Ben Roethlisberger completed four passes on 10 attempts for 24 yards in the first half of today’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, a game in which the Pittsburgh Steelers trailed 17-7 at halftime, and in which those seven points were spotted by a defense that would then give up 17 unanswered.
Barely anything was working in the first half for the Steelers, at least after the early pick six, although James Conner was able to be somewhat effective, rushing for 42 yards on just nine first-half carries in a half in which the Ravens controlled the ball for over 20 minutes.
The second half was a different affair, with the Steelers offense putting up three touchdowns on the board, led by Roethlisberger in the passing game, who completed 16 of 21 pass attempts in the second half for 152 yards and touchdowns to Eric Ebron and Chase Claypool. Conner scored his fifth rushing touchdown of the season as well.
And what was the approach? Mostly no-huddle, according to the quarterback. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit, especially in the second half, to the receivers, tight ends”, he said in his post-game comments. “We literally were just—I was telling the line the protection, and moving guys around and playing backyard football, if you will”.
“I don’t know if we called too many quote-unquote ‘plays’ in the second half when we were in that mode”, he added in a comment that will no doubt be seized upon. “It was more, ‘hey, run this, run this, run this’, and that, to me, that’s just a credit to the receivers and [Eric] Ebron and the other guys that are just able to make plays”.
It was certainly not a glamor day for anybody on offense, but players like JuJu Smith-Schuster really came up big in ways that won’t be born out on a stat sheet, finishing the game with 67 yards on seven receptions from eight total targets. Ebron made some big catches among his four for 48 yards as well, even if he did have one drop. Claypool had a pretty quiet five-catch game for 42 yards despite the score.
This was the toughest defense that the Steelers faced all season, and it showed, even with Matt Judon being ejected in the first half. The Ravens’ cornerbacks are as physical as any team in the league, and it was a brawl out there—Marcus Peters and Diontae Johnson even getting into it at one point.
Some of their biggest plays were actually drawn pass interference penalties, which don’t show up on the stats sheet, but the Ravens were flagged nine times for 110 total yards, and those were important plays on key drives.
That’s the difference between backyard ball in the NFL and in the actual backyard. There are still rules. The Steelers used that to their advantage and were able to come back in a game that perhaps they shouldn’t have, or at least otherwise wouldn’t have, been able to win.