That truly was an ugly loss for the Steelers – their offense did little and had two turnovers, their special teams allowed Baltimore’s only touchdown, their defense came up with no turnovers again and they topped it off by dressing out ugly in their bumblebee outfits.
Let’s get right to the good stuff:
--- Byron Leftwich kept saying nothing was wrong with him physically after the game, but there is evidence that does not support that. He kept grabbing his right rib cage in the second half. Then, there was an announcement in the press box in the fourth quarter that Leftwich was being examined for a rib injury. After the game, Mike Tomlin did not list him among the injured and when asked about it, Tomlin said “Obviously, he sustained some hits, but that’s football, particularly when you’re talking about his matchup. He did a nice job of communicating where he was and, more than anything, we just wanted to do a nice job of communicating.’’
At the end, though, it looked as though he could not make the passes. With David Gilreath open deep on third down with 22 seconds left, Leftwich’s throw came up woefully short. Oh, and Marquis Pouncey rolled the snap back to him on that play.
Leftwich also denied he was hurt.
--- Mike Adams will have to go to pass-blocking school after the season. He has the run-blocking stuff down, but he’s dreadful trying to block the outside rush.
--- That halfback rotation certainly was interesting. It looked for awhile there as if they wanted to switch out halfbacks every play, then Isaac Redman went and spoiled it with a concussion. If that wasn’t the plan, then what was the plan?
Mike Tomlin pronounced a few weeks ago he would go with the hot hand and then he went with everybody. Once again, Jonathan Dwyer was the best performer with 12 carries for 55 yards, but right until the end the Steelers insisted on trotting out Rashard Mendenhall and stuffing the ball in his belly. He had all of 33 yards on 11 carries with a long of five.
Their insistence on sticking with Mendenhall when Dwyer’s performance screams “Hey, I’m the hot hand here” is baffling. However, Jonathan Dwyer took himself out of the game at least twice, so maybe he could not go every play.
--- One play, third and two from the four, made all the difference. The Steelers called two timeouts after Byron Leftwich’s pass to Jerricho Cotchery fell incomplete on first down at Baltimore’s 12 late in the third quarter. One after that, and then one after Dwyer ran up the middle for eight yards to the four.
Now it’s third-and-two at the four. Another timeout. Leftwich goes to the sideline and discusses the play with Todd Haley and others, including what appeared to be a very-involved Ben Roethlisberger.
He throws a fade pattern to Mike Wallace, who gets one foot in the end zone and the other out of bounds. Had both feet been in, that would have been a great play-call. Others thought they should have run Dwyer once, maybe twice. However, after throwing the incompletion, I thought the smart move was to kick and they did, to cut the Baltimore lead to three with a full quarter left.
No one scored again.
--- Willie Colon grades out so well in all facets of his blocking, but those holding calls keep coming.
--- Both offenses stunk, and I’m not so sure it was due to great defensive play. The Steelers scored one touchdown thanks to a 41-yard pass interference penalty. The Ravens scored six points on offense and three of those came after their offense moved four yards when given the ball on a Mike Wallace fumble on the 12.
--- Two scenarios could unfold next weekend: The Steelers could win in Cleveland and Baltimore lose in San Diego and the Steelers would appear to be right back in the race for the AFC North heading to Baltimore with another chance to tie the Ravens at the top. Or, the Browns could beat them – a real possibility watching them play in Dallas – and the Ravens could go 3 up, certainly ending that division race with a chance to knock the Steelers down to .500 in Baltimore.
--- What could have been Tomlin’s motivation when he was asked about Leftwich’s performance and he responded that “I thought it was great.’’ It was many things, but great was not one of them, not unless he was referring strictly to his 31-yard average per carry.
--- More later.
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