Most fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers won't see much good to take away from the team's 23-20 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football. However, when breaking down and grading the team by position, there were aspects of the team which received positive grades, despite the outcome of the game.
Time to get out the red marker and analyze the team's most recent performance.
Michael Vick did an admirable job filling in for injured Ben Roethlisberger, but a combination of horrendous play calling, and some erratic throws, Vick left a lot to be desired. Depending who you talk to, Vick's failures were more on the coaching staff, and the plays called, than on Vick himself. Nonetheless, Vick needs to realize when it is smart to just get rid of the football and learn to fight another day. A lot of the negative plays on the offensive side of the football came when Vick had more than enough time to throw the football away, and simply held onto the ball too long. Although Vick should improve, it doesn't change his ultimate grade following the Ravens game.
It is difficult to grade the wide receivers, based on the quarterback and such a short week to get acclimated. Nonetheless, the receivers made plays when they were given the chance. Outside of Antonio Brown's dropped touchdown pass, the receivers played a good game all things considered.
Another difficult position to grade, as the team worked well in run blocking, but also gave up 4 sacks for 28 yards throughout the game. Ultimately, the offensive line did it's job on more than one occasion providing rushing lanes for Le'Veon Bell, and giving Michael Vick time to throw the ball. Situational blocking brings this unit's grade down slightly, but a decent bounce-back game following a poor performance in Week 3 vs. the Rams.
Le'Veon Bell did everything asked of him on Thursday night. Rushing for 129 yards and a touchdown, but also catching 7 passes for 21 yards on 7 targets. DeAngelo Williams didn't contribute more than two carries for 5 yards, but the ground game was the highlight of the offense against the Ravens.
The Steelers' secondary was the strength of the defense, and whether that was a result of a quality pass rush doesn't change the fact the secondary gave up very few plays on Thursday night. The secondary was also very sound in tackling with Antwon Blake and Will Allen both contributing 8 tackles on Thursday Night Football. The secondary was able to help contribute two turnovers, both by Ross Cockrell. Cockrell intercepted a Joe Flacco pass, and recovered a fumble to start the second half. This isn't a shut-down unit, but they are becoming a formidable foe which improves every week.
The Steelers linebackers were extremely active against the Ravens on Thursday, but with moderate success. The defense stood tall on more than one occasion, but as a part of a front 7 which surrendered 190 yards on the ground certainly shows some leaks within the strength of Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense. Lawrence Timmons had a great game, but Jarvis Jones continues to struggle in both rush and pass defense. This unit looks to miss Ryan Shazier, despite a solid effort by Sean Spence, and Bud Dupree is showing some great flashes of his potential as just a rookie.
Giving up 190 rushing yards typically doesn't lead to a quality grade, but there was a saving grace for this unit and it was Stephon Tuitt. Tuitt has proven he is every bit of a legitimate threat everyone thought when he was drafted in 2014. The second year pro played nearly the entire game, proving his durability and conditioning are another bright spot on the defensive line. However, the way the team got gashed on the interior proves there is work to be done. The effort was good, but the execution wasn't always what is could have been.
Not much to say here, other than Greg Warren did a good job snapping the football. Jordan Berry's performance was below the line, and Josh Scobee is now a free agent after missing 4 field goals in 4 games.
There were many head scratching moments in this game which surrounded coaching decisions. Going for it twice in overtime on 4th down, a pretty poor offensive game plan / play calling, but the saving grace for the coaches was Keith Butler having his defense ready to go. Butler blitzed his players like a mad man, and it worked. If the defense will continue this trend under his guidance, by the season's end the team's defense will be a strength, not a weakness. Other than Butler, the coaching left a lot to be desired.