It’s very hard to place the majority of the blame in a team loss on one player, but Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens falls largely on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a lackluster offensive performance with a playoff birth on the line.
Roethlisberger picked a horrible time to turn in arguably the worst performance of his career.
The veteran quarterback threw for just 215 yards, but added two interceptions and nearly had a third one that was negated by a pre-snap penalty.
Right from the start Roethlisberger struggled to get into rhythm with his receivers, which ended up costing him later in the game as the Ravens emulated the Seattle Seahawks’ approach to covering Antonio Brown.
Due to the coverage scheme of the Ravens, Roethlisberger should have been looking to get Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton involved to open up space for Brown, but he failed to do that and forced far too many throws to Brown, resulting in two interceptions and the near third.
Running Back: A
I have no qualms with the way DeAngelo Williams was used against the Ravens, especially when you look at the 6.7 yards-per-touch.
Williams came out strong to start the game, rushing for 80 yards on just eight carries in the first quarter, but from there he carried the ball just nine times the rest of the way for 20 yards and two touchdowns.
With the way Roethlisberger was struggled, you’d think that the Steelers would have leaned heavily on Williams. Choosing not to do so really cost the Steelers.
Wide Receiver: C
Antonio Brown was very active in this game hauling in seven passes for 61 yards. He likely should have had a touchdown but replay reviews overturned the call. Brown also had a catch not count in the second half despite appearing to get two feet down inbounds with control.
Outside of Brown, Wheaton had an off game compared to what he had been doing over the last few weeks opposite of Brown and Bryant. The third-year receiver hauled in just three passes for 41 yards.
The biggest disappointment out of the group was Bryant, who continues to struggle to make the tough catches, including a dropped 3rd and 15 bomb from Roethlisberger with the game on the line.
Bryant caught just one pass for six yards (a wide receiver screen) in his disappointing game against Baltimore.
Tight End: B
Heath Miller returned to form (slightly) for the Steelers in the middle of the field, hauling in five passes for 49 yards, going over 500 yards receiving on the year for the ninth straight season.
However, Miller struggled at times in protection and wasn’t able to provide Pittsburgh with a viable threat in the middle of the field to take some pressure off of the receivers outside of the hash marks.
Along with Miller, Jesse James recorded one catch for three yards (a tight end screen on the opening drive) in the loss. He wasn’t a factor at all, but neither was the rest of the passing game in this game.
Offensive Line: B-
Outside of Alejandro Villanueva and Cody Wallace’s struggles in pass protection, the Steelers offensive line was good enough to give Roethlisberger plenty of time to make some plays against Baltimore.
Unfortunately, the time allowed Roethlisberger to try and take shots and force throws instead of taking what the Ravens defense was giving him.
Villanueva was beaten cleanly at times by Za’Darius Smith and Timmy Jernigan, while Wallace struggled with the size, strength and speed of Brandon Williams inside.
While the offensive line wasn’t as good as they have been for much of the year, the unit wasn’t the big issue against Baltimore.
Defensive Line: B
Sure, the numbers look good against the run in terms of tackles: Cameron Heyward (six tackles) and Stephon Tuitt(six tackles) were strong against the run, but neither was able to generate much of a pass rush, which hindered the defense’s ability to slow down the short-to-intermediate passing game that Ryan Mallett used to pick the apart.
It was a poor, pathetic performance for this unit, mainly from the outside linebackers.
The group of Jarvis Jones, James Harrison, Arthur Moats and Bud Dupree rarely put any pressure on Mallett Sunday, registering just two quarterback hits against the Ravens quarterback who had been a member of the team for less than two weeks coming into the game.
Harrison is starting to show his age, while Moats is what he is: an average outside linebacker who is strong against the run but can’t rush the passer very well. It’s time for Dupree to step up, but there simply isn’t enough on the roster in this position to generate a feared pass rush.
That showed in a big way against Baltimore.
Defensive Backs: C
Missed tackles, blown coverages and — at times — poor coverage did in the Steelers defense in this game.
Mallett carved up Pittsburgh for a career-high 274 yards in Sunday’s win as Ross Cockrell, William Gay and Antwon Blake all missed tackles and turned in poor plays in coverage.
Add into the mix the complete miscommunication and lack of awareness down the seam by Mike Mitchell and Will Allen on Chris Matthews’ first quarter touchdown.
The secondary needs addressed from a talent perspective, and fast. No more excuses.