Pittsburgh Steelers Week 11 Report Card
Pittsburgh Steelers Week 11 Report Card
This past Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t add to their four-game winning streak and tasted defeat for the first time since Week 6. The Steelers (6-4) now find themselves two games out of the divisional lead after their 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The one uncertain thing for Pittsburgh going into this game was the production of their offense. Quarterback Byron Leftwich started for the first time since 2009, and the Steelers was without one of their leading receivers.
Everything looked good three plays into the game when Leftwich ran 31 yards for a touchdown. Unfortunately, Leftwich broke two of his ribs and his play suffered throughout the rest of the game.
The play of Pittsburgh’s special teams didn’t help matters either. In the first quarter, the Steelers surrendered a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown, which ended up being the difference maker in the game.
The only positive thing that was going for the Steelers was their defense. Pittsburgh didn’t force any turnovers. However, they did manage to do something for the first time this season, which was keep an offense out of the end zone the entire game.
With their first divisional loss in hand, the Steelers have made the road to an AFC North title more difficult, as well as a playoff berth. Injuries to now two quarterbacks have only made the second half of the season much more difficult in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers’ grades for Week 11 don’t look that great, but thanks to the play of their defense, there is something to hang their hat on from their performance versus the Ravens.
All hopes were high in the Steel City after Byron Leftwich ran for a 31-yard touchdown after avoiding pressure early in the first quarter. Too bad that was the only highlight of the quarterback’s nightmarish night. I will give Leftwich the benefit of the doubt, considering that he played most of the night with broken ribs, which was more than likely the reason for his so many short, and off-the-mark passes. Leftwich finished Sunday night’s contest completing 18 of 39 pass attempts for 201 yards and one interception. I admire his toughness and willingness of not wanting to leave the game, especially since this was his first start in three years.
The Steelers’ running game looked just about the same as it did last week. Pittsburgh’s running backs combined for 96 yards on 26 carries, and once again didn’t find the end zone. Running Back Jonathan Dwyer led the team with 55 of the team’s rushing yards, while Rashard Mendenhall made his return to the field after missing the last four games and contributed 33 yards of his own. Dwyer and Mendenhall also were factors in the passing game, with both combining for six catches for 43 yards out of the backfield. More opportunities to run the ball might have resulted in better rushing numbers.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders started for the second consecutive game, and was the Steelers’ most productive pass catcher with three receptions for 82 yards. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for fellow receiver Mike Wallace. About four-and-a-half minutes into the first quarter, Wallace fumbled, giving Baltimore the ball deep in Steelers’ territory, which resulted in the Ravens’ first points of the game. Wallace also had a subpar game with four catches for only 26 yards. With another one of their wide receivers added to the injury list, Pittsburgh is now thin in their receiving corps, and are in dire need for some depth.
Overall, the Steelers’ offensive line struggled. Over the past two games, they have failed to duplicate the dominance in run blocking that they displayed from Weeks 7-9, which produced 100-yard rushers. As far as pass protection, the offensive line’s performance is starting to decline in that as well. The Ravens sacked Leftwich three times, and also got in some late hits on the already riddled quarterback as well. Rookie offensive tackle Mike Adams once again had a rough game on the right side of the line. Much of the quarterback pressure put on by Baltimore came from Adams’ side of the offensive line.
Pittsburgh’s defensive front was a key part in holding one of the league’s best running backs to just 40 yards on the night. Constant pressure from up front threw off the rhythm of Baltimore’s quarterback in the passing game. However, an offsides penalty late in the game proved to be costly for the Steelers because it turned a third-and-seven into a third-and-two. More importantly, with 2:04 left in the fourth quarter and no timeouts remaining, the penalty brought on the two-minute warning for the Ravens, therefore giving them a chance to get the first down and take valuable time on the clock.
Linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison made their presence felt by each recording a sack in Sunday night’s game. The Steelers’ linebacking corps was very active in getting to the ball carrier all night. They too were an important part in stuffing Baltimore’s running game and disrupting the passing attack with their pass rushing. Harrison, who has missed significant time earlier this season due to a knee injury and late surgery in the offseason, is slowly but surely starting to look like his normal self. Harrison could potentially come on strong late in the season along with the play of Woodley.
The secondary probably played their best game of the season by far against the Ravens. Baltimore’s quarterback only totaled 164 passing yards, which makes the fifth consecutive quarterback to be held under 200 passing yards by the Steelers. This proves why the Steelers have quietly had the best defense in the league virtually all season. In addition, the Ravens only averaged 5.1 yards per reception. As good as Pittsburgh’s defensive backs were, they still couldn’t get any turnovers in the passing game, something that has been lacking all season long. The secondary also proved to be helpful against the ground attack.
There really isn’t anything to say about the kicking game. The only field goal attempt was a 22-yarder that brought the Steelers within three points in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh’s punter placed four of his eight punts inside the 20-yard line, and had a long of 51 yards. The play that broke Pittsburgh’s back was the 63-yard punt return for a touchdown that they surrendered in the first quarter. This was definitely the difference maker in the entire game. As far as the Steelers’ return game, nothing transpired from that at all. They averaged only four yards on three punt returns, and 18 yards on two kickoff returns.
Defensively, nothing more could have been done as far as preparation for this game. The coaching staff did exactly what was supposed to be done in getting the defense ready for this contest. Offensively, you have to play into account the injury of Leftwich, and his inability to make accurate throws. I have to blame the coaching staff for not making the move of taking Leftwich out when it was clearly apparent that his rib injury was affecting his play, and the team’s chances of winning. The magnitude of this game wasn’t something to be taken lightly. A first-place tie in the division was at stake, and the decision of keeping Leftwich in the game cost them potential control of the AFC North.
Follow me on Twitter @ClydeASpeller
Steelers Are True Contenders Heading Into Playoffs
The Pittsburgh Steelers are making huge strides to be top contenders in this year's NFL playoff picture. Read More
Jaguars Should Embrace the Spoiler Role In Week 17
The Jacksonville Jaguars seek to end their subpar 2014 season in a Week 17 spoiler role. Read More