By Matthew Marczi
In a game that saw Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker send a quintuplet of pigskins through the uprights in what was ultimately a two-point loss, the special teams performance of the Pittsburgh Steelers should probably be credited with assists on a pair of those field goals.
First, there was the comical ‘cadence’ issue on the lone field goal attempt by Shaun Suisham right in the middle of the second quarter. The play was so baffling that the official play-by-play lists it as a fake field goal when it clearly was not.
The Canadian kicker began his motions a bit too early, evidently missing the cadence that head coach Mike Tomlin said the team was using in order to combat the crowd noise and slow the rush. When he reached the point where he should be kicking the ball, it wasn’t positioned for him.
Instead of trying to kick it, he aborted, and Mat McBriar flipped him the ball as he was being tackled. Suisham himself was dropped for a loss after retreating 12 yards, which allowed the Ravens to take over near midfield.
After a 26-yard pass interference flag on Ike Taylor, the Ravens eventually converted that faux pas into three points of their own.
About 15 minutes later, after the Steelers finally got onto the scoreboard with an eight-yard touchdown to Emmanuel Sanders, the special teams allowed returner Jacoby Jones to return the ball from the goal line all the way to the Steelers’ 27 after a return of 73 yards before Cortez Allen (and Tomlin?) brought him down.
The Ravens eventually got down to the seven before an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Ray Rice sent them back to the 20. Still, it was easy doings for Tucker, who made every kick in the game, and needed every one.
If it wasn’t bad enough that the special teams helped contribute to two field goals for the opposing team in a game in which even one less field goal would have been the difference between a victory and a defeat, the unit also managed to add insult to injury with an embarrassing onside kick attempt.
After Sanders failed to secure a tough pass that went through his hands on the two-point conversion attempt that should have tied the game, the Steelers were left with no choice but to attempt the onside kick.
Of course, the more trickery the better, right? So Suisham first pretended to attack the ball from the right before shifting to the left, only to kick the ball to the right with his left foot.
The only problem is that the ball didn’t come close the even traveling the requisite distance to afford an attempt at a recovery. It was just what was needed to put an exclamation point on the end of what turned out to be a punch line that only Baltimore thought was funny.