By Alex Kozora
Before turning out attention to the start of training camp, we’ll revisit 2013 one more time. This is a brand new series that will be recapping each game by highlighting three plays that shaped the final score – and the 2013 season – of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Recapping their second victory of the year with a 19-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 7.
Play #1 – 1st Quarter: Steve McLendon TFL
Third and one for Baltimore late in the first quarter. Ninth play of the drive that has taken the Ravens from their 24 to the Steelers’ 26. Play I broke down in my “Film Room” series.
The Ravens attempt to run an inside zone with back Bernard Pierce. Steve McLendon works through center Gino Gradkowski, penetrates, and makes the tackle in the backfield for a loss of one.
Baltimore settles for a 46 yard field goal, allowing Pittsburgh to maintain the lead. In a game that didn’t feature a ton of splash plays, this is one of those where its importance is only realized after the final whistle.
To the bigger point, this play highlighted McLendon’s greatest attribute, his athleticism. Not cut from the mold of the 340 pound plugger, he is a force against zone blocking schemes that pride themselves on being more athletic than the defensive line. McLendon still has his faults and the jury still out on him, but plays like this show why he is a starter in Pittsburgh.
Play #2 – 3rd Quarter: Ben Roethlisberger 19 yard rush
Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t broken 100 yards rushing in a season since 2010. Nor has he run for a gain of 20+ yards since that year. In his older age, he’s settled more into the pocket, willing to wait for an open receiver than cross the line of scrimmage and take off.
But in a pinch, he’ll still do it. And on this third quarter run to keep a drive alive, Roethlisberger has his longest run of the season.
Like the Ravens in the above play, it’s third and one for the home team. The Steelers attempt to throw out of a run heavy personnel. Just one wide receiver, and that’s Jerricho Cotchery, not Antonio Brown. Only a two man route that is well defended by Baltimore. Nowhere for Ben to throw.
To make the situation worse, Heath Miller is left one-on-one to pass block Terrell Suggs. Off the ball, Miller lunges, letting Suggs dip on by. Roethlisberger eludes him, scrambles to his left, realizes he doesn’t have an outlet, and scampers off. Because both routes are run to the right side, there’s nothing but green grass to the left. He smartly runs out of bounds untouched but not after a gain of 19.
It certainly wasn’t to the degree of Ben falling off defenders like we’ve seen before – one of my favorites coming against Suggs – but it achieved the same result. Keep the sticks moving.
The drive only comes away with three points, but when it’s Ravens v. Steelers, every one counts. If it’s Peyton Manning in the pocket on that play, the Steelers’ don’t convert. That’s what makes Big Ben special.
Play #3 – 4th quarter: Shaun Suisham’s game-winning field goal
Moments like this prove the “each one counts” adage true. Over the course of the rivalry, yet another game decided by one-possession. This time around, Pittsburgh bests Baltimore on the toe of Shaun Suisham.
After a healthy 37 yard return by Emmanuel Sanders (who would have returned it for a touchdown if it wasn’t for him barely stepping out of bounds), and an ensuing five play drive that got Pittsburgh down to the opposing 24, Suisham caps it off with a 42 yarder that neatly split the uprights as the final clocks tick to zero.
A play like this shows Suisham’s consistency and frankly, how underrated he’s been the last two seasons. After a rocky 2011 campaign where many fans wanted to show him the door, he’s responded by going 58-63 the last two seasons. That’s 92%.
Defeat the Ravens? You just can’t put a price on that.