The Pittsburgh Steelers are riding a three-game winning streak heading into today’s big game versus the Ravens, a game in which they can really separate themselves from the team and also secure a winning divisional record. Baltimore has lost its past two games, and three of the last four since they beat the Steelers back in Week Four.
The Ravens will be without both of their starting tackles, while the Steelers will be without their right tackle, Marcus Gilbert. The two sides are otherwise healthy, in terms of being able to dress, but several players are coming off of injuries, including Artie Burns and Coty Sensabaugh for the Steelers and Marlon Humphrey and Alex Lewis for the Ravens.
James Washington is dressed today after being a healthy scratch a week ago as Justin Hunter goes back to the inactive list. The other inactives are predictable, Mason Rudolph, Marcus Gilbert (injury), Zach Banner, L.T. Walton, Marcus Allen, and Brian Allen.
The Ravens started off on offense, and quickly set up a third and nine, Javon Hargrave making the run stop on second and 10. But Joe Flacco found Mark Andrews, the rookie tight end, for a 20-yard gain on the possession down, Morgan Burnett getting picked in coverage. Picked, not picked on. Gus Edwards ran for 10 yards across midfield on the following play.
Lamar Jackson came in and handed the ball to Edwards, the two messing up the exchange and fumbling, losing three yards. With T.J. Watt coming in, Stephon Tuitt ended up with the sack, but he was flagged for being offside. Flacco had to throw the ball away as Cameron Heyward nearly sacked him on the next play. Now third and eight, Flacco’s pass was at the feet of Michael Crabtree, a weak throw under pressure. Sam Koch’s punt bounced into the end zone for a touchback.
On the first offensive play of the game, Ben Roethlisberger swung the ball out to the flat for James Conner for a gain of five yards. He found a hole for eight yards on the ground on second down. Now out to the 33, the blocking got him out to the right end for a 25-yarder, David DeCastro leading the way and JuJu Smith-Schuster blocking downfield.
At the Ravens’ 42, Roethlisberger tried play action to get the ball to Vance McDonald, but it was tipped away. After a couple of pump fakes, he threw the ball away on second down. Now third and 10, it was a handoff to Conner for just four yards, yet the offense stayed on the field on fourth and six. Roethlisberger punted the ball, returned by Eric Weddle out to the 29-yard line. So he’s running quarterback sneaks, throwing stiff-arms, AND punting again this year.
Alex Collins was limited to three yards on first down. Flacco connected with Crabtree for 14 to move the chains. Out to the 45, he hit Chris Moore down the seam for a big gain, making a great catch over Burnett for 30 yards, down toe the Steelers’ 25.
Jackson checked in and was stopped for a short gain. Buck Allen added five to set up third and four. Collins got free for a first-down run to the 10, setting up first and goal.
Mike Hilton was in coverage on Andrews, the ball going to the tight end, but the cornerback nearly intercepted the underthrown ball. On second down, Collins picked up nearly six. Now third and goal from inside the five, Flacco missed Jackson wide open, instead throwing the ball away out of the back of the end zone. Justin Tucker gave the Ravens the first points of the game and a 3-0 lead.
Ryan Switzer gave the Steelers great starting field position on a return out to the 39. Roethlisberger fired too early to Washington incomplete on first down, but found Antonio Brown for 11 on the following play. Smith-Schuster got one over the middle for nine. On second and one across midfield, he got it again on a wide-open crosser for 18 yards.
Roethlisberger found Washington off play action for eight yards. Conner added three to give them a first down in the red zone. From the 12, Roethlisberger nearly threw an interception trying to force a pas to Jesse James after about eight seconds of possession and nobody open. On second down, Conner got a short toss for five yards, setting up third and five from the six-yard line. Roethlisberger got the ball out for Conner, into the end zone, scoring his 10th touchdown of the year and the first through the air, giving the Steelers a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After a first down, Hilton tackled Collins behind the line of scrimmage to begin the second quarter. Jackson got a pitch on a sweep for a gain of two yards. Now third and 10, Sean Davis was immediate on the tackle of John Brown after just a five-yard gain to force a three-and-out.
From the 25, Roethlisberger’s first pass was tipped incomplete, but he found McDonald for the first down one play later for 13. This time he looked to have lost the ball looking over the middle, unsure of his target. But he found Washington for his second catch and a nine-yard gain for a nice hands catch. On third and one, it was Conner for three to move the chains and hit midfield.
They stayed on the ground, but Conner was limited to less than a yard. This time Conner got the short toss, picking up nine to set up another third and one. From the 41, Out of 01 personnel, Roethlisberger’s pass to Switzer was too low, under pressure. After a timeout, the Steelers went for it, and Smith-Schuster beat Jimmy Smith for the catch out of the slot, down to the 35.
Conner navigated traffic out of the tackle box for an 12-yard run inside the 25. After buying time, Roethlisberger hit Conner in open space for a big gain to set up first and goal again. At the six, a flat screen to Brown resulted in a score after the receiver forced a missed tackle, giving the Steelers a 14-3 lead and making them 17 out of 22 in the red zone on the season.
Following a good punt return, Terrell Edmunds was flagged for pass interference on a deep ball that quickly got the Ravens into Steelers territory. At the Steelers’ 30, Flacco connected with Andrews for nine. Jackson up the middle added another nine inside the 20, to the 12. Off play action, Flacco just missed Crabtree for the score against Sensabaugh on a tipped ball. On second goal, Collins found room for nine yards to the three. Jackson kept the ball and Hilton took him down for a loss. Tucker added another field goal to make it 14-6 and bring it back to a one-possession game.
Starting from the 25, Jaylen Samuels in the game, Roethlisberger threw too long for Brown up the right sideline. He rolled out to his right and threw to his left to hit Brown for eight, setting up third and short. A quick toss to Switzer for his first catch in weeks moved the chains.
Switzer got a quick pass again for three yards on a bubble screen. Off play action, Roethlisberger couldn’t keep the ball inbounds to Brown, but Anthony Levine was flagged for defensive holding, giving the Steelers a first down.
At the 46, Roethlisberger scrambled for a few yards, brought down by Matthew Judon, probably in part to avoid stopping the clock to hit the two-minute warning. From the 48, Roethlisberger had Smith-Schuster for a nice gain, but dropped the ball. A play to circle. Judon pressured Roethlisberger into an incompletion on third down, resulting in the Ravens getting the ball back with 1:49 to play.
Flacco beat the blitz on first down to get the ball to Snead, Joe Haden missing the tackle for a nice gain. After an incompletion on second down, following a false start, a quick pass to Allen added just three. Now third and 12, Bud Dupree got the pressure against Jermain Eluemenor, drawing a hold, but the defense stopped the play anyway, declining to get the ball back with a minute to play and two timeouts.
Starting from the 15 with 49 seconds on the clock, Roethlisberger threw a short pass to McDonald, Tavon Young ripping the ball out and returning it into the end zone. It was ruled an interception on the field, but McDonald was down for a long time before the ball ever came out. An awful on-field ruling that was quickly overturned. Conner dropped a high pass on second down, his second drop in as many weeks. Popped up and nearly intercepted. Now third and nine, Conner got the carry and picked up 10 yards.
After the first down, Roethlisberger used play action to get the ball to McDonald, but he dropped the ball as he turned to run. Now they run the draw again for five yards to end the half, the Steelers getting the ball back to start the third.