Sunday night the Steelers delivered one more present for their fans, but until the final gun sounded it looked like coal had been placed in Pittsburgh’s stocking. Instead, the Steelers have clinched the third seed in the 2016 playoffs, thanks to Antonio Brown’s heroics at the 1-yard line to give the Steelers a 31-27 victory. The following is a breakdown of the stats from the Steelers’ sixth consecutive victory (all stats are official and from the NFL unless otherwise noted):
Running Game: If there was ever any doubt that Le’Veon Bell is the Steelers’ team MVP, it should be erased after Sunday’s game. Bell ran for 122 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Besides his impressive stats, Bell came up big in crucial situations. After the Ravens had pinned the Steelers, down by three, back at their own 10-yard line, it was Bell’s 23-yard scamper that gave the Steelers some room to work with. Later in that drive, Bell gave the Steelers the lead when he took a Roethlisberger pass seven yards to the end zone. Bell added to his running totals with three receptions for 15 yards. Eli Rogers had one rush for six yards but, other than that, Bell handled the entire rushing duties for the Steelers.
Passing: Ben Roethlisberger was 24 of 33 for 279 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. While the two interceptions could have ended up damning the Steelers, Roethlisberger’s play in the final quarter is what saved the Steelers’ season. Early in his career, Roethlisberger built his reputation on his ability to hang in games and lead game-winning drives. Roethlisberger chose a great time to remind the NFL just why he earned that reputation.
Roethlisberger threw three touchdowns on Christmas night. The first came on the Steelers’ first possession when Xavier Grimble caught a 20-yard strike to open the scoring. Roethlisberger threw two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Le’Veon Bell’s score from seven yards out in the fourth was due to a great effort from Roethlisberger to keep the play alive until Bell could break free. Finally, with nine seconds left in the game Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown on a slant for the game- winning score, this time thanks to a great effort from Antonio Brown stretching for the goal line.
Brown also was the leading receiver for the Steelers with ten receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. The second-leading receiver was Eli Rogers who had four receptions for 84 yards. In total, seven different Steelers caught a pass.
Defense: For years, the Ravens versus Steelers rivalry was one predicated on low scoring and defense. This matchup didn’t exactly follow that trend. Joe Flacco put up a respectable 262 yards to go along with one touchdown and one interception. As a team, the Ravens ran for 122 yards and one touchdown, led by Kenneth Dixon’s 57 yards on 12 carries.
The Ravens scored two touchdowns on the day. Early in the second half, Flacco found Steve Smith for an 18-yard touchdown pass. The Ravens would add a two-point conversion when Flacco again found Smith in the end zone making the score 14-7 Ravens. After Le’Veon Bell’s second touchdown gave the Steelers the lead, the Ravens had an impressive drive of their own that ended with Kyle Juszczyk scoring on a ten-yard run, giving the Ravens a 27-24 lead with 1:24 left in the game.
The Steelers had two sacks, two quarterback hits, one interception, one forced fumble and five passes defended (Ryan Shazier, Sean Davis twice, Mike Mitchell, and Bud Dupree). The Steelers’ leading tackler was James Harrison with 11 combined tackles.
Efficiency: The Steelers were 3/7 on third down while the Ravens were 9/17. The Steelers didn’t attempt any fourth down conversions, but the Ravens were 0/1. The Steelers averaged 7.4 yards per play compared to 5.1 yards per play for the Ravens.
The Red Zone: The Ravens were 2/5 in the red zone. The Steelers were 3/4.
Turnovers: The Steelers had one takeaway Sunday afternoon and two giveaways.
The Steelers earned their lone interception on the last play of the game when the Ravens appeared ready to set up a desperation lateral attempt. Flacco’s pass was deflected and Shazier squeezed it for the clinching interception. Lawrence Timmons also forced a fumble in the game but the Ravens were able to recover it.
Roethlisberger threw two interceptions that the Ravens were able to convert into points. The first pick was by Zachary Orr and the second was by C.J. Mosley. Both plays occurred in the third quarter; the first set up a TD and the second one set up a Justin Tucker field goal.
Penalties: For the first time in weeks, the Steelers got a handle on their penalty situation. The Steelers only committed four penalties for 45 yards, while the Ravens committed seven penalties for 95 yards. There were several questionable calls and no-calls on Sunday, but it’s an encouraging sign that the Steelers were able to curb their appetite for destructive penalties in a must-win game.
Under Pressure: The Steelers were only able to get to Flacco twice, but both times were for sacks. Lawrence Timmons and Bud Dupree each had one sack in the game, and they were responsible for the only hits on Flacco.
The Steelers’ offensive line surrendered no sacks and only three quarterback hits. Elvis Dumervil hit Roethlisberger twice and Matt Judon recorded one hit, otherwise the Roethlisberger was kept upright.
Kicking: Chris Boswell hit one field goal from 36 yards away in the third quarter plus all four of his extra-point attempts. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all roses for Boswell as he twice kicked the ball out of bounds on kickoffs. The extra yards of field position could have ended up dooming the Steelers. But Boz should rebound from this.
Sunday’s game between the Ravens and Steelers was one of the most exciting games the two teams have played in years. The comeback by Pittsburgh in the fourth quarter, losing the lead—then coming back again—and Brown just barely getting into the end zone with a playoff berth on the line made for quite a memorable night. After months of hard work and perseverance, the Steelers have clinched that playoff berth and have earned the right to rest their starters next week against the Browns. The Steelers will be hosting a playoff game in two weeks for the first time since 2014. No matter the opponent, Steelers Nation will be ready.