Last night in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Steelers went into Heinz field with the odds against them. Their starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger was on the sidelines in a sling, his backup Byron Leftwich was on the field and 65,000 Steelers faithful were there to see if the rest of the team could pick them up and push them past the Baltimore Ravens.
And they almost did. In my preview I predicted a near miss by the Steelers and that’s exactly what happened. This team should be applauded, particularly the defense for how well they played. The fact that the Steelers lost by 3, and had a chance to win at the end is a real testament to how well the defense stood up and punched the Ravens offense in the mouth the entire game. It would have been nice if they could have forced a turnover or 2, but that’s not why this game was lost.
History has shown up the Steelers can’t beat the Ravens with a backup quarterback in the game no matter how well the defense plays. 5 of the Steelers last 6 losses with a backup quarterback in the game have come at the hands of the Ravens.
Upon a re-watch I tried to look at the game for some angle about how it all went wrong, and it was really quite obvious. When Leftwich was injured in the game and continued to play, the velocity on his throws dropped dramatically and you could see it in his throws. On several occasions including the final drive Leftwich missed open receivers because he couldn’t get enough on his throws to hit his receiver. I will write more in another column about why this happened and why a change wasn’t made, but for now I have to look at the Leftwich injury and him not being benched as a key factor in this loss. Hard to hate on Leftwich who appeared to have injured ribs and just kept trying to make plays.
I didn’t come into the game expecting a win, but if you are a Ravens fan today feel good you won, but your offense was shaky in a game they should have dominated. I wasn’t impressed with them, even running back Ray Rice didn’t gash a beat up Steelers D like many thought he would. This coaching staff on defense really has this group playing at a high level and should be applauded for it.
Another interesting point in this game were the struggles by the wide receivers. I knew this team would miss wide out Antonio Brown, but it really showed itself last night. Receivers were not able to get separation from defenders without Brown’s presence on the field, particularly tight end Heath Miller who really uses the void behind the linebackers when Brown pulls a safety deep. It all makes sense why the Steelers front office game Brown his new contract but have held out with fellow receiver Mike Wallace.
Going forward the Steelers must do 2 things. First, they have to assess the injury Leftwich suffered and decide if he’s healthy to play next week. And if he isn’t, they are going to have to seek out a free agent quarterback to add to the roster and allow veteran Charlie Batch to step in. I suppose a third thing they must do, no matter who is in the backfield is to try and shore up an offensive line that was allowing far too much pressure. 6-4 is ok at this point because of other losses this weekend, but 6-5 after next week, or even worse 6-6 in 2 with 3 conference losses would be suicide for the season. In a game like this, a few plays can make all the difference at the Ravens made those plays, whether it was a long return or forcing a turnover, those sorts of plays all when the Ravens way.
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