The Steelers rematch of their awful loss to the Ravens in Week 14 went much better for the team than the first game did. In yet another elimination game the Steelers were able to stay alive in the playoff race with a 4th quarter comeback and game-winning drive followed by an interception that let the Steelers run out the clock for the second week in a row.
I’ve been talking a lot about points per drive since the bye week, and that’s not going to change with this game. The Steelers only scored 16 points in this game, but they also only had 9 possessions. If you just look at that the Steelers 1.78 points per drive is right around the Ravens average and a bottom ten result in the league. The problem is two of those drives were a kneel down to end the half. Which means the Steelers only had 7 real drives where they were even trying to score. 16 points on seven drives is 2.29 points per drive, a top 10 scoring pace this season, and a lot better than what the Ravens usually give up. You’d love to see even more scoring from the Steelers offense, but that’s not going to happen with the pace the Steelers are setting in their games. The Steelers are only averaging 18.3 points per game in their last six games, well below the league average of 22 points a game. But with one of the lowest possession totals in the NFL over that time period, their points per drive rank in the top ten.
That should match up better with the game that we all watched this week as well, with the Steelers committing zero turnovers and punting twice in the game. That means only two real drives by the Steelers offense failed to reach scoring distance. Again, you’d like to see more touchdowns instead of field goal attempts, but the Steelers were moving the ball well against the Ravens, who are one of the better defenses in the NFL.
The big deal, for me, is how the Steelers pulled that off. The Steelers ran for 198 yards in this game, the most the Ravens have given up since their playoff loss to Tennessee in 2019, and you have to go back to 2013 to find a non-overtime, regular season game where the Ravens gave up more rushing yards. Running the ball 48 times for 4.8 yards per rush against the NFL’s 3rd best run defense in both yards per game and yards per carry. The Steelers offensive line and running backs beat the Ravens by attacking their strength. That is impressive.
Kenny Pickett played another solid, but not great, game that was capped off with a game-winning drive. Pickett has throws 168 passes and one interception since the bye week, and he has multiple game-winning drives to go with it. He’s not a star player yet, but he’s been improving and is playing good football. He spread the ball around in this game, with six Steelers recording two or more catches and none had more than three.
Pickett failed to convert on a few drive-killing third downs, but the Steelers converted 10 of their 16 third downs (62.5%) and only punted twice in the game, it’s hard to look too harshly at numbers like that.
Honor Roll: The entire offensive line, Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Pat Freiermuth.
Demerits: One touchdown in three red-zone appearances.
Final Grade: B
The Steelers defense gave up 13 points on eight Ravens drives, forcing four punts and an interception to seal the victory. The Steelers also held the Ravens to 120 yards rushing, since 2019 they’ve only held the Ravens to 120 or less rushing one other time. In the passing game, Mark Andrews caught all nine of his targets for 100 yards, but no other Raven had more than 12 receiving yards for the game. Andrews is one of the hardest players in the NFL to defend, and the Steelers were focused heavily on defending the run, putting the player(s) covering Andrews in a lot of tough situations. Similarly in the run game the Steelers gave up 93 yards to J.K. Dobbins, but no other runner had success.
The Steelers were only able to slow down the Ravens best two weapons, but they shut down the rest of their offense. That turned out to be a winning formula this week.
The Steelers offense again came out looking to control the clock and keep the possessions low in this game, and with the Ravens also moving the ball slowly, the Ravens first drive of the game ended with a field goal that was kicked in the second quarter. The Steelers defense played better as the game went on and won the second half adjustments game. The Ravens first four drives gained 174 yards and led to all 13 of their points. The last four drives gained 44 yards with no points and an interception that let the Steelers kneel out the rest of the time on the clock.
The Steelers defense has found a knack for closing out games since the bye week. This is something that has gone hand-in-hand with players like T.J. Watt getting healthier, with the reduced possession count, and plays faced by the Steelers defense each week.
Lastly, I need to mention Mark Robinson playing substantially in this game, even before Myles Jack left with an injury. Robinson brought aggressive and powerful run defense, but also brought coverage vulnerability and too many missed tackles. Overall, he played well for a player who only had 7 defensive snaps before this game, and I look forward to his growth as a player going forward.
Honor Roll: T.J. Watt, DeMarvin Leal, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mark Robinson’s aggressive play.
Demerits: Covering Mark Andrews, Mark Robinson’s missed tackles.
Final Grade: A
Chris Boswell did miss a field goal in this game, but he hit three others and was good on kickoffs. The Steelers didn’t put one kickoff out of the end zone, and it was a mistake as Justice Hill returned it 56 yards. Fortunately, the defense stepped up and forced a punt. Pressley Harvin III only punted twice and they were good punts, Miles Boykin held the only punt return for Baltimore to 2 yards, and the Steelers return teams were neither a positive nor a negative for the team, with Steven Sims only kick return going to the 25 yard line and no punt returns in the game.
There were a few penalties on the Steelers return teams, including one against Minkah Fitzpatrick when he was blocking the Ravens gunner on a punt.
Honor Roll: Miles Boykin, Pressley Harvin III.
Demerits: Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Final Grade: B
The Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens by winning the line of scrimmage on offense and defense, running right down the throats of one of the best run defenses in the NFL. The offensive line played its best game of the season by far, and the Steelers defense adjusted to the Ravens offense and dominated the second half. The team believed in the game plan and executed it at a high level, and beat the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore.
That matters. You can throw style points out the window anytime you beat the Baltimore Ravens, and while the Steelers didn’t win in style, they won. And that’s fine when it’s an AFC North rivalry game.
Final Grade: A
Now it’s your turn to tell us what you think. Give us your grade for the Steelers overall performance and let us know your thoughts in the comments below:
Grade the Steelers Week 17 win over the Ravens
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