EXTRA POINTS - Steelers vs. Ravens Post Game Wrap
*Fukkin-A Chuck! - Let's face it, at one time or another we've all taken a shit in Charlie Batch's general direction. He's too old, his arm is too weak, he is a glorified clipboard holder etc... Even as a trusted veteran he was forced to sit behind the inexperienced and passing challenged Dennis Dixon last season when Ben was suspended. In reality, Charlie Batch is just a yinzer living out all of our childhood dreams. He's a guy who's done it the right way, all the way,
and has been fortunate enough to play the bulk of his career in his hometown. If that was indeed the final start of Charlie Batch's career, what a send off for one of the truly good guys to ever wear Black & Gold. His final drive 5-for-5 performance was one for the books.
*Same Shit, Different Stadium. - If any one play summed up the Steelers season, it would be the Emmanuel Sanders unforced fumble in the 3rd QTR. After making a nice play to put the Steelers in scoring range, Sanders simply dropped the ball while trying to switch hands. Instead of the Steelers being set up for the go-ahead score, it was the Ravens with the ball and good field position. The Ravens responded to the gift from Sanders by pounding the ball into the endzone on the next drive. Sanders took the Steelers from being in winning position to losing position with one bobble of the ball. The other madding play from this game was Maurkice Pouncey false starting when the Steelers were trying to run out the clock to set up the game winning FG attempt. You know the snap count, you know the situation. Jumping offsides there was maddening and par for the course this season. The fact the Steelers were able to overcome these two unforced errors late in the game speaks well of their resolve.
*Stupid Harbaugh - His dubious challenge of the non-fumble of the Charlie Batch throw-away cost him a timeout and a shot at getting the ball back late in the game. His over-reaction to Tomlin's quick handshake was arrogant and douchey. Stupid Harbaugh...
*Field Position Differential - Was it the biggest difference in this Ravens contest and the last one? The Steelers ST's limited penalties, Suisham kicked off better, and the coverage units made nice and timely tackles. This resulted in the Steelers winning the average starting position battle by 2 yards after losing it by 12 in the first meeting. This 14 yard starting difference in starting field position from last game likely was a deciding factor in a game decided by a FG.
HC Mike Tomlin: - This was the first time this season I've seen the Steelers both fiercely motivated, and also playing with their emotions under control. On the numerous occasions where players were getting chippy with each other, the Steelers players were usually the ones pulling teammates away from the scrum to avoid unnecessary penalties. They played hard, but also smart and under control. Down by 10 points on the road with their 3rd string QB under center, this team never blinked and their faith never wavered. Tomlin blowing off Harbaugh after the game has to raise his grade a bit. (Grade: A )
OC Todd Haley: Haley again stuck to the run despite scattered success and a patchwork O-line. The best adjustment Haley made was switching up to start attacking the Ravens weak secondary in the 2nd half once Batch showed some comfort from the pocket. If not for the Sanders fumble, the Brown INT, and the Batch pick in the endzone, the Steelers offense could have put some big points on the Ravens D. I still have to question that Antonio Brown throwback call after getting some excellent field position due to Flacco's pick. They rolled a left handed passer to his left, then asked him to throw across the length of the field. Unless Dwyer was left uncovered that play was destined to fail. Overall Haley called a solid game for what he had to work with. (Grade: B+)
DC Dick Lebeau: Lebeau kept his faith in his young corners by continuing to press them up on the Ravens receivers despite a few penalties and some big plays allowed. Lebeau might have lucked out a bit as Cam Cameron inexplicably abandoned the run despite averaging 5.6 YPC on 20 carries. Typical Cameron play calling perhaps saved Lebeau's ass a bit as his defense never really made adequate adjustments to slow the Ravens run game. (Grade: B)
QB: Charlie Batch played way better this week with the additional practice reps. He held the ball too long on 3rd down which resulted in a sack by Kruger. He had Mike Wallace uncovered in the endzone before half, but overthrew him by a mile passing up easy points. Chuck hustled and threw a nice block to spring Dwyer for a TD run, but later had an AWFUL INT in the redzone. That pass was forced into double coverage right into the hands of Ed Reed. Batch made up for that by rolling out and hitting Miller for a TD to tie the game in the 4th QTR. On the final drive with the game and maybe even the season on the line, Batch went 5-for-5. He wisely petitioned for a late hit call after getting drilled by Ngata which he was ultimately granted the second time it happened, and marched the team down the field for the game winning FG (Grade: on a curve: A)
RB: A healthy Rashard Mendenhall was straight up deactivated in favor of, among others, an injured Willie Colon who wasn't going to play barring an emergency. A lot can be read into this, but I think it speaks volumes about how he responded to his poor showing last week and demotion earlier this week. Jon Dwyer ran hard as the starter. His second effort got him a nice chunk of YAC yards, and his TD run was 50% desire and 50% hustle. Dwyer finished with 49 yards and a score, but also made a questionable play trying to strip the ball from Ed Reed at the 1 yard line after an INT instead of wrapping up the tackle. He allowed Baltimore 20 free yards on that play. Will Johnson was reasonably adequate as a lead blocker before leaving with a concussion. Isaac Redman wrapped the ball up tight with 2 arms every time he touched it and plowed ahead for 43 yards on 9 runs. (Grade: B- )
WR/TE: Wallace dropped a nice deep ball on 3rd down from Batch just before half. The ball hit Wallace square in the hands. Wallace did little else besides milk an injury and finished with less than 50 receiving yards yet again. Heath Miller remains the Steelers best all-around and most consistent offensive weapon. His 43 yard grab set up a scoring drive to open the 3rd QTR and his catch and dive at the endzone in the 4th QTR was a beautiful effort play. Emmanuel Sanders made a huge catch across the middle and fumbled it away late in the 3rd. He may have scored or at the very least put the team in FG position on that play. This was yet another unforced fumble by a Steelers skill position players, and the 3rd fumble by Sanders in the last 2 weeks. He followed that up by dropping a 3rd down play on the next drive again in Ravens territory. Antonio Brown returned and grabbed 5 balls for 58 yards. (Grade: B)
O-Line: Willie Colon sat in favor of Doug Legursky and Maurkice Pouncey showed us what a pulling LG should look like at times as he was fluid and natural out in space. Pouncey false started with game on line during the final drive which was unacceptable. Doug Legursky faired much better inside at C this week than he did over at LG last week. He was shoved into Batch's face however by a Terrence Cody bullrush on a quick pass to open the 3rd QTR. Kelvin Beachum allowed a sack to Kruger on a 3rd down play where Batch held the ball seemingly 5+ seconds, and another to Art "brother of Bones" Jones. Foster was steady yet unspectacular, and Starks was very good protecting the blindside as always. Overall they kept Charlie clean, but never really opened holes in the run game. (Grade: B-)
DL: Brett Keisel let an easy 2nd QTR sack slip through his arms, but Flacco redeemed Keisel by throwing a pop up to Ryan Clark. Casey Hampton spent the day being chopped at the knees
and was decleated on a block by FB Vonta Leach. Steve McClendon got good pressure on a 2nd qtr 3rd down play which forced a Flacco hurry and high pass. He was quickly shuffled back to the bench. Hood spent most of the day getting pushed around by rookie RT Kelechi Osemele. This is the same rookie that caught an ass whopping by Cameron Heyward two weeks ago. Hood did have a coverage sack in the 3rd on a play where he showed good hustle to keep after Flacco. He also fell on the Harrison forced fumble. (Grade: C)
LB: Lawrence Timmons made a nice wrap up tackle on a Ray Rice check down out of the backfield in the 1st QTR. James Harrison FINALLY came back to life and got a strip sack in a big game. We haven't seen that in over a season's worth of games now. Harrison also got sucked inside and blew his lane on the long Ray Rice TD run. Worilds got a few pressures on Flacco, but was run at with way too much success. Foote was up and down in this game, but did land a sack and another near sack pressure. (Grade: B)
DB: Ike Taylor broke up a deep pass early intended for Smith by swatting the ball out of his hands, but also left after injuring his fibula. Cortez Allen stepped in for Ike and immediately broke up a 3rd down pass intended for Anquan Boldin and swatted away another ball intended for Boldin on the next drive. That was bested by his deep ball play on Torrey Smith where he nearly came up with an INT. Cortez was beat for a TD pass to Boldin on a play he just got outrun. A few plays later he drew a PI call on some hand fighting down field with Torrey Smith. Troy Polamalu was flying around like it was 2008 as he pressured Flacco early on, but rotated in and out of the game with Will Allen who again was a steady performer. Keenan Lewis had two nice pass breaks ups deep in coverage against Jacoby Jones. Curtis Brown did a nice job in the nickel. Ryan Clark missed a 3rd down tackle which led to the Ravens first FG drive and had a quiet game by his standards aside from the gift wrapped pick from Flacco. (Grade: B)
STs: Suisham's opening squib kick was effective and pinned the Ravens to their own 20. He followed that up with 46 and 41 yard field goals nailed right down the center. With a chance to win the game, Suisham nailed the kick with ease. Drew Butler bobbled a snap and nearly had a punt blocked. That extra half second was enough time for Ryan Mundy to be planted on his ass right at Butler's knee. Will Allen drew a holding call on the Steelers punt return attempt to open the 4th QTR. Instead of having the ball in decent field position to go and tie up the game, they were backed to their own 20. Overall it was still sloppy, but slightly improved. (Grade: C+)
As detailed above, what a game, what a story for Charlie Batch! Two other players also deserve recognition here. Heath Miller made big play after big play in the passing game and Suisham nailed 3 FGs including the game winner. Congrats to Charlie Batch, Heath Miller, and Shaun Suisham for earning our SteelerFury Players of the Week Award!
Goat Balls: (This award has been temporarily discontinued.)
The playoff picture got real interesting today as the Steelers pulled to within 2 games of the Ravens with 4 remaining to play. It looks insurmountable at first glance, but the Ravens play at a hot Washington team next week before hosting SB contenders and Manning brothers in the Giants and Broncos after that. In week 17, they travel to face the Bengals who are fighting for the final playoff spot. It is easy to see the Ravens dropping 2 of those games, and if the Steelers win out that would bring the division down to a tiebreaker.
Even if the winning the division is a long shot, the final Wild Card spot looks to be down to the Steelers and Bengals. If the Steelers beat the Bengals in 3 weeks that would give them the tiebreaker and effectively a 2 game lead over Cincinnati. Circle that one as the biggest game for the rest of the season.
Ike Taylor's injury is big, but if he comes back this season, and Ben is 100% in the next few weeks, does anyone in the AFC want to see the Steelers come playoff time?