues and Song For A Winter’s Night.

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                • Homer worked at an all-news station in Cleveland from 1975, and lived in a 22nd floor high rise apartment downtown, overlooking the lake. Every day, he could look out his window and see the Eddie Fitz and/or her sister ship docked a few blocks away. Then came the disaster. I came into work early that October morning and everyone was abuzz that the big ore carrier had gone missing. For weeks, it was THE big story.

                  Lightfoot’s song story is brilliant, evoking timeless themes, phrases, and tonalities of English and Scotch-Irish sea chanteys. Back then, Canadian radio stations had to play a certain percentage of “Canadian content” songs, and you couldn’t listen to CKLW or any of the big border stations for more than twenty minutes without hearing him. It is especially haunting on a cold night in late autumn or early winter. So long as men go down to the sea in ships, this song will be heard, sung, and appreciated. It’s that good.

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                  • Homer, I haven’t thought of CKLW in a thousand years. I grew up in Erie and listened to CKLW a lot in the sixties and seventies. Wow! That takes me back.

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                  • cold_old_steelers_fan

                    The only problem with Canadian content when you lived in Canada, especially in the early days, was it meant you heard nothing but Snowbird,The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and Sweet City Woman. Things are better now as there is a lot of quality Canadian music available but back then it was painfully thin. Because of the endless air play I learned to hate some songs that probably do not deserve my hate but like love, you don’t get to choose who or what you love or hate (though you can choose how you behave about those things).

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              • Another plus 1 for Gordon Lightfoot in general. Gord is the BB of folkies?

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                • cold_old_steelers_fan

                  Hard to say. There were a lot of good folkies. I think Stan Rodgers took Gord’s crown and, in spite of his early death, never relinquished it. Google Stan Rodgers sometime (the Mary Ellen Carter, Barrett’s Privateers or 45 years to name a few).

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Will do so. Love discovering new music, even if it’s not new, just new to me. I’m surprised I don’t know Stan Rodgers, but I figure, thanks to you, we’re going to meet. Thanks COSF.

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  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    Thoughts on the game:

    We twice had situations where getting two yards would have won the game for us.

    We had two FGs missed, either of which would have won the game for us.

    Nothing could be done in game for a kicker who has lost his confidence but I think I would have put Bell and Williams in on the two short yardage situations and handed the ball to Williams while using Bell as a decoy or blocking back. I love Bell but I think I would rather have Williams if I am just going for two yards.

    The defence, regardless of the weakness in the middle, played well enough to win and the offence scored enough points but was two yards short of a win.

    The head coach gets the blame when a team loses. It is part of the job but I don’t disagree with his decisions to go for the first down in those 4th down situations. The defence was clearly getting gashed by the run and didn’t have anything left in the tank. The offence had to stay on the field if at all possible. Without a PK I don’t see Tomlin really had much choice.

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  • This was a tough one. A part of me really really wants to blame Vick even though I know that wins and losses are a team result. I really just feel that a play or two here by him, hitting Brown with a good pass, getting rid of the ball a second quicker on certain plays, or not taking a bad sack, and we win. I don’t know the exact stats, but I hazard that our 3rd down conversion rate was horrible. Again it’snot him but I guess I just expected more out of a veteran of his stature. Now the rational part of me blames the D. Overall they played well, but their inability to stop the run was the determining factor in this loss. Down 20-7 we needed to hold the run and make them one dimensional, but they were able to climb back in it and ultimately win it because we couldn’t stop the run . We couldn’t make them one dimensional and paid the price.

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