Was the Heinz Field turf a silent partner in the Steelers' win?

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Mucked-up turf may have played into something of an advantage for the Steelers, or a detriment for the Ravens.

The Sacrifice Bunt Gone Bad

An article is already up about John Harbaugh's rather puzzling decision to try an onside kick after Justin Tucker brought the score up to 13-9 in the fourth quarter. Many have questioned the call, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

As Tribune-Review writer Jason Mackey reports:

[T]he call, gutsy - some might say desperate given the time left and Baltimore's inability to stop the run - as it was, backfired, allowing the Steelers a short field en route to a 38-yard Shaun Suisham field goal.

A try that might never have been possible if the Ravens didn't try to play some small ball.

"Their guy made a great play," Harbaugh said. "He covered a lot of ground very quickly to get to that ball."

Interesting, but it was the next paragraph which really intrigued me:

[Ravens kicker Justin] Tucker said he works with the grounds crew at Baltimore's practice facility in Owings Mills, Md., purposefully destroying perfectly good sod in order to mimic conditions at Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

But with Pitt having played Old Dominion on Saturday night, the Heinz Field turf was more than a few notches below pristine, a muckiness that likely limited Tucker.

"It's tough on this field because the turf is so poor," Tucker said. "You can't really practice that type of kick on this turf."

The clear implication of Tucker's remark is, the kick would most likely have been successfully recovered by him if the turf wasn't so bad. He has a point. If the ball had traveled just a little further and a little faster, Tucker would have been covering it at ten yards out instead of nine, and suddenly the Ravens are back in business.

Justin Tucker was supposed to be the sacrifice, and indeed there was blood involved. But the Heinz Field turf didn't accept it...

The Drop Heard Around Steeler Nation

After an awesome catch to move the chains by rookie Derek Moye, he was the hero of Steeler Nation. But alas, in the NFL fame is fleeting and goathood is generally just around the corner, and indeed Moye later dropped a perfectly-placed, essentially uncontested pass to the back of the end zone to force a field goal and make the game a whole lot closer than necessary.

But the question is, why did Moye drop the pass in the first place? Receivers drop balls they "should" have caught all the time, of course. In the previous catch, when Moye was upended and slammed into the turf head/neck first, it would have been annoying but scarcely surprising had he dropped the ball. He didn't, though. Instead, he dropped a pass which was right in his hands. My question is, how much did that fall affect him?

I held my breath until he got up, apparently unharmed. But I wonder in retrospect whether he was all there for the rest of the game, and whether the trainers ran a concussion test on him after that fall.

The Steelers are clearly taking the concussion issue seriously, at least on one level. For example, according to Mike Tomlin, Jarvis Jones passed the regular concussion test last Friday, but they had a different doctor run a different test on him on Saturday, he didn't pass, and they didn't dress him yesterday. On the other hand, Isaac Redman claims he played the first game of the season with a concussion, and interestingly he hasn't dressed since then. Nobody wants to be seen as disregarding the dangers of concussions, and whether that was Redman trying to make excuses for a poor game or whether the team did actually ignore some inconvenient symptoms and send him back on the field will never be known.

However, human nature is remarkably prone to see what it wants to see, and if the team thought Derek Moye was their best receiver option, it wouldn't be surprising if they didn't look at him as hard as they might otherwise have.

None of this is more than complete speculation. That dropped pass would loom a lot larger had the Steelers lost by three points...

Ben Takes Charge

Unlike the previous touchdown that should have been, the Heath Miller catch of a shovel pass did result in the Steelers' sole touchdown. So what part of the Haley playbook did it come from?

Page None, apparently. According to Ben Roethlisberger, that was a play from the long-lost Hines Ward days, and he (Ben) thought it might catch the Ravens' defense unawares. Which it did. I'm hoping Haley is perusing the playbooks from, say, the Chuck Noll days for other plays modern-era teams might not have seen. At least plays that won't result in an immediate penalty and fine, of course. Which probably limits the possibilities pretty sharply.

Chatty Cathy DeCastro

David DeCastro's press conferences thus far have been mainly notable for the number of one-word answers he gave frustrated reporters. But the dam has broken. His teammates say he's actually a pretty funny guy, and last night's locker room interview showed an incredibly animated DeCastro with the words practically tumbling out of him. Next thing you know they'll be selling DeCastro fleece toys at the Sideline Store.

Sometimes It's Better to Not Know

I subscribe to a fantasy football email newsletter. That's why I'm so awesome at Fantasy (actually, I suck. Just ask my opponents. I think I'm leading the bottom of my division at the moment...) This newsletter has a weekly feature with the nullified TDs. To expand upon that, I guess we could look at yesterday's game and bemoan the Emmanuel Sanders kick return and the Derek Moye drop. But on the plus side were the two touchdowns defended by William Gay and thus not achieved by the Ravens. So I suppose it all comes out in the wash.

Like this glorious fall weather, there are no guarantees about the rest of the Steelers season, but at least we can bask in the glory of a Steelers win over the World Champion Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field. Something the Steelers haven't managed for the past three years.

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