Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers came out of Week One with a victory and Baltimore Ravens with a loss, they both turned in performances they’d like to forget and move on from. The Steelers relinquished a 24-point halftime lead to the Cleveland Browns before eking out a last-second victory on a field goal, while the Ravens had to come back from a 15-point deficit before losing late on a long touchdown.
The reality is, however, that the Ravens have more to lose in this game. Already down 0-1 with a loss to a division rival most widely projected to win the division, they can ill afford to come away with another division loss in an 0-2 at home.
For the Steelers, wide receiver Lance Moore sits out again on a short week, nursing a hamstring, while rookie Dri Archer also sits due to an ankle injury. Some combination of Markus Wheaton and LeGarrette Blount will likely assume the kick return duties. Rookie receiver Martavis Bryant is a healthy scratch, perhaps deliberately giving him more time for his shoulder to heal. Justin Brown will continue to play in the slot.
Cornerback Brice McCain also makes his debut for the Steelers, although based on the last game, we shouldn’t anticipate him getting and playing time on defense. He will contribute on special teams.
On the Ravens’ end, they will be without Lardarius Webb, their top cornerback, which will be good news for Wheaton, as well as Antonio Brown, who already had success against Joe Haden.
The Ravens won the coin toss and deferred, so the Steelers will receive the opening kick. Le’Veon Bell got the first snap of the game, but could only work through the line for a yard. Ben Roethlisberger threw a bit too short to Brown on second down, giving the Steelers an early third and long to contend with. Courtney Upshaw sacked Roethlisberger on third down, but was flagged for roughing the passer.
After the first down via penalty, Bell was the recipient of a screen pass, but only gained two yards. Bell hurdled over Asa Jackson on second down for five yards to set up a manageable third down situation. Wheaton picked up eight yards on a wide receiver screen for another first down. Brown took an end around following the first down for nine yards across midfield. Roethlisberger threw a delayed toss to Bell for a short gain, but a first down on the following play.
Jimmy Smith made a nice open field tackle on Brown for no gain with the receiver leaking out of the backfield. Blount was bottled up after just a yard to set up another third and long. After vacating the pocket, Roethlisberger found Heath Miller down the field for a first down, but David DeCastro was flagged as an ineligible receiver downfield. On third and 14, Brown came up with the big catch for a conversion, but he also took a big hit. Darrius Heyward-Bey entered the game to spell him.
Blount took the carry on first down for another yard on first down. On second and nine, Justin Brown had the ball stripped out of his hands after catching it, and the Ravens recovered, possibly taking three points off the board.
Opening in the base defense, Cortez Allen missed a tackle and was flagged for a facemask on first down, giving the Ravens a big gain and putting them on the 44-yard line. Jarvis Jones helped bottled up Bernard Pierce on the subsequent play after a short gain. Pierce reached midfield on second down to set up a third and four. Dennis Pitta converted the first down with Mike Mitchell coming up to make the tackle.
Lawrence Timmons missed a tackle on a running back screen, allowing an extra few yards on a seven-yard gain. Pierce was stopped after two yards on second down. On third and one, Pierce was close to the first-down marker on his carry, but just short. On fourth and inches, however, Joe Flacco easily snuck across the line for the first down.
After a pair of short gains from Pierce, the Ravens reached the 26 for third and four. Flacco went deep to Torrey Smith, and Allen was flagged for pass interference, giving the Ravens the ball at the three. Steve McLendon and Jones brought down Justin Forsett after a one-yard gain, giving them second and goal from the two. After a timeout, the Ravens ran play action and got tight end Owen Daniels wide open for an easy touchdown.
After a touchback, the Steelers ran a screen to Wheaton, but Heyward-Bey’s block was unsuccessful, and he was stopped for one yard to end the first quarter. Heyward-Bey was flagged for holding on a successful end around on second down. On second and seven, Blount drove forward for about six yards to make it a manageable third down. Roethlisberger threw behind Justin Brown on third down for a missed opportunity. Brad Wing let loose a 48-yard punt that was fair caught on the 24-yard line.
Flacco found Forsett on a screen for nine yards with Ryan Shazier making the tackle. On second and one, Pierce found an easy opening and looked to have space before he was tripped up from behind. Troy Polamalu missed a tackle on Steve Smith for another big gain. From the 36, Timmons was able to drag Pitta down after two yards. Forsett found the right edge for a first down.
Daniels got in front of Timmons just shy of the first down to set up third and one, and Flacco converted on the sneak for a second down for first and 10 on the 11. Shazier got a piece of Forsett’s jersey to stop him for no gain on first down. Flacco tossed a bit too deep for Steve Smith in the end zone on second down. On third down, he threw the ball away with nothing open as the Ravens settled for a field goal an a 10-0 lead.
After presumably passing concussion protocols, Antonio Brown reentered the game following the Ravens’ second scoring drive. Ramon Foster, who was briefly replaced by Cody Wallace, also reentered the game.
On first down, Roethlisberger rolled out, but found nobody open and threw the ball away. On third and nine after a short gain, Roethlisberger found Miller for the second time, but this time, it counted. Bell ran up the middle for just two yards on first down. On second and eight, Roethlisberger looked to Miller for the second time on the drive for a 13-yard hookup.
From the 46, Bell worked through the middle before finally finding the edge for a 21-yard gain, nearly tripling his total on the ground. From the 33, Roethlisberger flipped another pass to Bell for 19 yards. With Antonio Brown back in the game, Ben looked his way for six yards. On second and four, the Steelers spread wide, but threw out of reach of Justin Brown. Now third and four from the eight, Brown took an end around, but only gained one yard on the play. But Shaun Suisham did get the Steelers on the board with a field goal to make it 10-3.
Polamalu came up on first down to bring down Forsett for a loss. On second and 11, McLendon got to the back in the backfield again to set up third and 13 following the two-minute warning. Sean Spence replaced Shazier for the play. Mitchell was in on coverage on Torrey Smith, but it was out of the receiver’s reach. The Steelers now have an opportunity to get some two-minute offense going.
Starting from the 27, Bell could find little room up the middle on first down on a draw. Wheaton was able to find a corner on second down to make it third and short. Wheaton came through again showing nice hands for the conversion. Antonio Brown shook off a tackle for another first down and got out of bounds. Elvis Dumervil beat Marcus Gilbert for the sack on first down, however.
With 47 seconds remaining, the Steelers faced a second and 18 from midfield after the loss. Wheaton came up with a 14-yard reception to make it a manageable third-down situation. Gilbert false started to make it third and nine. Roethlisberger’s pass looked to be aimed at nobody in particular, and was nearly intercepted, seemingly due to a miscommunication. Wing’s second punt was downed at the eight. The Ravens elected to take a knee to end the half.