The Pittsburgh Steelers resume their quest for a Lombardi Trophy just a short time from now, and even regardless of the week off, we have a lot to talk about. For starters, Ben Roethlisberger is active. Cool. How will he play? Markus Wheaton is supposedly healthy, but inactive. Why? William Gay dresses…but so does Al-Hajj Shabazz, while Justin Gilbert sits. So Sammie Coates is back returning kicks again?
And why is Roosevelt Nix inactive? The only one of these seemingly healthy scratch moves that I can make sense of is sitting L.J. Fort over Steven Johnson, who over the last three or four games has earned his game-day helmet with six special teams tackles and a forced fumble.
Meanwhile, for the Baltimore Ravens, the inactive list isn’t quite as inactive as hoped, with the real notable inactives being Shareece Wright, which was expected, and Elvis Dumervil, which was also likely. Among those suiting up who might not have are Steve Smith and Lardarius Webb. The Steelers would have had an easier time of it without them.
The Steelers received the ball first with Coates as one of the deep men, as expected, but the kickoff was fielded for a touchback. As they’ve done several times, they opened with three tight ends, but went empty set. The Ravens brought pressure and Roethlisberger scrambled to his right, throwing the ball away. On second down, Le’Veon Bell was stacked up after about half a yard. A draw run was stopped after two yards. B.J. Finney was in for Maurkice Pouncey. Jordan Berry‘s punt traveled just 28 yard before going out of bounds at the Ravens’ 44.
Right off the bat, Terrance West found a crease, but Jarvis Jones was able to trip after eight yards. Across midfield, Joe Flacco‘s throw to Smith was incomplete, not anticipating the throw and slipping. On third and two, West punched through to move the chains.
Kenneth Dixon this time picked up five yards off the right side, with Anthony Chickillo making the tackle. Jones made the tackle on Dixon to set up a third and short. Flacco’s pass was off the hands of Dennis Pitta. Rather than take the fourth down, the Steelers accepted an illegal hands to the face penalty to make it third and 12. It turned out to be the right decision, as the defense was able to draw an incompletion. Antonio Brown fielded the punt inside the 15.
Finney remained in. With David Johnson in the backfield, Bell picked up two yards. Pouncey is dealing with a finger injury. On second and eight, Bell was given the draw run for a pickup of about three. On third and five, Roethlisberger looked in Darrius Heyward-Bey‘s direction down the field, but nearly threw an interception to Webb. He took a hard hit from Terrell Suggs on the play as well. Berry’s second punt was much better, but Devin Hester added a 15-yard return to bring it beyond the Ravens’ 35.
Jones stayed true on the misdirection to tackle Chris Moore on the end around after a two-yard gain, but he injured his arm on the tackle. On the following play, Smith took a pass over the middle ans stiff-armed Mike Mitchell for a 30-yard gain. A quick pass to Mike Wallace added another first down. Ryan Shazier spun West down after a reception for six yards. Stephon Tuitt caught West from behind for a loss of one. On third and five, Flacco found a stationary Kamar Aiken, who caught the ball twice, but an illegal shift penalty negated the play. Now third and 10, Flacco was put under pressure and threw an interception to Artie Burns while looking for his tight end.
From the 24, Roethlisberger from an empty set threw early to Jesse James, who was not ready for the pass and dropped it. He sidestepped a rusher to check it down to Johnson, who picked up 15 yards and the Steelers’ first first down. After a delay of game, he found James this time for six yards over the middle. A false start preceded a second and 14 play, a misdirection screen to Bell for 10 yards. On third and four, Roethlisberger took the draw but was stuffed for no gain. Another Berry punt was saved from the end zone on a great effort by Shamarko Thomas to pin Baltimore back deep.
From the four, Dixon was stood up after a yard through the middle. Wallace made a fantastic catch just out of the reach of Burns, but Mitchell proceeded to take a poor angle, and the former Steeler’s speed handled the rest, as the secondary just gave up a 95-yard touchdown and allowed a massive ‘screw you’ to all the Pittsburgh fans who derided his abilities since he left. In doing so, he gave Baltimore the 7-0 lead.
Roethlisberger targeted Antonio Brown on first down, and looked like he could have had it, but a pass interference flag helped to explain why he didn’t come down with it. Bell was able to get by the first defender on a short pass, but the defense had converged after just a gain of a yard. On second and nine, he picked up four yards on the ground up the middle. Pouncey checked back in the start the second quarter, but Roethlisberger’s third-down pass was off-line to his receiver. Yet another Berry punt was fielded by Steven Johnson at the 16.
Shazier annihilated the Ravens’ first play, penetrating the gap and getting a helmet on the ball with West carrying. he fumbled, but the Ravens recovered at the three for a loss of 13. West got nine back on second down, however. On third and 14, a short pass to Pitta picked up just six. Brown returned the punt for eight yards for a 40-yard net, giving Pittsburgh good field position.
From the 41, the Ravens swarmed Bell in the backfield for a loss of three, even with a stiff-arm, but the real damage came on a 15-yard facemask penalty on Bell. On first and 25, a short pass to James added seven yards. Looking long for Eli Rogers, Roethlisberger’s pass was nearly intercepted by C.J. Mosley. The third-and-18 deep ball to Heyward-Bey was off his outstretched hand, and the receiver remained down after the play with a lower body injury. Berry’s punt was a bit short and Hester returned it on a hop, but a defender blocking Thomas out of bounds drew a flag.
Of course that was instantly negated by a facemask penalty on first down on Tuitt on a short run that should have gone for a loss if not for about five missed tackles. Up to the 28, a quick toss to Dixon picked up four. A short gain the following play yielded a first down due to a hands to the face penalty on Javon Hargrave.
Burns was there to hit West as he was trying to bring in a swing pass and forced an incompletion, popping the ball up. On second down, West was stopped after two up the middle. On third and eight, Smith and Burns tussled for control of a ball that the veteran came up with, but a penalty negated the third-down conversion. Now third and 18, the Steelers stopped the fullback dive. The Steelers nearly blocked the kick, but drew a roughing the kicker penalty instead on fourth and long.
A short pass to Smith gained three yards. Dixon added another three.On third and four, Flacco looked deep, but too long for Breshad Perriman, with Burns in coverage. The punt was downed at the seven. Two short runs and a check-down on third down to Bell stopped short of the first down marker resulted in a three-and-out drive. Berry’s punt did boom out to the 30 with no return.
Following a short run and an incompletion, Flacco on third and eight threw short of the chains to Perriman, who was stopped after about six yards. Brown watched the punt bounce out of bounds at the 17. After a short pass to Brown and a short run by Bell, a false start penalty preceded the third-down play. Roethlisberger floated a leading pass to Bell that was off-target, so…another punt, deep from Steelers territory. Berry’s punt got a friendly roll down to the 25, downed by Steven Johnson.
The Raven converted a third and three with a short pass to Smith, but with 39 seconds left as they used their last timeout. A quick pass to Smith drew a penalty on Burns in coverage. Another quick hitter in front of Burns to Perriman went for a first down to the 37. Back to Perriman over the middle for 11, Flacco spiked the ball with 22 seconds left, in field goal range as he continued attacking Burns. Lawrence Timmons was able to get his arm out to deflect a pass intended for Aiken that would have scored. On third down, a blitz got Flacco to throw the ball away, but James Harrison was held on the rush, backing the Ravens up. Now third and 20, from the 36, Flacco’s pass to Smith at the sideline was incomplete. Justin Tucker rushed onto the field for a 54-yard field goal attempt, but a 12 men on the field penalty on Pittsburgh made it a 49-yarder. Tucker hit from 49 yards, but Thomas jumped offsides anyway. It was of course declined, and the Ravens took a 10-0 into halftime, getting the ball in the third.