The good, the bad and the ugly
There weren't many goods, there were lots of bads and the whole thing was ugly. This is what it boils down to in today's NFL. Defending receivers is getting too hard to do. The Steelers cornerbacks are currently making it look impossible, but when you apply little to no pressure on the passer, you're going to lose. Plain and simple, when your pass rush is no good, you lose bad and you lose ugly.
Speaking of that pass rush
I'll have to watch it again and wait for more in-depth stats, but my immediate analysis was the Steelers failed to log a pressure or a hit on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Not once did they pressure the passer Cincinnati harassed for the better part of their game in Week 1. How is that even possible? The Steelers have invested several million dollars and multiple high-end draft picks in front-seven players who failed to get to a quarterback even one time in 29 pass attempts. Granted, the Ravens didn't try deep options very often and, frankly, didn't need to.
As for the opposite of a pass rush, the Steelers didn't have any of that either. There was one point when left guard Ramon Foster left the field, and I think it may have been either a quick benching or a coaching opportunity. Foster struggled quite a bit in this game. Baltimore has soundly built its interior pass rush and it teed off on Foster through most of this game. My knee-jerk reaction was the Ravens generated far more pass rush than we did. It was effective and came up the middle more than off the edge - even with a strong performance from OLB Elvis Dumervil.
The New Money Guys
Borrowing an old phrase that's probably like salt in a wound this morning...contracts were given this off-season to non-free agents Jason Worilds (transition tag), Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert and Cortez Allen. Among the four of them, many of the Steelers' issues in this game can be attributed. Pouncey was solid in pass protection while Gilbert at least made a nice block on the inside tight-end screen to Heath Miller. But Pouncey was dominated in the run game and Gilbert was beaten by Dumervil for both of his sacks - on one of them he was literally picked up off of his feet and slammed to the ground right at the feet of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Jason Worilds made no impact whatsoever and Cortez Allen is as undisciplined a player as there is in the league at this point. Call it a hunch, people are going to be talking about that this morning.
You want to know how negatively penalties impact a team? Look over the stats of this game. Baltimore outgained Pittsburgh 323-301 - not a decisive advantage. The Ravens were 5-for-12 on third down, the Steelers were 6-for-12. Decent enough for both teams, especially in this game. Baltimore ran 65 plays to Pittsburgh's 57. None of these stats would clearly indicate they took the Steelers to the shed the way they did. Until you bring up the turnovers - two critical fumbles, one by Justin Brown and one by Heath Miller. Roethlisberger's pick at the end was the final shot to the groin, but it counts in the scorebook the same. But what about the Steelers' nine penalties? Four of them were personal fouls, all on Steelers' defensive backs and all on Ravens' scoring drives. Kudos to Baltimore's offense for capitalizing on a sloppy, chippy performance by Pittsburgh's secondary.
The Steelers head into the second of two consecutive, prime time road games against an as-of-Friday 1-0 Carolina Panthers team. It seems like they always get a road prime time or nationally televised game against some up-and-coming team when the stadium is deafening and the local mayor declares it "(insert team name) Day" in that respective city. If Carolina defeats Detroit Sunday, that's what this will be. It's beyond cliche to say the Steelers can ill-afford to start the season 1-2 because clearly better days for this team are ahead. It's really just a question of when they'll finally show up.
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