The Pittsburgh Steelers lost a must-win game against the division-rival Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, falling by a final score of 16-14. While the run defense got gashed on the ground, plenty will point to the poor play of QB Mitch Trubisky as the catalyst that sealed the Steelers’ fate in this game. Trubisky came in for Kenny Pickett who suffered a concussion and was ruled out for the game, proceeding to throw for 276 yards and a TD, but threw three INTs which ended several promising Pittsburgh offensive drives inside Ravens’ territory.
Plenty of people took to Twitter after Trubisky’s first INT shown above that was picked off by LB Roquan Smith, blaming WR Steven Sims for running the wrong route and throwing off the spacing of the play. Trubisky defended his receiver yesterday in his post-game press conference, stating that he thought that Sims was in the right spot on the play, but had to go back and check the film to make sure.
However, per Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Brian Batko who spoke with Sims in the locker room Monday, the wide receiver owned up to his mistake yesterday against the Ravens, telling Batko that he should have run his route shallower and that the interception by Trubisky was indeed his fault despite his quarterback defending him yesterday after the game.
So, we have more context on Trubisky’s first INT which was more controversial than his next two picks in the game. However, Ravens ILB Patrick Queen provided more insight after the game to Trubisky’s second INT that he nabbed dropping into coverage in the middle of the field, stepping in front of Freiermuth for the pick.
“Yeah, I saw two wide receivers to my right and saw #88 [Pat Freiermuth] lined up in the slot in the trips,” Queen said to the media Sunday after the game on video from the Ravens team website. “I just knew that with so many routes that he runs, I just knew once I saw Mitch [Trubisky] check his way, drop back, I just knew he was going to run an over route, so I just got back and made a play.”
It appears that Queen knew exactly where Freiermuth was going based on his alignment in the formation and how he started his route which resulted in him stepping in front of Freiermuth to nab Trubisky’s second INT of the game. This falls in-line with Bengals LB Germaine Pratt’s previous comments that the Steelers like to run the “same plays over and over” after beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh just a few weeks ago. When you go back to that specific game, you actually see Freiermuth run the over route on the right side of the formation, resembling the exact play that Queen mentioned.
Dave Bryan of Steelers Depot has since pointed out another example of Freiermuth running a similar concept over the middle of the field against the Philadelphia Eagles where Pickett overthrew the pass to Freiermuth which resulted in an interception in the end zone.
While some may defend Trubisky’s first INT against the Ravens because of Sims’ mistake and now look to blame the offensive scheme for Trubisky’s second INT, Trubisky still is the one throwing the football and admitted after the game that he must do a better job taking care of the football and not being overly aggressive, especially considering Pittsburgh was within scoring range on two of his picks.
Whenever you turn the ball over in a football game, you make it difficult to close the game out in victory. The Pittsburgh Steelers know this all too well, being 5-1 when they don’t turn the football over and 0-7 when they do per Alex Kozora. Throwing three INTs in any game will likely be a death sentence for any hope of winning a football game, and just like in Week 4 against the Jets and Week 7 against the Dolphins, the Steelers lost (albeit a close one) to the Ravens throwing three INTs where one less pick could have been the difference between victory and defeat.