Sunday, November 18, 2012

Without Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers Fall Again to Ravens, 13-10

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated...or something like that. Thanks to Jayden for holding down the fort while I was...incapacitated last week. Without her, this blog wouldn't survive. Now, on to the game...

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have played some epic battles over the years. This, though, wasn't one of them...

In ugly fashion, the Steelers lose their 3rd in a row to Ravens and 4th in the past six regular-season match ups against them, 13-10.

Though congratulations goes to the Ravens, a lot of blame must go around for this loss. Penalties, turnovers, poor clock management, wasted timeouts, and outmatched special teams all contributed.

The backbreaker was a Jacoby Jones 63-yard punt return for a touchdown. It was the difference in points and the only touchdown the Ravens scored. It was his third in five weeks. Jones is also the first Ravens player to post three combined return touchdowns in a season. -

For the first time all season I actually have to question Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley's play calling. Why was he throwing so much with an injured quarterback when Jonathan Dwyer was running so well? When a running back is averaging 4.6 yards per carry (12 carries for 55 yards), don't try to outthink the room. Feed the hot hand!

But an obviously hurt Leftwich kept throwing and despite it being apparent that he needed to pull himself or that he needed to be pulled. Maybe you can blame Tomlin for keeping him in, because those hits added up to being too much on BLeft and he just couldn't throw after awhile. But Mike Tomlin said he wasn't close to putting in Charlie Batch. -

Nonetheless, with the win, the Ravens (8-2) took control of the AFC North, moving two games ahead of the Steelers (6-4). The win was Baltimore's 12th straight win in the division, which ties for the longest such streak in the league since division realignment in 2002. The Steelers had won seven straight games at Heinz Field. -

After giving up a touchdown 43 seconds into the game, the Steelers were held to a field goal the rest of the way by a Ravens defense without key players. The Ravens flustered a hurting Leftwich into 17-of-38 passing for 201 yards and an interception. The Ravens forced two turnovers, leading to six points. -

The other turnover was by wide receiver Mike Wallace. Wallace wants a high-end contract at the end of the season, but hasn't shown ample reason to receive it. He has already had a problem with dropped passes, but Sunday night he didn't exactly show great hands after the catch, either when he was stripped of the ball by Chris Johnson, a player who had only been signed by the Ravens this week.

In his post-game press conference, Tomlin said the Steelers didn't have signature plays in key moments. In fact, they only had one.

Not known for his mobility, in truth he looks like one of Jerry's Kids when he runs, BLeft ran for a 31-yard touchdown on the third snap of the game. He outran Terrell Suggs, broke a Bernard Pollard arm tackle and fell into the end zone hurting his throwing shoulder.

It was this very play, in fact, that defines why the Steelers lost. As good as he can be, BLeft simply isn't Ben Roethlisberger.

Big Ben has a 47% conversion rate on third-down throws this season, which is second best in the NFL behind only Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The Steelers were only 5-17 on third down Sunday night.

Before the Monday Night Football game, Big Ben had the fifth-best quarterback rating in the red zone. He hadn't been intercepted in the red zone this season, either.

The difference between BLeft and Big Ben in this aspect is noticeable on two plays.

Monday night, Big Ben's 7-yard fade pass to Mike Wallace in the second quarter was his 13th red zone touchdown toss of the season.

Sunday night, down 13-7 in the third quarter, the Steelers drove to the Ravens' 4-yard line where BLeft made a throw to the right side of the end zone. Wallace was led too far and didn't get both feet down inbounds. Instead of going ahead, the Steelers had to settle for a field goal to make it 13-10.

Outside the pocket is where Big Ben tends to work his best magic, when he is scrambling around, extending plays and doing his Houdini routine. Again before Monday night, he had the seventh-best quarterback rating on passes outside the pocket. He had completed 63.6 percent of his passes and averaged 7.7 yards per completion.

When flushed from the pocket Sunday, aside from the touchdown run, BLeft had passes tipped or had his arm hit and was fairly discombobulated.

No disrespect toward BLeft, but he simply isn't Big Ben.

The Steelers are now 0-5 against the Ravens when Big Ben doesn't start. If he is indeed sidelined for the second Ravens bout, the Steelers playoff hopes may be sidelined with him.