The Steelers beat the Ravens in Baltimore, splitting their season series, keeping their still slim playoff chances alive and getting back to .500. The Steelers have won 6 of their last 8 games with a steady game plan augmented with smart adaptation to the game they are in.
The Steelers offensive line has become a steady and reliable unit over the course of the season, but in this game they took a big step forward, winning the line of scrimmage and carrying the load for the offense all game. The Steelers shied away from heavier sets in this game, going with three wide receivers more and playing Zach Gentry and Derek Watt less than they did in run heavy game plans. For this matchup it worked well, receivers threw some good blocks, Pat Freiermuth had a better run blocking day than his recent games and the Steelers ran for 198 yards against the third best run defense in the NFL.
George Pickens made a couple of clutch catches, and yet he played his second lowest percentage of snaps in the last twelve games. The Steelers used their depth receivers a good bit in this game, and Steven Sims took advantage. Interestingly, the three depth receivers, Sims, Miles Boykin and Gunner Olszewski, played a combined 64 snaps, the same as Diontae Johnson. Johnson gained 35 yards in the game while the depth receivers combined for 40 yards. That’s a good sample of the Steelers game plan that spread the ball around a lot, and did so effectively.
Najee Harris had 24 touches for 123 yards, Jaylen Warren had 15 for 98 yards. That’s just off from a 60/40 split in touches, with both backs averaging over 5 yards a touch. They also were close to a 60/40 split in snaps. The Steelers didn’t just split snaps either, they played both Harris and Warren on 3 different occasions, including Jaylen Warren’s jet sweep run.
The Steelers controlled the flow of the game and moved the ball effectively outside of the red-zone, where Baltimore found ways to make plays and the Steelers, for the most part, did not.
Alex Highsmith joins 100% snap club regulars Cameron Sutton and Robert Spillane in a week where Minkah Fitzpatrick did not make it. This was Alex Highsmith’s second time playing every snap, the first was Week 6 of 2021. His total of 52 snaps ranks as the 23rd most he’s played, showing just how effective the Steelers have been at limiting their opponent’s opportunities with the football. Interestingly, while Highsmith has two complete games in the book, T.J. Watt has never played every snap of a Steeler football game. Highsmith had a pretty quiet game statistically, recording only three assisted tackles, but he played well enough to stay on the field.
Larry Ogunjobi and Cameron Heyward only missed 16 snaps combined, and both were kept under 50 snaps for the game. Defensive line depth has been an issue for a lot of the season, but with the Steelers keeping opposing team’s chances limited, they have minimized the impact of Heyward or Ogunjobi leaving the field.
DeMarvin Leal comes in 4th on the defensive line in snaps, playing over 50% of snaps for the first time in his career. That’s largely because the Steelers again leaned heavily on their 4-4 defensive group, which involves DeMarvin Leal playing defensive end and Mark Robinson at inside linebacker. Mark Robinson played a pretty good game, helping jam up the middle of the line on run plays, even if he didn’t consistently finish the tackle. He proved to be a very hard linebacker to block, and that’s a big deal when facing the Ravens. Robinson’s role expanded outside the 4-4 set in this game, he started the game and came in second in inside linebacker snaps.
Myles Jack only played 6 snaps, and Devin Bush played only 5. Bush entered the game for Robinson after Robinson was burned by Mark Andrews, only to have the team go back to Robinson when Bush was also burned by Andrews.
The Steelers will face the Cleveland Browns to close out their season, facing another top rushing offense that also features Deshaun Watson coming off his best game as a Brown, it will be very interesting to see how the Steelers divide up inside linebacker snaps in that game.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2022 regular season finale.