Steelers vs Ravens Wildcard Game First Half Notes And Observations

Below are my notes and observations of the first half from the final game of the season for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their 30-17 Wildcard loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

  • The Steelers opened up the game with three tight ends and Ben Tate in the backfield. He got the carry on first down, but found little room off the right side.
  • On second down, Ben Roethlisberger went right back to him through the air for about four yards.
  • On third down, Markus Wheaton came across the formation and did an excellent job of fighting through contact as Elvis Dumervil came off to pressure the quarterback, making himself available and moving the chains.
  • The ball went back to Tate after that, behind a nice seal block by Ramon Foster. He rolled through a Daryl Smith tackle for seven yards. After another nice run, of course, he fumbled, picked up by Antonio Brown. And on came Josh Harris.
  • Both Kelvin Beachum and Heath Miller failed to get any push for Harris’ first carry off left end that gained nothing. Both players struggled mightily in the run blocking department against the Ravens’ front seven.
  • Roethlisberger slid out of pressure to his left, but led Wheaton too far down the field for an incompletion. Brown made up for it, however, by catching a screen pass behind him and fighting for the 10 yards for the first down.
  • After Roethlisberger was sacked on second down, Miller couldn’t hang on to a pass, which could have put the Steelers in field goal range. Instead, Brad Wing came on to punt, and he pinned the Ravens down at the seven.
  • The defense got off to a good start, with Steve McLendon blowing center Jeremy Zuttah off the ball on second down, resulting in Joe Flacco tripping over his foot. He went down and Jason Worilds was the first to tag him to get credit for the ‘sack’.
  • On third and 15, James Harrison drove the rookie undrafted left tackle back into the end zone, forcing Flacco to scramble and coming up well short of the first.
  • On his second carry of the day, on second and two, Harris displayed an encouraging north-south mentality to work through contact for a first down. But he was bottled up against a stacked box on the next play.
  • Roethlisberger went to Martavis Bryant on back to back plays, first on a screen in which he smartly got outside for seven yards, and then showing ball awareness on a back shoulder throw, bringing in the ball with his hands to secure the first down.
  • Roethlisberger was under pressure on the next play, and it was all he could to dump the ball off to Harris, whose valiant effort on the play netted zero yards just to get back to the line of scrimmage.
  • It was Dri Archer getting a carry on the next play, and he misread his block, going outside instead of inside a Miller block on Terrell Suggs, who wound up burying him and knocking off his helmet for a loss.
  • Dumervil made Marcus Gilbert look silly on third down for another sack, but Shaun Suisham still connected for the first points of the game.
  • The Steelers were fairly successful containing Jacoby Jones in this game, though he tripped on his first return here short of the 20.
  • On the first play of the drive, Harrison got around the corner and grazed Flacco’s jersey, but he still got off a pass deep down the field to Jones. Brice McCain had good coverage, but Mike Mitchell was flagged for unnecessary roughness that put the Ravens on the 35.
  • Flacco rolled out to find Owen Daniels for an 18-yard connection. That would be a theme.
  • It was on this drive that Justin Forsett began gashing the Steelers defense for three big carries, but Bernard Pierce was the one who got into the end zone against the nickel defense from the five. Harrison was cut on the play as the left tackle stepped out to harass Mitchell at the second level and Kelechi Osemele got just enough of Cameron Heyward to win the edge.
  • On the first third down play of the Steelers’ ensuing drive, Roethlisberger bought himself some time with a pump fake before spinning to his right out of contact, getting just enough on the pass with Dumervil scraping his arm to get it out to Miller over 20 yards down the field, turning it into a 30-yard gain.
  • Roethlisberger didn’t get enough on a pass to Brown in the end zone for a touchdown, as the safety had time to recover and push him out of bounds.
  • The Steelers caught a break when the Ravens were flagged for having 12 men on the field on fourth down.
  • But despite having first and goal, they still had to settle for a field goal as Roethlisberger was sacked on first down.
  • The veteran Steve Smith ran a deep cross between two verticals to get open for a 23-yard gain early in the Ravens’ responding drive.
  • And then Worilds threw an open-hand punch. Smart.
  • Harrison nearly got to Flacco two plays later to force an incompletion, but another third down conversion to Daniels got the Ravens to the 11.
  • The defense stepped up on first and second down, however, and William Gay’s leaping deflection in the front of the end zone on third down saved four points.
  • In the two-minute offense, Roethlisberger started slinging the ball, connecting on five straight passes before missing on two as the Steelers had to settle for another field goal at the end of the first half.
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