Report Card: Steelers earn a A+ against the Ravens
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Charlie Batch did everything from pass for 276 yards to use more than six minutes on the winning field-goal drive to even throw the block on Jonathan Dwyer's touchdown run. Batch was 16 of 20 for 219 yards in the second half and brought the team back from a 13-3 deficit. Sure, he missed a great opportunity when he overthrew a wide-open Mike Wallace in the end zone at the end of the first half. But to bounce back from last week's fiasco in Cleveland and win such an important game in Baltimore was remarkable.
Rashard Mendenhall got benched and, at times, so did the running game, which managed 96 yards on 26 carries and averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. But Dwyer made one of the game's big plays when he bounced outside on a 16-yard touchdown run that tied the score and Isaac Redman's 24-yard run that put the Steelers in scoring position was wasted on an interception in the end zone. But the most important statistic for the unit -- zero fumbles.
It looked like two big turnovers by Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders that led to both Ravens touchdowns would prove costly. But they each made up with big catches on the final drive. And so did Mike Wallace, who had three of his five catches on the final field-goal drive, including a 15-yarder on third-and-7 from his own 18 that ignited the march. But it was tight end Heath Miller who seemed to make all the big catches, including a 43-yard catch-and-run to set up the first touchdown and a great individual effort on a 7-yard touchdown to tie the game.
It was one of the great collective efforts of the season because the line was playing without two starters and center Maurkice Pouncey had to play left guard. Their most important job was to keep the pressure off Batch and they did. He was sacked only twice -- one was a coverage sack -- and a lot of credit goes to Max Starks and rookie right tackle Kelvin Beachum, who was making his first start. The running game wasn't flawless, but the way the line performed on the final drive, giving Batch time, was textbook.
The front line did not dominate the line of scrimmage the way they did in the first meeting in Heinz Field when the Ravens had only 43 yards rushing and Ray Rice averaged 2 yards per carry. Rice had 78 yards on 12 carries, including a 34-yard TD when he cut back against the flow and ran untouched off the left side. DE Brett Keisel continues to be disruptive, forcing an interception with one of his two pressures in the first half. And Ziggy Hood recovered the big fumble on James Harrison's strip sack.
It has been a slow climb back for James Harrison, who made the play that turned the game around with a strip sack on Joe Flacco at the Steelers 27 that led to the tying touchdown. Those are the kinds of plays that have been missing from a defense that had only 10 takeaways in the first 11 games. Harrison led the team with seven tackles. But the Ravens averaged 5.3 yards per rush and had more yards in the first half (57) than they did the entire game at Heinz Field (43).
For the second game in a row, the Steelers held Flacco to less than 50 percent completions (16 of 34) and 188 yards passing -- 134 yards fewer than he has averaged at home. Cortez Allen had three passes defended early, but had a tough second quarter with a 30-yard pass interference call that set up a field goal and allowing back-to-back passes of 31 and 28 yards, the latter for a touchdown. Those passes were set up by a costly defensive holding penalty against Keenan Lewis on third down.
Shaun Suisham has been nothing short of perfect all season, and he did it again, kicking three field goals from beyond 40 yards, including the game-winner as time expired. And the coverage units were outstanding against Jacoby Jones, the only returner in the league with three scoring returns. The longest of his three kickoff returns was 30 yards and punter Drew Butler did a good job to keep the ball away from him in the middle of the field.
The game spoke volumes about Mike Tomlin and his ability to manipulate his players and get a win that few expected. He said they would shape the plan to Batch's strengths and they surely did.
First Published December 3, 2012 12:24 am