Steelers Film Room was very excited about the potential of the Steelers' offense after the Week 1 win versus the Cleveland Browns. The offense showed dynamic playmakers at multiple positions. These playmakers were led by an accurate and efficient Ben Roethlisberger. Unfortunately, against the Ravens, the playmakers were not dynamic and the quarterback was neither efficient nor accurate.
This first play is a great illustration. This is a big play and, moreover, an easy play. The receiver is wide open and Ben has no pressure. This is a play that the offense simply has to make.
Ben could have thought that Justin Brown was going to keep the route skinny, or maybe Ben just flat-out missed Brown. Either way, this is probably at least a 30-yard gain. On the road in a division game, you need to make this play.
The Ravens seemed determined to play Cover 2 in hopes of taking away the wide receiver screens and the big plays over the top. The inside linebacker for the Ravens struggled mightily covering the deep middle. Think of the interception that Ryan Shazier had in the preseason. That's what the middle linebacker needs to do. Carry any vertical route in the seam. The Ravens didn't do this well and the Steelers, inexplicably, could not capitalize.
At this point, the Steelers are still only down by one score. If the pass is completed, it's 1st-and-10 on the 20 yard line. What's so frustrating about this is that two plays like this could literally have changed the complexion of the entire game. There isn't that big of a difference between a win and a loss in the NFL. Combine these missed opportunities with the penalties and the turnovers, and it's surprising the Steelers were as close as they were.
This play may or may not have ended in a first down. I'm not sure who's wrong here, Marcus Wheaton or Le'Veon Bell. I'm leaning toward Bell. Make no mistake, however, one of them is wrong. And, it's on third down in a close game against a division rival on the road. You simply cannot make these types of mental errors. It's inexcusable.
The Steelers need to play cleaner football on both sides of the ball. I sometimes get frustrated when fans lament that the Steelers are not playing "hard enough" or that they need to "want it" more. This isn't a question of guts, it's a question of focus. The Steelers need to not be penalized so much. They have to carry out their assignments. They need to hit wide-open receivers.
Little things like this will add up to a big win Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.