Steelers Turning Point: Sink or Swim

Following each game in the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers season, I will highlight the event or string of events in the game that is the turning point. Not all turning points will be earth-shattering but are meant to give a unique look at how we arrived at the outcome of the game, one that may be hard to see during the first live watch.

The Steelers have had a few games this season that have slipped through their fingers. None were worse than Sunday against their hated AFC-North rival Baltimore Ravens. When these two teams meet, records, weather conditions, injuries, etc. it doesn’t matter. It’s going to be a close game and every point matters.

That’s why the result Sunday simply hurt more. The Steelers had ample opportunities to put points on the board and failed to do so. In fact, as former Steelers Depot contributor, Daniel Valente, pointed out, the team had four possessions in Baltimore’s territory that came away with zero points.

To have that realization, when the Ravens only won by two points, couldn’t be more frustrating. Within that tweet, hides the turning point. Let’s begin to set the stage. Even with all the missed opportunities, the Steelers were simply one play away. Deep in the third quarter they were only down 13-7 when backup quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, threw his third and final interception. While you’d never want to punt the ball on first down, his interception did enact as a great punt, putting the Ravens at the one-yard line after safety Marcus Williams gained possession there before his momentum carried him into the end zone.

Did I mention the Steelers’ offense wasn’t the only one to not take advantage of opportunities? With the Ravens’ offense backed up against their own goalline, they allowed an 11-yard run from JK Dobbins a play after being backed up against their own goal-line, significantly taking the pressure off.

On the very next play, known Ravens-killer, Chris Wormley, was able to knock the ball loose at the 16-yard line, but due to some bad bounces, it was ruled “dual possession” by the referees and given back to Baltimore.

This play was ripe to be the turning point of the game and fell just short. These are the types of timely, game-changing plays Pittsburgh’s defense has made in the past that have defined the Steelers-Ravens rivalry, but today wasn’t Pittsburgh’s day. Even though Baltimore punted a short two plays after, it certainly serves as a “what if” moment.

The special teams wanted to throw their hat in the ring with their own mistakes during this sequence. The offense should have started their drive with great field position at their own 48-yard line following the punt return, but thanks to a holding penalty they moved all the way back to their own 32. All three phases working together in harmony!

Even with the poor field position, the Steelers’ offense continued to move the ball well. Their only third-down conversion of the drive sure seemed like it could be another potential turning point of the game. Trubisky checked it down to running back Jaylen Warren behind the line of scrimmage and it sure looked like he had nowhere to go with four Ravens swarming him. However, Warren was able to slash inside, causing all of them to miss and a vital third-down conversion that got the Steelers just on the cusp of scoring position again.

However, as the Steelers’ offense does, they stalled out yet again deep in their opponent’s territory. This time, getting all way to the Ravens’ 17 before a sack and a third down throw out of bounds.

As a fan, after the two first-half interceptions in field goal range, it was almost a sigh of relief, like “Okay, well at least we got some points, we’ll take it.” Only later to be cursing yourself out for jinxing the team for putting points on the board before they happen.

On fourth down, the Steelers’ special team mishaps would rear their ugly head again. This time allowing 36-year-old Calais Campbell to get the 9th block of his career.

Per the Ravens’ Twitter account, Campbell said that Baltimore’s Special Teams coordinator made a last-second adjustment that made the difference, “Coach pretty much called an audible. Chris Horton came to me on the sideline and it was like, ‘hey, I’m gonna switch it up.” The switch-up was having Campbell use a swim move in the A-gap on long snapper Christian Kuntz, something that Campbell admitted he hadn’t worked on since last season. The move made all the difference, allowing Campbell to penetrate enough to get his left hand up in the lane of Chris Boswell’s kick.

As our own, Alex Kozora always says, “Special teams matter!”

The blocked kick was essentially the team’s fourth turnover, leaving a minimum of nine points in total on the field through the game. Even though the team was still only down six points it effectively sucked all the wind out of the Steelers and Steelers fans alike. Acrisure Stadium’s DJ tried to inject some life into the fans with the Steeler’s well-known “Renegade”, but it simply wasn’t enough. Baltimore countered with a pummeling 13-play, 57-yard drive that would end with another Justin Tucker field goal effectively putting the Ravens up nine points with only 3:19 to go in the game.

In a game full of what-ifs, the team allowing for Boswell’s only field goal attempt to be blocked was officially the final nail in the coffin. Yes, the Steelers defense had another shot later in the game to stop Baltimore, but the entire makeup of this game was changed by the timing of the blocked kick. ‘Renegade’ blasts through the speakers with the fans jumping around just after bringing the game within three points and even a field goal by the Ravens on their final drive would have kept Pittsburgh in a touchdown-to-win scenario.

It’s a tough pill to swallow in a divisional match-up and a loss that likely pulls the curtain on the Steelers’ playoff hopes.

What did you feel was the turning point of the game? Leave your thoughts and comments below!

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