The Pittsburgh Steelers entered Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens with the second-ranked defense in the league in terms of yardage allowed per game and per rush. Considering that they had played some of the toughest rushing offenses in the league in back to back weeks, they had a good argument to the title for best rushing defense in the NFL.
They abdicated their crown in embarrassing fashion on Sunday, with the Ravens showing them who is the top rushing team in the NFL—and doing so without their top running back, Mark Ingram, who was a Pro Bowler last season in his first year with the team, when they set a record for the most rushing yards in a season.
The Ravens put up a stunning 179 rushing yards in just the first half alone, with three players accounting for 50-plus yards each. Rookie J.K. Dobbins had 69 yards on just eight attempts, while Gus Edwards accounted for 56 on six rushing attempts. Lamar Jackson added 54 on 10 rushes as well. As a group, they averaged 6.4 yards per rush.
As a reminder, the Steelers entered the game having allowed just 68.8 yards on the ground per game through the first six games of the season, despite having played Saquon Barkley in week one, followed by the Cleveland Browns and the Tennessee Titans in the past two games.
They had only allowed one team to rush for 100 or more yards in a game up to this point. Only two teams had at least 90, and just three with more than 75. Twice, they held opponents below 30 rushing yards for an entire game.
The Ravens seemingly averaged that many rushing yards per drive. And when they needed it most, after falling dormant for most of the first half, they were back to completely embarrassing the Steelers’ defense on the ground in the second half of the fourth quarter.
Pittsburgh had just taken back the lead when Baltimore turned the ball over back to the ground game, which they had gotten away from a bit in the second half. Dobbins continued to be their lead runner, and he went over 100 yards for a first down deep in Steelers territory as Cameron Heyward checked out of the game, shaken up due to injury.
This was all in spite of the fact that they lost two offensive linemen in the first half. Granted, the Steelers had some injuries as well, with Tyson Alualu checking out of the game early, but the Ravens put up far more yards on the ground against the Steelers than any other team had this season.
Fortunately, the defense finally buckled down after that in the red zone, with Heyward checking back in. It came down to a 4th-and-3 play, with Jackson running up the gut, the Steelers stopping him short (and forcing a fumble as well) by just a yard, turning the ball over at the six-yard line with under two minutes to play, trailing by four. It still came down to one final possession, but the defense gutted it out and held on.
In all, the Ravens put up an absurd 265 rushing yards against the Steelers, averaging 5.6 yards per carry on 47 attempts, but they came up one yard short when it mattered most.