By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be facing their biggest game of the year on a weekly basis from here on out—provided that they continue to win. The current biggest game of the year comes against their biggest rival in recent history: the Baltimore Ravens.
Both teams are 5-6 and coming off key wins. The Steelers won the first matchup between the two and are looking to make it a sweet in Baltimore tonight.
The Ravens won the toss and deferred. Emmanuel Sanders was back to return it, but the bouncing ball forced him to take a knee, so Ben Roethlisberger started from the 20.
The Steelers began with a draw play on a heavy run formation, including Mike Adams, but it was bottled up for no gain. On second down, Le’Veon Bell tried to bounce a run to the outside, but he was brought down for a loss by Lardarius Webb. On third and 12, they continued to hand it off to Bell, who got out to the 25 and the Steelers were forced to punt.
Mat McBriar got off a good punt with a short run back, tackled by Antwon Blake just beyond the 20. On first down, Joe Flacco went deep to Jacoby Jones, who had beaten William Gay, but the ball was underthrown. Ray Rice gained about three on second down, tackled by Troy Polamalu.
On third and seven, Flacco found Brandon Stokley near the first down marker to move the chains. The Steelers had no pressure on first down, allowing Flacco to find Torrey Smith deep down the field down to the one. Rice was just short on first and goal. Jason Worilds got to Flacco for the sack on second down, nearly unblocked. On third down from the seven, Flacco easily found Smith in front of Ike Taylor for the score and a 7-0 lead.
The Steelers began their second drive from the 21. They kept it on the ground for a fourth straight play for a gain of two on first down, and Bell added three more to set up third and five. Roethlisberger’s first pass was complete to Antonio Brown, who eluded Webb to get the first down.
The Steelers bluffed the Wildcat on the next play before Roethlisberger came back in under center, but his pass was batted down by Chris Canty. The second down pass was a screen to Sanders that went for a short gain, setting up yet another third and long.
Following a timeout, the Ravens jumped offsides, giving Pittsburgh a free play. Roethlisberger looked over the top for Sanders, but he slammed his head on the turf making the diving attempt, which he could not come up with. Now on third and two, Roethlisberger hit Jerricho Cotchery on a shovel pass for the first down.
With Sanders back in two plays later, Heath Miller caught his first pass on the day for a first down past midfield. Bell spun off the pile on first down to pick up about four yards on first down. Roethlisberger looked for Brown deep on second down, but could not connect. On third down, Roethlisberger’s pass under pressure came up short at Cotchery’s feet, resulting in another punt, which was downed at the 10.
Bernard Pierce picked up about four on first down, and Jones was good for four a play later. Pierce converted on third down, then broke off for about 11 on first down. After a drop on first down, Flacco handed off to Pierce for about five. Following a timeout, Flacco found Stokley over the middle of the field for the first down and more.
From the 43, Rice was bottled up, but was able to sneak out to the 41 for two yards. Ziggy Hood got a hit on Flacco on second down to force an incompletion. On third and eight, Flacco’s pass was out of Stokley’s reach to force a punt.
From the 15, Roethlisberger used play action to peel out to his right and find Brown near the sideline for a quick first down pickup. Sanders picked up about five over the middle a play later. On second and five, Bell took a Wildcat snap and patiently wriggled his way for six yards and a first down.
Bell was stopped for no gain on first down from the 37. On second and 10, Roethlisberger took off and picked up the first down, spilling out of bounds. Under pressure, Roethlisberger scrambled and threw on the run to seemingly nobody in particular, closer to a Raven than a Steeler.
On second down, the Ravens bottled up Bell for a short gain to set up third and nine. Roethlisberger found Sanders for 15 yards under pressure to keep the drive alive. After a false start by David DeCastro, Roethlisberger dumped off the pass to Bell, who picked up nine yards to keep ahead of the chains.
On second and six, Roethlisberger gunned a pass to Sanders that the receiver could not reach. Now third and six, Roethlisberger’s pass was behind Sanders and incomplete. The Steelers sent out Shaun Suisham for a 50-yard attempt. Either the snap was late or Suisham was early, so the kick never got off, and Suisham ended up getting tackled for a big loss and a disastrous turnover on downs.
The Ravens, beginning from their own 44, ran for three yards on first down. Cortez Allen broke up a pass for Jones on second down. On third down, Taylor was flagged for pass interference down to the 27. Two plays later, Taylor broke up a pass for Smith in the end zone. On third and eight, Flacco scrambled for the first down.
From the 21 following a false start, Lawrence Timmons stopped Rice for no gain on first down. Worilds got to Flacco on second down and forced the ball out, but the Ravens were able to recover. On third and 23, Rice picked up a few yards to make an easier field goal attempt. It was good, extending the Ravens’ lead to 10-0.
Jonathan Dwyer returned the kick out to the 28. A screen pass to Brown only gained two on first down. Roethlisberger’s pass was out of Brown’s reach on second down. On third and eight, Sanders came up short about a yard, forcing yet another punt, which bounced out at the 15.
Hood, in coverage, tackled the back after a yard. Dallas Clark made it third and one, and Rice plowed ahead for the first down. A screen to Rice picked up seven yards out to the 32, but Michael Oher was flagged for a false start. The Ravens were content then to go into halftime with the score 10-0, knowing they will receive the ball after the half.