The Steelers and Ravens meet up for the first time of the season in just a short time from now. And one of the icons from this matchup’s history, James Harrison, will not even dressed. This has shocked many people, but it was rather predictable based on playing time and special teams contributions.
He is not the only notable inactive, however–actually, given that he has played just seven snaps in three games, removing the emotion from the equation, his being inactive is not really all that notable. But the absence of Marcus Gilbert for a second game in a row is. And the first game missed of Mike Mitchell’s four-year tenure with the Steelers is big.
With Antonio Brown back on punt duty, Pittsburgh also chose to sit Eli Rogers at wide receiver this week in favor of Justin Hunter, an arrangement that could become permanent, or we could have a two-dogs-one-bone situation on our hands going forward. The rest of the inactives are standard, though noteworthy that Matt Feiler has again dressed over Jerald Hawkins.
The Steelers won the coin toss and deferred. Following a touchback, Alex Collins found a hole around left guard for a long gain to the 48. Ryan Shazier knifed through the same hole on the next play for a loss of one. Off play action, Joe Flacco rolled out to his right to find Benjamin Watson, coming off an ankle injury, who picked up 10 yards, J.J. Wilcox with the stick to set up third and one. Buck Allen as the fullback got the carry to move the chains.
This time it was Bud Dupree with a tackle for loss, left unblocked and dropping Terrance West six yards behind the line. On second and 16, Flacco’s pass was a affected by Cameron Heyward hitting his arm, but Mike Wallace was able to come under it for six. Flacco’s third-down pass was off the receiver’s finger tips, thrown wide, and Mike Hilton had a shot at intercepting the pass but could not adjust quickly enough. The ensuing punt was downed inside the five.
The Steelers opened with B.J. Finney as a tackle-eligible, thus technically ‘starting’ the game. Le’Veon Bell got the carry up the middle for about three yards to the seven. Vance McDonald was on the field on first down, and Jesse James joined him on second down. Bell got the carry again for another few yards, setting up third and three. From the 10, Ben Roethlisberger rolled out and shovel passed to Bell for five yards and the successful conversion.
Bell’s fourth consecutive touch was stopped for no gain at the line of scrimmage. With Foster and McDonald leading the way to the right, Bell was able to pick up nine. On third and one, Terrell Watson checked in and got the first down.
Lardarius Webb was able to get to Roethlisberger for the sack and a loss of eight with Bell and Alejandro Villanueva both trying to occupy the edge rusher. James Conner checked in on the following play and found space off the left side of the offense with two tight ends on that side and David DeCastro pulling, the rookie getting to the 40. James for a screen also had space for 15 yards.
Roethlisberger stood in the pocket with a clean rush to shovel toss to Bell at the last second, allowing the back to pick up 15 yards as the Steelers began to move in chunks. Now at the Ravens’ 30, Bell was wrestled down off the right side for three yards. He added 16 on his longest run of the season to date off the right side, Maurkice Pouncey pulling on the play.
Now set up at the 12, Roethlisberger handed off to Conner, but the Ravens read the play and dropped him for a loss of two yards. Conner remained in as Bell was getting looked at on the sideline. On second and 12, Chris Hubbard was flagged for a false start. Now back at the 19, Bell, back in, could only pick up two yards. The Steelers now face third and 15 from the 17. On the play, Roethlisberger threw a screen to McDonald that was short of the first down, but David DeCastro was flagged for a hold, which the Ravens accepted rather than making the Steelers settle for a field goal. On third and 25 back at the 27, Roethlisberger completed to Brown, but only for about 15 yards. Chris Boswell’s field goal gave them an early 3-0 lead.
Collins was also the kick returner for the Ravens, who brought the ball out to the 22. Michael Campanaro, a wide receiver by trade, got the carry for just a couple of yards to close out the first quarter. West bounced off a hit from Cameron Heyward up the middle, hitting the edge for six yards to set up third and two. Sean Davis was able to get a hand in front of the third-down pass to force a three and out for the defense. Brown signaled for a fair catch at the 30.
After a holding penalty, the Steelers were forced to begin with a first and 18 from the 22. After a short run from Bell and a completion to Brown, it was third and four, Roethlisberger under pressure could not get the ball to Bell, who likely would have been short. Brown was wide open on the play, but Roethlisberger could not see him. Wilcox was held on the ensuing punt, but still induced a fair catch. As a result, the Ravens were backed up in their own end.
Starting off at the 10, Flacco looked deep for Wallace, who dropped the ball in coverage against Artie Burns, who was behind the play. A short pass to Campanaro over the middle picked up six or seven to set up a manageable third down. On third and four, Flacco fumbled the football and the rusher smelled blood, with Heyward the one to eventually get to him for the sack as he flushed to his left. The Ravens have to punt from their 5.5-yard line after a delay of game as well. A whistle from the stands blew the punt dead. This time Koch got off a better punt for over 50 yards, Brown able to return it back to Ravens territory at around the 45 or so.
Jimmy Smith for the Ravens was temporarily out of the game. From the 46, Roethlisberger looked deep in Brown’s direction but falling incomplete and long. He was bracketed on the play. On second and 10, Bell picked up about seven on a draw to the left. Now third and three, on the possession down trying not to waste quality starting field position, the Ravens jumped offside.
The penalty moved the ball to the 34-yard line. Roethlisberger’s pass was batted at the line by Willie Henry, the same player who jumped offside. Bell again on the draw, he was limited to about three yards, though approaching the 30-yard line in field goal range. On third and seven, Roethlisberger looked to JuJu Smith-Schuster, converting and gaining extra yardage up the right sideline, working off of Webb in the slot.
After the 19-yard gain, set up at the 12, Bell was thrown down for a big loss of four yards. After the play, a number of flags dropped, flagging Villanueva for unnecessary roughness, headbutting a Raven. That penalty dropped the Steelers all the way back to the 31. Martavis Bryant got tied up with Tony Jefferson on a long b all, with both players ending up on the ground. On third and 29, he took a shot long for Justin Hunter, but the pass was just a bit too long. Boswell from 49 yards connected to give the Steelers a 6-0 lead, an offside penalty being declined.
Collins returned the kick out of the end zone, again to the 22, though he did make a couple of tacklers miss. He did pick up six on the ensuing offensive play. Collins somehow slipped through the middle of the defense before the edge rushers closed in on him in the backfield for a first down. From the 32, Shazier hit Collins in the backfield, ensuing hits knocking the ball loose, by Heyward, and the Steelers recovered.
Now with the ball at the Ravens’ 29, Roethlisberger looked to McDonald on first down over the middle, who…dropped the ball. Real shame. And then a false start on DeCastro. Roethlisberger found James for an 18-yard completion to move the chains. Bell was stuffed looking to go up the middle on the next play. After a timeout, Conner checked in and was able to get eight to set up a third and short. Hubbard out in front with a good block. On third and two, Bell got the ball and punched it home, getting about six down to the one, getting into the end zone on the next play. With a 12-0 lead, the offense came out to try a two-point conversion.
After another kick return short of the 25, a couple of short plays put the Ravens in a third and two. Watson was slow to get up after the second play. Stephon Tuitt was the first one there to drop the back for a loss of three.
With still 2:13 to play and two timeouts, the offense got the ball again from the 30. Bell was able to gain three on a draw after looking like he may lose yardage. On the other side of the two-minute warning, he was stopped on the draw again, but this time Smith-Schuster was docked for an illegal block in the back, his fourth penalty of the year and his third as a blocker. Now second and 16, Roethlisberger was able to dump it off the Bell with space on the right side, Bryant throwing his hat into the blocking arena, allowing Bell to pick up the first down.
From the 42-yard line, Roethlisberger to Bryant for a short five-yard pickup. Bell on another draw was dropped for a short loss. Now third and six, he found Bryant again working against Marlon Humphrey on a crossing route, making the catch in traffic for 26 yards. The pair hooked up again down the field for about 20. At first and 10 at the 11, Hunter in the game, Roethlisberger lofted one up, perhaps thrown away. Bryant back in over Hunter, Roethlisberger pump faked right and found Smith-Schuster open inside the five, walking in for his second touchdown of the season. This time the offense went for two, rolling right and trying to drop it short to Brown’s outside shoulder. Looked like it was catchable, but incomplete.
With 38 seconds remaining in the half, the Ravens were able to get to about midfield with six seconds left after a few plays. Picking up six or seven with two seconds remaining, Justin Tucker checked in to attempt a 62-yard field goal. The All-Pro was wide right and short, Joe Haden fielding it to return it, but not getting very far. The Steelers will get the ball to start the third quarter.