Box score’s give the statistical picture of a football game, but every game has a set of plays that impact it more than the box score indicates. Here is a compilation of those plays from the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
– With six minutes left in the 1st quarter the Ravens offense was driving deep into the Steelers red zone. On a 3rd and 5 play from the Steelers’ 17-yard line, quarterback Joe Flacco completed a pass to Kamar Aiken that would have given the Ravens a first down. Instead, it was wiped out by an illegal shift penalty which led to a 3rd and 10 from the Steelers’ 22. This time, Flacco was pressured by Steelers safety Mike Mitchell on a blitz and he was flushed out of the pocket and threw an interception to rookie cornerback Artie Burns. A five-yard penalty and poor decision making by Flacco made sure the Ravens offense came away with no points despite entering the red zone.
– 4:30 remained in the first quarter when the Steelers got the ball back. Ben Roethlisberger and the offense took the field and had a performance that was indicative of how the unit played most of the game. On first down they received a delay of game penalty, which is inexcusable considering the experience of Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Steelers’ tackle Marcus Gilbert contributed as well as he had a false start infraction on second down, ensuring that penalties kept the Steelers’ offense off schedule. After some positive yardage, the offense faced a 3rd and 4 where they handed the ball to Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers’ offense had 5 blockers against 6 Ravens defenders plus a safety that was either playing the run aggressively or on a delayed blitz. The lack of blockers caused Bell to be stuffed at the line of scrimmage and the Steelers had to punt after a 3 and out.
– On first play of the 2nd quarter, the Ravens had the ball at their own 12-yard line when running back Terrence West took a second straight hand off over right tackle. This time inside linebacker Ryan Shazier made a great hit at the line of scrimmage that caused West to fumble. The ball popped in the air and rolled into the backfield, but luckily for the Ravens, Kamar Aiken saw the play and was there to make the recovery, otherwise the Steelers’ defense would have gotten their second turnover of the game and the offense would have been set up in Ravens’ red-zone.
– After a face-masking penalty on Le’Veon Bell, a 7-yard reception to Steelers tight end Jesse James, and an incompletion by Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown that was almost intercepted by Ravens’ linebacker C.J. Mosley, the Pittsburgh offense faced a 3rd and 18 at their own 33-yard line with 11 minutes left in the half. The offensive line protected Roethlisberger well, and he took a shot downfield to receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Heyward-Bey was covered by both a Ravens corner and safety and the ball fell harmlessly to the turf as an incompletion. The real impact occurred when Heyward-Bey injured his foot on the play. Heyward-Bey is a great special team’s player and if he’s out for an extended period it will be a major loss.
– With 50 seconds left in the half the Ravens offense was implementing their two-minute offense and faced a 3rd and 3 with under a minute left until halftime. Flacco was able to find wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. matched up on Steelers’ safety Robert Golden and converted a 5-yard completion. The Ravens then went to work on Steelers’ rookie corner Artie Burns for the next three plays. First was a 9-yard pass interference against Burns that led to a first down. Second was a 16-yard pass to Ravens’ receiver Breshard Perriman against Burns and third, was another pass to Perriman from Flacco at the expense of the young cornerback. The last reception gained 11 more yards. That last play got the Ravens into field goal range and kicker Justin Tucker split the uprights on a 49-yard field goal attempt assuring that the Steelers would be behind by two scores going into the half.
– With the Steelers’ offense producing almost nothing but three and outs and with only 6:30 left in the 3rd quarter, the offense took the field hoping to put the past behind them. But nothing had changed. The first play was a pass intended for Jesse James and it was tipped at the line of scrimmage and ultimately intercepted by the Ravens’ Timmy Jernigan. The Steelers’ defense took the field and held, but the Ravens were able to turn the interception into more points on the strength of Tucker’s second field goal of the game.
– The Steelers’ offense had finally got into gear by the middle of the 4th quarter. They had scored a touchdown on their previous possession and were trailing 21-7 with 6:50 left in the game. On the 14th play of their next drive, the Steelers faced a 3rd and 6 at the Ravens’ 13-yard line. With only 3:20 left in the game, and the Steelers offense in the red zone, and threatening to cut the lead to a one score game, Ravens’ linebacker Matthew Judon blitzed untouched, resulting in a sack and 12-yard loss. This back-breaking 3rd down failure forced the Steelers to attempt to convert on 4th and 18. The result was an incompletion to wide receiver Sammie Coates, who didn’t have a reception all day.
When you examine the film of Sunday’s loss, it’s easy to see why the box-score only tells half the story.