Want to know why the Pittsburgh Steelers had such a better game this time around against the Baltimore Ravens than last time? winning possession downs. It’s that simple. The Ravens were great on third down in the first game, both offensively and defensively. Yesterday, it was the Steelers’ turn.
The Ravens only converted four of 12 attempts on third down during the game, none of which, if I’m not mistaken came in the second half in a one-possession game. Conversely, the Steelers’ offense converted on 10 of their 16 third-down opportunities, or 62.5 percent, often coming at big moments.
The Steelers’ first third-down opportunity came on third and 10 from the Ravens’ 42-yard line. My guess is that they wanted to try to get into field goal range, giving a draw to James Conner, but he only picked up four yards, so Ben Roethlisberger ended up pooch punting.
It worked out a little better on their second try, however. Facing third and goal from the seven at the end of the first quarter, he found Conner with space, taking it into the end zone for the score. That’s a third-and-long conversion right there.
The Steelers came back on their next drive to convert on third and one. They failed on third and one three plays later but chose to go for the fourth-down play and Roethlisberger connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster, then picking up 12, 17 and finally six yards for the score.
They put together a long drive to start the second half that took up over eight minutes of clock, and they had to convert on third down three times in the process, all of them from six yards or more. Roethlisberger completed passes to Ryan Switzer, Antonio Brown, and Smith-Schuster all for conversions before he ran a quarterback sneak on first and goal from the one to go up 20-6 at the time.
From that point on, the primary objective was running out the game clock, which was what a nine-yard completion to Smith-Schuster from the Ravens’ 19-yard line accomplished even though they would only get a field goal out of it three plays later.
And that was the story of their final possession as well, regaining the ball following a Ravens touchdown that made it a one-possession game with 5:23 to play. They faced third down three times on the drive and converted twice with five and four yards to go on passes to Brown and Smith-Schuster, respectively.
The final play was a third and 10 after Conner carried the ball twice for a net of zero yards. With 1:45 to play and the Ravens having just depleted their final timeout, they were in a situation in which if they converted they would seal the game.
Either way, a ball in play would keep the clock moving, so Roethlisberger decided rather than forcing a ball for a possible incompletion that wasn’t guaranteed, he would take a sack. Had they actually needed the first down, perhaps the play might have gone differently. After all, they had plenty of success up to that point.