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Tom’s Ten Takes – Steelers vs Ravens

Following each game in the 2022 Steelers season, I will be giving you my 10 takes. These aren’t going to be hot takes meant to shock the world. This will be instant reactions to the game written while still in that period just following the game when the emotions are high and the ideas are fresh. Included will be thoughts, observations, queries and reasons that caused me to yell at the television.

Game 16 – Baltimore Ravens

1. Hold My Beer – I commented on last week’s game-winning drive and many of you disagreed with me. The sequence of plays leading to the touchdown against the low-ranked Raiders defense didn’t impress me. This week Kenny Pickett put me in my place. That game-winning drive was impressive. Three big-time throws. One while running to the left throwing across his body. Next a pinpoint Post down the middle. Then a scramble left with an accurate flip to Najee Harris (or was he throwing to Steven Sims?) for the winning score. In truth, he hadn’t done much before that but let’s focus on the positive. Well done, Kenny.

2. Good Start Fades Away – The Steelers have a pattern recently of long offensive drives. They started this game with a 15-play drive. A good mix of nine runs and five passes got them down to the two. They used formations they rarely use. Putting four eligible receivers to the left in a diamond formation and George Pickens alone to the right. Great matchup for Pickens against a backup defensive back. They throw the least successful pass in the NFL. The Fade from inside the five. Great formation to get him isolated but a poor route choice. Throw the slant and let him box out the DB. Settling for a field goal after that drive was like a bike pedal to the shin.

3. Pre Shot Clock Feeling – The NBA at one time played without a shot clock. Teams would use stalling tactics to keep the ball from the other team and shorten the game. The first quarter saw each team with access to the ball once. You don’t see that often. Slow methodical runs and passes. Each team with a 15-play drive. You don’t see that often either. It seemed like both teams were using their stall tactics before trying a three-pointer. For you kids, this is how football used to be all the time. I hope 2023 leads to a more entertaining style of football.

4. GD FG – In recent games, they have been able to drive the ball up and down the field between the 20s. Regardless of the opponent, they move the ball. But repeatedly, over and over, these drives end in field goal attempts. I am so g…gosh darn tired of field goals. Forty-two field goal attempts on the season by three different kickers. Just 25 touchdowns on the season. If they could finish drives they might be a 10 or 11-win team right now. More offensive aggressiveness is needed but I don’t see that any time soon.

5. One or Two is Okay – The Steelers know they don’t need to use all three downs when trying to get a first down, right? It seems like every drive consists of three third and short plays and one third and long play. Minimal 10-yard gains on first or second down. Everything seems to be a grind with this offense. I think they mentioned Pittsburgh is last in the league in passes of 15 yards or more. They took one deep shot tonight. Chunk plays are needed.

6. Stanley Stealer – Cam Heyward was called for a penalty that led to the Ravens’ touchdown late in the second quarter. As Heyward was trying to get off the pile Baltimore’s Ronnie Stanley pulled him back down causing him to brush the referee with his hand. This led to the flag. I thought it was a sneaky play by Stanley and felt he was trying to draw a delay of game penalty for not getting up off the ball in a timely manner. It worked in his favor either way. The fact that the referee was literally standing right over them and didn’t see Stanley pull him down was a bit of a shock, but they didn’t see the multiple holds on the Raven offensive line either.

7. Mason in the Middle – It has been a season of progression up front for the offense. The much-maligned group has gelled and improved. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been noticing the work done by Mason Cole more and more. He is the linchpin that keeps the wheel spinning. He has been out in front on several good runs and he is getting to the second level to execute blocks. Something that was sorely missing last year. He along with the left side of the line has been paving the way for the run game.

8. NC-17 Rating – This second-half run this season doesn’t happen without the defense. Over the last six games the team is 5-1 and they have not allowed more than 17 points in any of those games. Now if we’re being honest here it hasn’t exactly been a Murderer’s Row of offenses but this is the NFL. If you can hold a team under 20 every week, it’s an impressive feat. Guys like Larry Ogunjobi, Robert Spillane and Terrell Edmunds have all stepped up their game.

9. Mark it down – When drafting guys with potential, especially in the late rounds, it’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. You all know the story of Mark Robinson. Running back turned linebacker with just one year at the position. This dude is a heat-seeking missile. He had a tackle on the first three plays and finished with seven. If, and it’s a big if… If he develops, into a full-time three-down linebacker, holy cannoli! Give that scout a big raise. He has the potential to be a throwback, smack-you-in-the-mouth linebacker and I am all for it.

10. Ice Bath, Party of Two – Through three quarters they had accounted for over 70% of the offensive yards. Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren were tasked with carrying the offense and they responded with attitude and physicality. They combined for 39 touches and 221 yards and the lone touchdown. The team has decided they will play small ball. Control the clock. The Ravens were number three in the league in rushing yards allowed coming into the game at 87.5 yards per game. The running back duo has 187 of the team’s 198 yards on the ground. Big-time effort and performance by the tandem.

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