Pittsburgh Steelers: Four Keys In Ravens Loss


In losing to the Baltimore Ravens last Thursday night in overtime 23-20, Pittsburgh Steelers fans are probably going to point their daggers directly at kicker Josh Scobee.

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The beleaguered kicker missed two more field goals and has the most miscues on three-point attempts in the NFL since the beginning of the season in 2014 with 10. However, Scobee cannot shoulder all the blame for the dismal loss to Baltimore on their own turf at Heinz Field. While it is obvious that had he nailed those two attempts on Thursday Night Football, the Steelers would have never reached overtime and would have sent the Ravens packing with an 0-4 record.

On closer inspection of the game, there were two other plays that may have cost the Steelers a victory. Mike Tomlin made the decision on a couple of fourth down plays to try for a first down. Michael Vick tried to roll out to his left to get the necessary yardage on one, and on the other, Todd Haley called for a short pass play to Antonio Brown that sailed over the star receiver’s head. On that play, Tomlin could have opted to give Scobee one more chance from about 50 yards away that would have won the game.

It seems Tomlin’s confidence in Scobee has waned for at least this last game. Baltimore’s Justin Tucker was hitting field goals from anywhere he tried, and one has to wonder if he had missed any of his attempts, would John Harbaugh still have elected to go for the 52-yard game winner?

The game of football can be a ton of “what ifs” so it’s hard to second guess Tomlin’s decisions. For the moment…they seem awful. Just as it was in last year’s Super Bowl, Pete Carroll opted to go with a pass play to win that game as Marshawn Lynch was bypassed on the play call. Last Thursday, Tomlin had Le’Veon Bell at his expense, after the running back had gone well over 100 rushing yards for the night.

Instead of using Bell to go for a first down, the pass to Brown was the decision and it failed. That gave Baltimore a good starting point on the field to get into a game-winning situation for Tucker. A smart and sensible fan will look past the missed field goals and fourth down decisions to look between the fine lines for what caused the Steelers to blow a 20-7 lead.

Pittsburgh’s pressure on Joe Flacco in the passing game last Thursday night was outstanding. Stopping the run? Not so good. Just as it was indicated in the preview of this game that Justin Forsett could present problems, that’s exactly what the Ravens’ running back did. 150 yards of problems on the ground.

A 5.6 yards per-carry average with one run going for 33 yards. Sure, Le’Veon Bell put up 129 yards and had a better average at 5.9, but it was Pittsburgh’s inability to stop Forsett and keep Baltimore from marching up field putting themselves in good field goal position that hurt the Steelers defense tremendously.

With five sacks of Flacco, an interception as well as a forced fumble, the Baltimore quarterback did not need his passing game to beat the Steelers. Blaming Josh Scobee for this loss will go on and even famed rapper and self-proclaimed huge Steelers fan, Snoop Dog went public calling for the release of Scobee. Cutting Scobee now might be a knee jerk reaction especially since he is not alone in shouldering the blame for this loss, but can Tomlin, Todd Haley, and Steelers Nation withstand another 12 games in 2015 with the ex-Jaguar as the kicker?

The opinion here is that perhaps the Steelers should give Jay Feely another call and see if he is interested.

Turning the attention to the center point of Thursday’s game, Michael Vick had his moments, but his command of the offense or lack thereof, was on full display. Too many times he held on to the ball too long, and as he overthrew or underthrew. But Vick was sacked four times and several of those came at a point where the Steelers could have extended drives.

To his defense, he made a beautiful pass to Antonio Brown in the end zone that slipped through #84’s hands. That play would have also iced the game for the Steelers. Brown rarely misses any passes that hit him in his breadbasket so this one was a surprise.

At the game’s final gun, Michael Vick had thrown the ball 26 times and completed 19 of those. But the passes that found their mark accumulated only 124 yards. Nine times Vick ran with the ball but he gained only 33 yards. Rest assured, Steelers fans are asking themselves, “what if?”

What if Big Ben had not gotten hurt and played in this game. Logical thinking says Steelers win this game with Roethlisberger. But that question can’t be answered and good teams find ways to win even without their stars. Pittsburgh had the opportunity to win, regardless of field goal misses or Ben Roethlisberger not playing.

What makes this loss to Baltimore more frustrating is the fact that for the most part, the game on its whole saw the Steelers outplaying the Ravens. The game of football is making most of the opportunities and that’s how the Baltimore Ravens avoided becoming 0-4 for the first time since John Harbaugh became their head coach.

A team can outplay another for 59 minutes but in a close game, it takes only a minute or less to win. Mistakes and lack of execution will cost you every time unless a team finds another way to capitalize. Two turnovers by the Ravens did not deter their will to win and they kept on fighting and took advantage of Pittsburgh’s miscues in the kicking game and decisions from the sidelines. They also played it smart in the running game, knowing the Steelers did not have an answer for Justin Forsett.

Unfortunately for Antonio Brown, his 35-game streak of at least five receptions and 50 yards is over. With five receptions against Baltimore, Brown amassed just 42 yards receiving. If there are any positives to be taken from this game, obviously there is the play of Le’Veon Bell. Besides the solid rushing totals, Bell also caught seven passes for 21 yards.

Darrius Heyward-Bey continues to play outstanding as he made an excellent catch for a score in the loss. On a down side, Jordan Berry had a sub-par game compared to how he has performed thus far. Of six punts, two traveled less that 40 yards. He finished the night with a 39.8 average but did manage one 51-yarder.

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  • Defensively, if the poor rush defense can be overlooked, several players shined. Stephen Tuitt, Sean Spence, Lawrence Timmons, Cameron Heyward, James Harrison, Antwon Blake, and Mike Mitchell all stepped up in the pressure game on Joe Flacco.

    Markus Wheaton twisted his ankle and had to leave the game, an injury seemingly minor. In his absence, rookie Sammie Coates stepped in and caught his first-ever NFL pass. As all head coaches normally and should do, Mike Tomlin shouldered the blame for the loss.

    In a word he said, “It’s painful tonight, but this game is not going to define us.” There was a fan on a public radio station actually saying Tomlin should be fired for the loss and the fourth down decisions he made. That is outright ridiculous. Tomlin is a very good head coach and a proven winner. Everyone is going to have a bad game, coaches included. The loss is in the books and the Steelers will move on.

    Prior to the game last Thursday, ex-Steelers head coach Bill Cowher having coached Ben Roethlisberger, predicted the Steelers QB would return in 3-4 weeks and not 4-6 as expected. For this writer, it was a nice surprise to see Big Ben on the field prior to the game walking around without too much a limp.

    For further clarification, the Steelers do not allow players on crutches to be on the sidelines, so Big Ben tossed his aside. Still, he was walking around. That’s a good sign for Steelers fans. Michael Vick and the rest of the team will have to keep this team competitive until their offensive leader returns. Pittsburgh will not play again until the appear on Monday Night Football in San Diego on October 12 to take on the Chargers. That’s plenty of time to lick their wounds and forget last Thursday’s disaster.

    The game with the Chargers will be followed up on October 18 with a home game and a rematch of Super Bowl XLIII with the Arizona Cardinals. Week seven presents a road game in Kansas City. Then comes another crucial divisional game as the Steelers host the Cincinnati Bengals.

    The Oakland Raiders come knocking the week after that, and finally, Pittsburgh will have a breather game when they host the Cleveland Browns on November 15. At that point, the Steelers will receive their bye week. Obviously, it’s a tough road to hoe before their seasonal break comes and with a record of 2-2, Mike Tomlin could perhaps  find his team 7-3 at best by the time the bye hits, or at worst, possibly 5-5 if they lose on the road to the Chargers and Chiefs.

    Mike Tomlin’s comments as well as remarks from the players following the Ravens loss can be read on the Steelers official website. The next few days should prove to be interesting as Steelers Nations awaits any decision on Josh Scobee’s future in Pittsburgh.

    Next: Pitt Football: Previewing Virginia Tech With Live Stream

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