There’s no two ways about it. This is a big night in Heinz Field. Not only are the 5-3 Pittsburgh Steelers taking on their chief rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, in a critical midseason showdown, the organization is also retiring a number for just the second time in its history. That number is, of course, 75, worn by none other than Joe Greene, arguably one of the greatest football players and people of all time. Hopefully the magic of the night translates on the field and results in a victory.
Should the Steelers emerge victorious, they will stand at 6-3 and would be positioned in good shape down the stretch for the season, where their most difficult opponents remaining on the schedule are the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals, twice, in the final four games of the season. Should they lose, they would be staring at the basement door of the division standings–though it wouldn’t be a hole so deep they couldn’t dig themselves out of.
To achieve that victory, the Steelers may have to rely heavily on the offense, as the team has averaged 34 points per game at home, while the defense has allowed close to 30 per. We may find out tonight if Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley‘s offensive machine is in midseason form.
The Steelers kicked off first, with Shaun Suisham‘s boot going for a touchback. Cameron Heyward made the opening tackle for a loss of two yards in Justin Forsett. Joe Flacco threw to Owen Daniels on second down for seven yards to set up a third and five. Flacco found Daniels again to move the chains in front of Lawrence Timmons.
Torrey Smith was the first receiver to make a catch, reaching midfield. Two carries set up third and three. Flacco’s pass was out of bounds without immediate pressure. Antonio Brown was back to receive the punt, which he fair caught inside the 10-yard line.
Martavis Bryant opened as a starter in a three-receiver set on first down for the Steelers. Roethlisberger went to him on first down, but he threw too high, and the rookie couldn’t get up and get it. On second and 10, Le’Veon Bell went up the right side for four yards. Bell was well short of the first down on a pass on third down as the Steelers went three and out. Brad Wing got off a good punt, but the coverage was slow to get downfield, allowing a 25-yard return well inside Steelers territory.
On first down, Flacco snapped quickly and threw 35 yards to Smith for the touchdown over Brice McCain, who seemed to be in position, but failed to make a play on the ball.
Roethlisberger escaped pressure on first down and threw short to his back on first down. Bell went up the middle for five yards to set up third and five. Roethlisberger was high on his pass again on third down, resulting in back-to-back three and outs. The quarterback is clearly not picking up where he left off in the last game. The Ravens, however, responded with a three and out of their own, with Brown fair catching just outside the 10-yard line.
After faking a screen, Roethlisberger handed off to Bell, who took it up the middle for four yards on first down. He escaped a couple tackles on the next play, but lost nine yards to set up third and 14. After an offsides penalty, Bell picked up eight yards, resulting in a third straight three and out.
Jason Worilds was among a group of tacklers on first down, but the fullback got a first down on the next play. James Harrison made the tackle from behind on the next play, but Ryan Shazier stayed down on the play. On second and seven, Stephon Tuitt got the pressure on Flacco to force a third down. Tuitt and Harrison sacked Flacco on third down. Unfortunately, the Ravens punted booted it inside the five-yard line.
Bell slipped on first down after a short gain for two yards. Brown picked up his first reception, and the team’s first first down, on second down. LeGarrette Blount hammered through for nine yards on the following play. He moved the sticks again on the next play. Brown followed blockers on a screen for about six yards on the final play of the first quarter.
On second and four, Blount got the call again and picked up four yards to gain a new set of first downs. An illegal hands to the face made it first and 20. Roethlisberger was smothered quickly for the sack, making it second and 26. He went down again on second down, making it third and 33. Elvis Dumervil got by Marcus Gilbert for a third sack, resulting in a punt on fourth and 39. A personal found on the Ravens pushed them back to the 30 to start the next drive.
The Steelers stretched out a run on first down as the Ravens ran out of field for a two-yard gain. Forsett gained 12 yards on the following play on a cutback run. On second and five, the rookie back fumbled and McCain scooped it up, running with it down to the 27.
Roethlisberger’s first pass was tipped and fell incomplete. The Ravens were penalized three times on the same play, including two personal fouls, moving the ball to the 10. Blount ran up the middle for three yards on first down. From the seven, Blount took the ball again for another two yards. From the five, Roethlisberger found Bell in the end zone to tie the game at seven.
Suisham’s squib kick was fielded near the 20 and returned to the 37. Sean Spence came out with the defense. Pressure forced an incompletion on first down, but Steve McLendon was flagged for roughing the passer. The Ravens were now set up at the Steelers’ 48. More pressure, however, allowed another poor pass, which was intercepted by Jason Worilds and returned to the 30-yard line.
Bryant caught a screen for seven yards on first down to the 23. Dri Archer got the carry for three yards to crack the red zone. Roethlisberger found Bryant in the end zone for 20 yards and the 14-7 lead.
Two Flacco passes gain 19 yards to the 44. The Steelers stopped the run on second and one to set up a third and short. The Ravens were stopped on third and one, but Harrison was injured on the play, eventually walking off, with a limp, under his own power. Flacco’s sneak up the middle, however, finally moved the chains.
Spence stumbled and was beaten in coverage for 24 yards to the 30-yard line. Troy Polamalu came up for the big hit on the neck play, but ended up getting rolled up on. He hopped off the field on one leg as Harrison returned to the game.
Polamalu came back in as well, however. On second and eight, Harrison walloped Flacco to force another incompletion. Antwon Blake was back in coverage on a deep ball that fell incomplete, forcing the Ravens to settle for a field goal, cutting the lead to 14-10.
From the 20, Brown crossed the middle for a nice gain, getting out of bounds with 1:38 remaining in the half at the 38. Roethlisberger’s pass for Bell had a chance of being picked off. On second down, Lance Moore caught a short pass to set up third and six. Bell was hit on the run for the first down, and nearly broke free, but was tripped up by the linebacker by the foot. The Steelers called their second timeout.
From the 47, Roethlisberger uncorked one deep to Markus Wheaton, who got behind the cornerback for an easy touchdown, extending their lead to 21-10. After a botched hold on the extra point try, Wing picked up the ball and found Matt Spaeth for a two-point conversion.
with less then 50 seconds remaining, Flacco’s first pass was incomplete under pressure. Arthur Moats, who forced the first fumble, sacked the quarterback on second down. The Ravens ran a draw to end the half trailing by 11.