Steelers reach into their pocketful of miracles to win eighth straight,  so that they can give the game ball to Ryan Shazier

Photo via Steelers.com

By Homer J.

As per usual, heavily edit (and occasionally commented-upon) game notes will be followed by Homer’s report card. I’m amazed he had the strength.

The mood was jubilant at first:

LET’S WIN THIS ONE FOR RYAN! If emotion can win football games, the Steelers will win this one by fifty. But a defense without Shazier and Haden is suspect, to say the least. It’s Sunday Night Football, and the best rivalry in the NFL. Let’s get started….

Rosie Nix plants Chris Moore on the opening kickoff at the BAL 17…and then…

Flacco pass down the middle INTERCEPTED by Sean Davis at the 6, and returned to the PIT 41.

And on the ensuing PIT series:

Ben gets ALL DAY, and hits Outlaw underneath for a first down at BAL 38.

Ben gets even more time, and hits Outlaw underneath for 9 to BAL 29.

Ben hits Bell at the 7, and he fights through two defenders into the end zone. Steelers go 59 yards after the turnover for the score. Boz PAT good. 7-0 PIT. And then:

Deebo sighting on 3rd and 3. Flacco incomplete for Maclin, almost picked off by Sansabaugh. Punt formation. Good to see you, Mr Harrison! And then:

1st and goal for PIT at the BAL 1. Bell stutter steps his way off the right side for a TD. Damn, he’s strong. PAT good 14-0.

These were some of the last calm and happy moments in this game. After the Ravens made it down the field for a touchdown, this is one of the sort of thing which makes you think this is indeed a team of destiny. The team which came into the game with the most interceptions in the league did this:

Fitz and McDonald back to block on 3rd and 17. Weddle comes free on a blitz, ball almost intercepted by Suggs who drops it. 4th and 17.

Boz 52-yard FGA. GOOD. PIT 17-7.

As we all know in retrospect, those three points were critical in the end, as were every other point. Cue ominous music:

Short pass to Collins who runs over Davis and Moats to gain 37 yards to PIT 30. Collins imposed his will on PIT D. Davis throws himself at another receiver and knocks him back, but doesn’t wrap him up. Really not a good look.

BAL fakes stretch play, gives to Collins up the middle, he finds a gaping hole behind right guard and goes 18 yards for the TD. Collins is having a terrific night, which is more than you can say about the PIT defense. PAT good. 17-14 PIT with 1:53 left in first half. Fortunately it wasn’t quite the end of the first half:

Ben has time, but time runs out and he’s sacked at PIT 41 by Levine for 5 yard loss.

Ben inc down left side for AB. 3rd and 15. Ben has forever to throw, and fires a laser to Eli for 16. Simply terrific.

Ben hits Vance McDonald for 16 at BAL 25.  Ben takes a shot at Bryant in end zone. No chance. :06 left. BOZ hits 43 yard FGA – 20-14 PIT with :01 left in half.

SECOND HALF – Steelers receive. Bryant returns second half kickoff from end zone to PIT 17. Unwise. “Unwise” was much more tasteful than some of the words I expect were used to describe Martavis’ decisions on the kickoff “returns.”

After the first Steelers punt and subsequent BAL field goal:

Kickoff dies at the goal line. Bryant barely avoids a safety, and gets it out to the 9 yard line. Really bizarre and scary…Bell off right side for nothing. Things getting chippy between Nix and Ravens.

3rd and 8 from Pit 11, Ben blitzed, INC. Confusion between Outlaw and AB on pass. BAL gets a 3-and-out, and Berry will punt from end zone.

Berry with spectacular punt, that Camponaro catches as he runs out of bounds at the BAL 40. Any time you punt 48 yards from your own end zone with no return, you’ve done your part, but the momentum has clearly shifted to the Ravens. Homer wasn’t wrong about this, as the next 14 points were scored by the Ravens. As Homer said:

After the Steelers took a 14-0 lead, Baltimore has outscored them 31-6. And Heyward is reading the riot act on the sidelines…

Ben with a shovel pass to Bell, who hurdles Carr for 8 yards to BAL 42. That is the merciful end of a wretched quarter of football, during which BAL outscored the Steelers 17-0 and outplayed them completely. The Steelers’ defense looks positively awful.

And after a rather unimpressive PIT series:

Boz FGA good. 31-23 BAL. 12:16 to go.

This possession will likely determine the game. The Steelers haven’t been able to stop Baltimore since the first quarter. Heinz Field is positively rocking, but you don’t win football games with noise. They played Renegade, let’s see if it still has its magic.

Collins stopped for a loss of one to BAL 22.

Flacco short pass to Boyle for 1 yard. 3rd and 10.

Flacco incomplete in right flat. THREE AND OUT. Renegade still works. (Not surprisingly, it apparently featured a great many shots of Ryan Shazier…)

Ben inc to AB, then overthrows Bryant. BAL blitz, OL picks it up, Ben hits AB for yuuuge 57 yard gain to BAL 10.

Ben inc to Bryant, who is blanketed by Humphrey. Ben on fade to Bryant, who is held by Carr. PI in end zone. 1st down at 1.

Ben back to pass on 1st and 1, hits ROSIE NIX who outfights Tony Jefferson for a terrific catch. 31-29 so they’ll go for two.

On two-point coversion, Bell is interfered with in end zone. Ball moves to one yard line. From the one, Bell is stopped cold on the right side, so BAL holds on to 31-29 lead. 9:15 to go.

This is a classic Steelers-Ravens game. And in classic fashion, the refs keep it close…

Flacco deep to Wallace. Not even close, but Burns called for pass interference. Iffy call.

“Iffy” was not the word used by many, I suspect. And then:

Allen around the right end, knocks Sensabaugh away at the goal line. Touchdown. PAT good BAL 38-29

The Steelers keep getting killed because their inside linebackers can’t get to the edge on time. A defense predicated on speed doesn’t have it’s fastest linebacker, and they have spent the entire game a split second late and a dollar short. The next PIT series ends thus:

Bell stutter steps, looks to run up the middle, it’s clogged up, so he heads right and turns the edge and powers into the end zone. PAT good. BAL 38-36.

The Killer B’s have been absolutely awesome tonight. But the defense needs a stop here. Which they got, and a punt lands the ball at the PIT 19…

Ben has 2:25 and three time outs. So naturally he has to make his job harder: Baltimore with a safety blitz. Suggs and Webb sack Ben for 9 yard loss.

On 3rd and 14, Ben hits Outlaw for 15 and a huge first down.

Ben hits Outlaw again for five.

Ben incomplete for Bryant. 3rd and 5 at 35

OMG!!! Ben hits AB deep down the right side at BAL 30 for 34 yard gain. 1:02 left. Be still my beating heart. This is where many of us paused the game to reach for more Tums…

Bell gets two yards off the left side and BAL calls time out.

Ben inc to Grimble, then scrambles but gets hit when he throws to Rogers, INC. FGA from 46 yards away.

Boswell GOOD from 46. PIT 39-38 with :42 left.

Boz kicks it out of the end zone. 42 seconds left. BAL has one time out left.

Flacco incomplete for Macklin who takes a terrific hit. And has to come out. BAL uses their final time out. 37 seconds left.

Flacco hits Wallace up the middle for 14 yards. First down. Clock running. Flacco spikes it—21 seconds left.

Flacco throws a prayer to Maclin, who catches it out of bounds. 16 seconds left at BAL 39. Play under review, but Maclin clearly stepped out of bounds prior to catch.

Flacco scrambles, and is sacked by Watt, and fumbles forward. The clock stops, but the ball is spotted and the clock resumes. It runs out, and the Steelers WIN, 39-38.

Simply a classic Steelers-Ravens game.

They won this game for Ryan Shazier, and for every cardiologist in Pittsburgh who needs a little extra business to pay the mortgage on the vacation home. That’s three weeks in a row that Boswell has won the game in the last minute.

REPORT CARD:

QUARTERBACK: A+++++

Ben was otherworldly. 44 for 66 and 502 yards. That’s the most completions and most yardage in his career. His decision making was spectacular, as was his play calling at the line of scrimmage. Baltimore’s strategy was to focus on stopping the run and force Ben to beat them. They did. He did. Wow.

RUNNING BACK: A.

Bell had a target on his back all night, but he ran for 48 and had 77 yards in receptions, three touchdowns, and he blocked well. Rosie Nix had one helluva TD catch and a couple of terrific blocks.

WIDE RECEIVERS:  A.

Antonio Brown had 11 catches for 213 yards. 213 yards? Are you kiddin’ me? Bryant had three catches, and Rogers had five. But Antonio Brown was simply amazing. Even when you come to expect it, it’s still amazing what he and Ben can do.

TIGHT ENDS: A.

With Juju out, there was much more emphasis on the tight ends, and they came through big time. Vance McDonald stretched the field with several long gains, and he totalled 4 catches for 52 yards before suffering his weekly injury. And Jesse James was all over the place all night long, with ten catches for 97 yards, including an enormously important reception on 3rd and 14 with the Steelers deep in their territory on the final drive. They came through big time.

OFFENSIVE LINE: B+.

The Ravens sought to stop the running game, and they were somewhat successful. But Ben had enough time to complete 44 passes for 502 yards. That’s pretty damned good, and somebody was protecting him.

DEFENSIVE LINE: C-.

They were barely doing their job, but it’s hard to see that in a 3-4, if the back seven isn’t following through. The Ravens rushed for 152, and Alex Collins had 120 of those yards. The dominating front three of Wreck-It, Tuitt and Wobble wasn’t really doing much dominating.

LINEBACKERS: D.

They missed Shazier terribly, and, above all, they missed his speed. The defense is predicated on the linebackers going from sideline to sideline, and all night they were getting beaten to the corners. The inside guys had a terrible night. Spence was a last second fill-in, and he just wasn’t ready. All night, the linebackers seemed to be a split second late. Watt had a good game, though, with several great plays, none more important than the final strip sack of Flacco that secured the victory.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: F.

They were awful. Davis had an early interception and nice runback, but then proceeded to have his worst game as a pro. Even worse that some of his bad games early in his rookie season. He was just beaten, he was embarrassed several times, including with stupid penalties. That’s the bad part for Davis. The good part is he’s smart, hard-working, and much, much better than he looked tonight. Of course, both he and Artie Burns have to learn how to wrap someone up. You can’t fly into people and knock them down all the time. Davis and Burns were terrible, and so was Sensabaugh. Sutton looked lost at times, but made a couple of good plays near the end. If the secondary plays like this next week. Brady will put up a hundred-burger.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B.

The kickoff returns missed Juju, and Martavis Bryant was running some kind of circus back there. When you bring in Fitz Toussaint for stability, you know you’re in trouble, and they were. Punting and punt coverage were excellent. Kickoff coverage was good, except for one solid return by Camponaro at a critical juncture. But Boswell simply continues to amaze. Three weeks out of the last four, he’s won the game in the final seconds. He has ice water in his veins, and dynamite in his right leg.

COACHING: A.

Short week, after a brutal slugfest. Look at what Cincy did. They barely showed up on Sunday. But the Steelers, without the heart and soul of their interior defense, and without Juju, roared out to a 14-0 lead. The defense simply didn’t have the players to get the job done – with the starting inside linebacker and his backup both out – but the offense shouldered the entire load, with a great comeback. When Baltimore focused on stopping Bell, the Steelers took what they gave them, and went up top. After what they went through the past six days, it would be totally understandable if they lost this game to a good team fighting for their lives. But they didn’t. They were down by double digits in the second half and came back to win it. Tomlin is a great coach and an even better cheerleader.

STYX: A++++.

Renegade is has magic. They needed every bit of that magic when they were down by eight points, with 12:16 to go, and Baltimore – heretofore unstoppable – was getting the ball. And Renegade delivered with a three and out. Oh, Mama, I’m in fear for my life!

Playing at home with the daily double of 40,000+ Terrible Towels and Renegade is the very definition of home field advantage. It’s magic. Pure Steeler magic!

And so, there’s a full seven days before the next game and next week’s hated opponents play tomorrow night. They’ll be coming into the ‘burgh to face a team that’s severely depleted on defense and living on heart and emotion. For the longest time, the Steelers have played the coyote to Tom Brady’s road runner. If the Steelers patchwork defense and E-Z Pass secondary couldn’t stop Flacco, how will they ever stop Brady?

He’ll put up a hundred points against the next week. Unless he doesn’t.

This has been the most remarkable season so far. And it ain’t over by a long shot. Hell, we’re just getting started.

Rebecca and Ivan and everybody else is complaining about what these last second victories are doing to our hearts. We hear you, and fear for our own cardiac health.

Homer would rather reach for the nitroglycerin pills that have to join the Crying Bengals Lady, even if she is a good sport. (For the explanation, check out the post-Bengals game edition of Pittsburgh Dad.) Any game that is decided in the last minute with Boz kicking the football and the ref’s arms going straight up is a thing of beauty.

Now, let’s get out and buy some duct tape – or duck tape if you prefer – and some baling wire, and let’s get the defense put back together. A team of destiny can do that, you know. And hopefully we can speed up the healing of Joe Haden and Ryan Shazier – cause we need to see Haden on the field and Ryan back on his feet real soon.

Teams of destiny always seem to have a pocketful of miracles. The Steelers have shown they DO have a pocketful of miracles. Obviously.

And, as the song says, a pocketful of miracles is all you need

5 comments

  • Y’know everyone is saying Brady will tear up this D. And I partly share that concern. At least the logical part of me. But the emotional part asks, “how could Brady play better than some of these other QB’s that have lit up the Steelers?”

    Maybe Tomlin is an evil mastermind who realized the only way to stop Tom Brady is to not stop him. Or anyone.

    Like

    • Pee-racticality dee-oesn’t interest me.
      Love’s the life that I lead.
      I’ve got a pocketful of miracles.
      And with a pocketful of miracles,
      One little miracle a day is all I need.

      Like

  • Related to Coaching, I understand that at the end of the game they knew they needed a first down to avoid a long field goal. Also realize they hadn’t run well against them, at least since Bell got the knee “tweaked”, so they went with the pass on second down in hopes of catching the Rat Birds off guard but I hated to see the ball going back to them with that much time still on the clock and a time out. On the other hand, their run game had been unstoppable but their passing game was not. Calculated risk or dumb luck? We may never know but got the right outcome either way! I’ll give Coach T the benefit of the doubt

    Also loved seeing MT lose his temper on the sideline last night. They needed the swift kick in the pants at that time and throughout the Tomlin era that’s been pretty rare.

    My last point, regardless of the benefits of home field, there is no trophy for winning in week 15 so next week is “big” but its not the end of the world. Finding that duct tape and baling wire by January has to be the focus. This offense can score with anyone and whether they do it next week or not is not the end goal.

    GO STEELERS. #50STRONG

    Like

    • Also related to coaching, take a look at the video of Watt’s strip sack at the end of the game. Notice something different?

      They had both Deebo and Watt in there and they moved Watt to the other side as a means to putting more pressure on Flacco. Gutsy move to switch sides with a rookie (although his big brother does it all the time), and it came up all aces.

      Like

  • Last night showed me why Deebo hasn’t been seeing more snaps. He can still bench press a Mack truck, but he can’t chase down a wounded sea slug.

    Like

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