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After further review … (Steelers vs. Ravens II)


Taking a look back at the Steelers-Ravens game on my DVR.

* You have to give Baltimore all the credit in the world because that game-winning drive was very well executed.

Anytime you can go 92 yards in just over two minutes, needing a touchdown to win the game, and do it on the road without using your last timeout, credit has to go to the offense … but not all the credit.

The Steelers sure helped the final drive along by letting Baltimore’s best receiver, Anquan Boldin, have has way with a cover guy who is not your best.

We all know what kind of a season Ike Taylor is having, and he blanketed Boldin all over Heinz Field for the majority of Sunday’s game whether it was on the outside or in the slot.

Up until that final drive, Taylor have up a 15-yard catch to Boldin and a 9-yard catch. That’s all.

But with the game on the line, what do we get? Try William Gay covering Boldin, and in the most crucial of times.

On the 12-play drive, Gay lined up across Boldin eight times allowing catches of 21, 9 and 10 yards – all resulting in first downs.

The most critical instance was on a 4th-and-1 near midfield. Of course, the Ravens were going to try to pick up the first down with their best receiver coming out of the slot to keep the game alive.

Instead of Taylor on Boldin, Taylor was on speedster Torrey Smith.

Boldin promptly catches a 9-yard pass for a first down and the game continues.

It was just a very strange scenario to see knowing that Taylor matched up with Boldin the entire game up until that point.

*As a free safety, and with fewer 20 seconds left in the game, it’s baffling that a very heady player like Ryan Clark let Smith behind him for the game-winning touchdown.

Actually, it’s totally inexcusable.

But what was the most disturbing is that Clark anticipated the pass out of Flacco’s hand and tracked it for some 10 yards before finally realizing that his angle was bad, and obviously it was too late.

I’m still totally stunned.

* The first play of the game that resulted in Ray Rice’s touchdown run that was called back was a disaster all around for the Steelers’ defense.

First, Casey Hampton was worried about getting cut blocked and was pushed off the ball by Matt Birk; James Harrison got up field way too far allowing a cutback lane; Brett Keisel jumped inside Bryant McKinnie leaving his gap; Larry Foote over-pursued; Clark took a bad angle; and Troy Polamalu tried to knife in and around the block of Ed Dickson to no avail.

Add that all up and you get a 78-yard touchdown run.

* It was kind of stunning how easily Joe Flacco was able to convert third downs against a defense that has been pretty going preventing just that.

It was even more stunning that the Steelers never adjusted to what Baltimore was doing in order to convert those third downs.

Eight of the 14 third-down conversions by the Ravens came via some sort of pick play.

The Steelers played tight man on nearly every medium-range third down, and the Ravens answered by bunching up three receivers on one side of the formation and letting the defenders pick each other off allowing a window for Flacco to get the ball to a receiver.

The beneficiary of it all was tight end Dennis Pitta. Four of his five catches on the night were because of picks.

* You have to give Max Starks a lot of credit for keeping Steeler-killer Terrell Suggs under control.

Usually Suggs has his way against the Steelers, but was held to one assisted tackle.

Actually, there was a good reason for that.

Suggs rushed the passer on 32 of the 40 times Roethlisberger dropped back to pass, didn’t collect one sack and managed to pressure Roethlisberger only twice.

Was Starks that good?

Well, yes and no.

Baltimore had a game plan of using Suggs the good portion of the game as a person who was making sure that Roethlisberger didn’t get out of the pocket. (I know, it is kind of strange).

Suggs didn’t rush with speed and vigor that he typically does, sometimes he just stood there and watched and other times he just tried to bull rush Starks, which rarely ever happens.

Suggs only stunted twice the entire game as well which was something he had great success during their first meeting.

It was a very strange plan knowing his past success against the Steelers.

Don’t get me wrong, Suggs rushed to get the quarterback a number of times and was turned away by Starks, but not as many times as you may think.

* Speaking of Suggs, he switched to the opposite side of Starks for a couple snaps, and ironically, that’s when he intercepted Roethlisberger.

Again, Suggs didn’t rush on the play. He stood up and read Roethlisberger, who threw it right to him.

* Mike Tomlin is pretty good at his job, but managing a game is something he has yet to master.

From the decision to when to use the challenge flag to using a timeout on defense when Baltimore was dying for a break in the action during the final drive all adds up to poor decision-making.

* You would have to believe that Hampton was a little tentative on the first play of the game that resulted in Rice’s futile touchdown run.

Hampton was cut 10 times the first meeting by the Ravens including the first play of the game.

On Sunday, it looked like he was anticipating backside guard Ben Grubbs to cut him. Instead, Grubbs went right past him to block Foote.

Actually, Baltimore didn’t use the cut blocks very much.

Only three times did Marshal Yanda cut Hampton, with none coming when he was engaged with another lineman.

All told, the three cuts resulted in a total of 1 yard. Last time, the 10 cuts of Hampton resulted in 96 rushing yards.

* Taylor had another solid game even though he was called for a pass interference call for the third straight game.

You can accept a guy who uses his physicality the way Taylor does to get a flag here and there.

Taylor gave up three catches for 35 yards to Boldin and one catch for 2 yards to Smith.

It is becoming evident the way to beat Taylor is quick slants from the slot. Actually, it’s becoming evident that’s the only way to beat Taylor.

Here’s the updated list of who did what against Taylor this year:

Wes Welker, New England 4-23 yards
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona 3-58 yards
Anquan Boldin, Baltimore 3-35 yards
Andre Johnson, Houston 3-23 yards
Nate Washington, Tennessee 2-11 yards
Rob Housler, Arizona 1-20 yards
Jason Hill, Jacksonville 1-18 yards, TD
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis 1-11 yards
Deion Branch, New England 1-10 yards
Mike Williams, Seattle 1-9 yards
Damian Williams, Tennessee 1-8 yards
Mike Thomas, Jacksonville 1-3 yards
Torrey Smith, Baltimore 1-2
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis 1-(-2) yards

* The possible fines for Week 9 are …

 Ryan Clark for hit on tight end Ed Dickson.
 James Harrison for late shoulder to the back of Ray Rice

Clark’s fine will be the second in as many weeks and will get smacked for at least $20,000.

* Harrison had three sacks, but none of them were really impressive Harrsion-like sacks that we have seen over the years.

Nonetheless, Harrison looked surprisingly good, especially with the new wrinkle LeBeau tossed in the game plan just for him.

On a number of obvious pass situations, Harrison lined up in the middle of the defense like a middle linebacker and would rush the quarterback from various angles, which he never did before.

Harrison would be in the middle and Brett Keisel would stand up as an outside pass rusher where Harrison would normally line up.

It was a nice scheme for Harrison.

He sacked Flacco once when he started in the middle before eventually finding his way to the left side of the defense to rush the passer.

I’m sure that was thrown in there because LaMarr Woodley wasn’t in there, but I wouldn’t mind seeing that when Woodley is back.

Grading the Starters
QB – Ben Roethlisberger – A (Made some nice throws)
RB – Rashard Mendenhall – B (Ran very hard yet again)
TE/FB – David Johnson – B (Nice block on Mendenhall’s TD run)
WR – Mike Wallace – B (Made a super play to give Steelers the lead)
WR – Antonio Brown – A (Was best player on the field)
TE – Heath Miller – B (Wasn’t in game plan much)
LT – Max Starks – A (Was near flawless)
LG – Chris Kemoeatu – A (Played his best game to date)
C – Maurkice Pouncey – A (Handled Ngata well)
RG – Ramon Foster – B (Needs to get better at pulling)
RT – Marcus Gilbert – B (Continues to play well)
DE – Ziggy Hood – C (Still waiting for a breakout game)
NT – Casey Hampton – A (Like how he’s playing)
DE – Brett Keisel – B (Still struggles with gap responsibilities)
LB – James Harrison – A (Can’t ask for much more)
LB – Jason Worilds – B (Played pretty well considering)
LB – Larry Foote – A (Can’t emphasize how well he’s playing)
LB – Lawrence Timmons – B (Asked a lot out of him moving inside to outside in game)
CB – Ike Taylor – B+ (Another solid game)
CB – William Gay – D- (Played like the Gay of old)
S – Troy Polamalu – B (Very good at stopping the run)
S – Ryan Clark – D (Terrible play at the end)

 By Mark Kaboly


Author: Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly is the Pittburgh Steelers beat writer for the Tribune-Review. Mark has covered more than 300 NFL football games in all 32 NFL cities as well as three Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa and XLV in Dallas. A Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mark earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a specialization in journalism from California University of Pennsylvania. Mark lives in Port Vue with his wife, Jennifer; daughter Briella; and boys Rocco and Bugsley Pug


  1. sjb says:

    Ravens don’t get fines, only Steelers. Combine that with the fact that the NHL bends over backwards to give criminals that are let back into the league the benefit of doubt. “What’s that Donte, you killed someone while drunk driving…how soon can you come back?” “ Illegal, don’t worry, we can fix that.”

    Ray Lewis will never get fined, he paid his dues and has immunity now. Besides, for the NFL to fine him would be to admit he’s not a saint like they want everyone to magically believe. How can they exploit him as a story line to a game if he’s flawed. That’ll cut into the Lewis Fathead sales.

    The NFL would love nothing better than a Super Bowl between the Eagles and Ravens with either Vick or Lewis winning the MVP. It would prove what the NFL has been trying to say all along…that the best place for rehabilitation is not prison but the NFL. Dungy and Goodell would love that.

    Too bad Bam Morris didn’t get to play in the Goodell era, he could have been rehabed and given some extra chances to play more games and sell merchandise in the the NFL, I mean, the Nice Felon League.

  2. sjb says:

    Oh and what’s this talk about Gay being no good or playing badly? Can’t just jump on the hate Gay wagon all of a sudden because I won’t let you on. I knew and have been saying he was a garbage player since day one and never understood the blinders you writers wore for him. To say he was the second coming of Dewayne Washington is an understatement. He’s no good, shouldn’t be playing in the NFL let alone for the Steelers and shoulda been cut 2 years ago.

    As far as you know-it-all sports writers go, Gay is a good player, so stick with that until he’s gone. As far as you guys are concerned, there was never a bad Steelers player until they’ve been cut and “then” you feel comfortable pointing it out years later, after you don’t have to confront him or his friends in the locker room.

  3. SteelHeart says:

    Didn’t anyone have a problem with the way that RayLewis hit HinesWard ? He led with his helmet, hit Ward in the head, and Ward was walked to the sideline. Our guys have been penalized for less.
    Compare that to our penalty near the end for smacking the Raven WR who was running loose down the field?

  4. rjddoc says:

    What nothing said about the total disregard to the Steelers run game ? And giving up on it just about totally for no reason? The last offensive drive , passes that were incomplete STOPPING the clock , a few running plays would have made the Ravens burn what would have been there final TO . And would have surely ran the clock out on the Ravens last drive . And what about another attempt to draw the Ravens offside that cut the third down yardage down again . If not successful call a TO . It was worth a shot . I know this is second guessing to some extent , but Tomlin & his coaching staff are paid to make smart decisions . The coaching should have been given a F grade on this game . Players play the game and make decisions , I myself can excuse some mental errors on there part , but the coaches have NO excuse . This game was a total bust on the coaches .

  5. Braveheart says:

    You can blame Ryan Clark and William Gay and rightfully so. How you get beat deep when you know the ball has to go to the endzone is, well, shocking.

    However, the offense has the ball, late in the game, deep in the opponents territory. First play, an incomplete pass to Johnson and the clock STOPS. Then on third down, five yards to go at the Ravens 29, the Ravens have one timoute left, instead of pounding the ball up the middle, it was an incomplete pass. Ravens save their timeout, Steelers did not gain a yard, clock stops at 2:37. The prior incompletion to Johnson saved 40 seconds as the Ravens would not have used a timeout at that point. The incompletion to Moore saved them their last timeout.

    Regardless if the steelers attempt a field goal or not, the two pass plays saved at least 40 seconds on the clock and left the Ravens with a timeout. With proper playcalling, the Ravens, at best, get the ball back at the two minute warning with no timeouts, which would have been an entirely different situation.

  6. Steelers7thHeaven says:


  7. JDub81 says:

    Maybe it’s time for the Steelers to field applicants for the Offensive and Defensive Coordinators job. You can’t win many ballgames if you can’t get off the field on 3rd downs….same goes with the Steelers pitiful offensive performance in the red zone.

  8. rjddoc says:

    Steeler7th Heaven , You are correct . The coaching staff blew the game , plain & simple . I guess the sports writers do not want to tell it like it is , they need to write their stories and need to be on terms with the Steeler coaches . If the Steeler coaching staff would man up and take responsibility for this loss I would respect them for it . Tomlin is the head coach and I can understand him not publicly blaming his coaches . But he should not just point out the FG gaff as the only problem and should take responsibility of the MANY coaching errors made in this game .

  9. DSK says:

    How do you give Roethlisberger an A for that performance? He was all over the place (high/low/behind), made several ill advised throws (looked scared when he had time), couldn’t convert the first down on the set that would have put the game away and threw a red zone pick…that is not an ‘A’ peformance. See Aaron Rodgers for an ‘A’ or ‘A+’ performance. It’s time Ben starts winning games for us instead of taking what he’s given. He’s been erratic all season even though his numbers still look good. I wish I had you as a teacher in World Geography because you’re handing out easy A’s.

  10. Rick says:

    Nice analysis, but missed a couple things…
    When Ward was hit (fine should come, definitely was a helmet to helmet hit) the pass was caught, didn’t come out until after he hit ground. Would, should have been, irrelevant anyway as there should have been a penalty on the play, first down us 15 yards closer than we were. Review of the challenged ground helped catch by Ravens player, they allow it as completion, even announcers were surprised.
    On the play after the hit on Ward the Raven defender was all over Brown, no flag. Same kind of coverage by our guys, flagged!
    So if one wants to fantasize we should have had a TD on that drive, not a FG, 4 point differential there and last drive nonsense becomes irrelevant.
    Last drive, we had been on field so long I am surprise it took Ravens that long to score.
    Field Goal to punt play – come on Tomlin, even if Chokesum missed it was at least attempting to put points on board!
    I know what we really need to focus on draft wise, a new placekicker.
    Giving D Johnson a B was generous. Yes he did block somewhat better, but he dropped a key pass near the end. B- or C+.
    I don’t care what Suggs did or didn’t do, Starks provided at L Tackle what we hadn’t had in the early season.
    What really PISSES ME OFF about the game was the terrible officiating. Like in Arizona, if you are gonna call penalties, be consistent about it for BOTH teams.
    So did Las Vegas pay someone, were the refs abducted and stupid stand ins put in for them. I don’t know.
    How the NFL continues to allow officials to run/ruin games when they make such terrible calls during games is beyond me.

    This has nothing to do with Ravens vs Steelers, it has to do with proper game play.

    The season isn’t over, we should use this game like we used the first game, but for different reasons. We should have won this game, everyone knows it. Not taking anything away from the Ravens as the game was all I expected and more.

    Unfortunately to “more” was TERRIBLE OFFICIATING.

  11. Dick says:

    Excellent posts by the guys above. I agree with them all. A really good exciting game that we gave to the Ravens in the final 2 minutes. This one really hurt. The officiating was terrible and the coaching in this one left a lot to be desired. Kudos to Harrison on his excellent play. If only we had Woodley I think it would have been a different game. Flacco would have seen more pressure and the third down conversions would have been less. Lewis should be fined big time for the hit on Ward. (25,000) he led with his helmet with bad intentions and tried to hurt Ward. Let’s see what the league does. It seemed to me as if the refs wanted the Steelers to lose. If they aren’t more consistent in their calls they are going to leave that impression. This game turned on a turnover when Ben threw that interception to Suggs. I believe he threw it to an area without even looking………………got to be more careful. If we’re not going to get any turnovers, we have to make sure we don’t give any up. Keep the faith Steeler fans. It’s not over ’till it’s over.

  12. K2 says:

    Finally someone see’s Bens play as I have all season (inconsistent) and not making key plays (calls, throws etc.) down the stretch(?)… Not sure though if it’s on him or BA(?).

    As I said in my last post, the Steelers need to close teams out (early and late in games)….If they do, maybe we can do some damage in the playoffs.

    Go Steelers!

  13. Dave Ayers says:

    Boy to people love to hate on the QB. Yes, Ben hasn’t been sterling in his play all season, but you’ll note that his QB rating has been rising all season. He’s had a great stretch of games over the past 5 weeks, but obviously he’s not perfect. Seriously folks, he’s in the top 10 in nearly every statistical category, consistently makes plays out of nothing, and seems to more often than not convert 3rd and long situations. His QB rating, for what it’s worth is 7th in the league. Yet you’re all still compaining. Yes, I agree that it appeared he through the interception on timing and without really looking. Dumb! He also drove the team for the lead with 2 minutes left and it would have been another 4th quarter victory, but for a defense that when into a sleep-walk “prevent” mode. I love Lebeau, but sometimes, I think he gets too locked-in to a certain mindset and doesn’t adapt as quickly as he needs to. If our defense was getting the job done for 58 minutes, especially the latter 28 of those, then why in the name of God would we change what we were doing for the final 2 minutes. We practically handed them the game. Let’s also mention that they are 6-3 and amongst the best teams in the league. But sure…Ben isn’t making plays, of course… Oy vey!

  14. Carl says:

    What else does Ben have to do guys?! Jeez, most everyone, sportswriters anyway, across the country have at least mentioned him when talking about MVP. The only QB in the league doing everything you guys are saying is Rodgers. I think Bens play has been pretty damn good. Yes, the pick to Suggs was ridiculous, but Ben did what he does. Did we not have a lead super late because of him (and his WRs)?
    Seasons not in the tank, we have a half left. Need 2 less losses then the Ravens and Bengals. We can handle the Bengals part ourselves by simply beating them. I think the Ravens remaining games are tougher. Seattle stinks, but at home (especially with the opponent coming all the way across country) they at least have a punchers chance. Ravens also must play both the 49ers and Chargers (cross country again). One more thing, Bengals record vs. the Ravens hasn’t been that bad recently. We will see I guess….

  15. Rick says:

    Dick – the game really didn’t turn on Suggs great play, anticipating a WR screen that Ben never looked before he threw. It turned on the subsequent plays with the catch ground helped, interference calls.
    Also, without two starting LBs our main guys got tired and were not quite as ferocious as earlier in the game.
    Ben was not the reason we lost, and any QB can throw an INT. We just don’t like it when he does. He cannot make receivers run proper routes nor catch the ball.
    And while Gay has improved, he is not Taylor, and we needed 2 corners at the top of the game at the end, Gay was still somewhat below that.
    Taylor should have remained on Bolden and Smith should have been doubled, just my opinion.
    The last critical play we rushed only 3! Hmmm. 8 in coverage and we still allowed the catch! The best pass defense is the QB on his butt, before he throws.

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