Steelers Vs Ravens Positional Grades

Another December showdown at Heinz Field in primetime, another thrilling Pittsburgh Steelers win over the rival Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football.

It certainly wasn’t pretty, and at times it was in doubt, but a win is a win, and the Steelers are once against AFC North champions.

Thanks to a record-setting performance from star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, an other-worldly performance from Antonio Brown and three total touchdowns from Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers were able to squeeze past the Ravens on a late Chris Boswell field goal for the fourth time in five games, setting up a pivotal Week 15 matchup with the New England Patriots at Heinz Field.

QB — A+

For the third time in his career, Roethlisberger cracked the 500-yard passing mark in a game, setting an NFL record in the process. It couldn’t have come at a better time, considering the Steelers’ defense had trouble stopping the Ravens’ attack, and the Steelers found themselves in an 11-point hole to start the fourth quarter.

Once again, Roethlisberger was dynamite in primetime at home, carving up the Ravens’ secondary for 506 yards and two scores on 44-of-66 passing. I’m sure his right arm is tired today, but what a performance by No. 7.

He was sharp all game long, spread the ball around to all his receivers and really commanded the pocket down the stretch, keeping everyone on the offense calm and focused.

RB — A-

Bell averaged just 3.7 yards per carry against a stout Baltimore front 7, which is way down from his performance in Week 4 on the road, but Bell ran hard and determined, dishing out punishment yet again on helpless defenders.

Despite finishing with just 48 rushing yards on 13 carries, Bell found the end zone twice on the ground, providing balance to the offense. Where he really excelled ]on Sunday night for the second straight week was in the passing game, hauling in nine passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.

He lined up everywhere on the night and really caused the Baltimore defense problems with personnel. Bell was dinged up in the game, leaving briefly with a knee injury, but he came back and seemed to be okay. It’s worth monitoring on the injury report this week though.

Aside from Bell, James Conner came in and gave the Steelers some solid snaps, carrying the ball twice for just six yards, but he was an adequate pass blocker in limited reps and seems to be gaining the trust of the coaching staff down the stretch.

Fullback Rosie Nix had one heck of a night for the black and gold. Aside from setting the tone on the opening kickoff with a monstrous hit on Chris Moore, Nix helped open holes for Bell and Conner while also providing an edge to the offense, getting into a few scraps with the Ravens.

But let’s not forget his biggest play of the night – a 1-yard touchdown catch over Tony Jefferson for his first career score that pulled the Steelers to within two points early in the fourth quarter. Not a bad way to score your first touchdown.

WR — A-

What more can be said about Brown at this point? He’s the best receiver in the league, bar none. It doesn’t matter if the opposing team is going to drop bracket coverage on him, because he’s going to routinely beat it.

He did that repeatedly on Sunday night, finishing with a game-high 11 receptions for 213 yards, including 136 yards in the furious rally that was the fourth-quarter comeback.

The Ravens and their fans are going to have nightmares of 84 when they think of pivotal Ravens-Steelers matchups at Heinz Field, because he’s come up clutch in every one of them, from the helmet catch down the right sideline, to the Immaculate Stretch to last night’s fourth quarter performance. Am I missing any others against the Ravens in big games?

Along with Brown, Martavis Bryant was decent as a receiver, finishing with six receptions for 33 yards on 10 targets, but he pulled up on a deep shot in the second half, resulting in the Steelers pulling him for Justin Hunter after Roethlisberger was very demonstrative towards Bryant. More on him later.

In place of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers had a couple of nice catches in the middle of the field, finishing with three for 33 on six targets. The Steelers really missed JuJu’s physicality though at times, but credit to Rogers, who stepped up when he needed to and made some big catches.

TE — A

What a night for the Outlaw, Jesse James!

A career-high 10 receptions for 97 yards, including a couple of huge third-down catches in the rally, made James one of the stars of the night for the black and gold. Right away it was clear that Roethlisberger felt comfortable working with James over the middle, considering he was wide open a number of times against the Ravens defense.

As a blocker, James continues to leave much to be desired, but he more than made up for it with his receiving output in a big spot.

Vance McDonald made his return – briefly – for the Steelers and hauled in four receptions for 52 yards while also serving as a strong run blocker, but the oft injured tight end exited this game with a shoulder injury and never returned.

OL — B

Roethlisberger was sacked three times in the win and was hit an additional eight times, which has come to be expected in a Steelers-Ravens matchup, but those stats are kind of misleading because I felt that the offensive line did a great job in pass protection, especially Chris Hubbard.

Enjoy him now Steelers fans, because he’s signing else where in free agency for big bucks. He’s more than earned it.

Hubbard was a monster on the night, completely shutting off the pass rush on the right side while finding his footing as a run blocker, burying rookie Tim Williams on Bell’s second rushing touchdown of the night. That block is one that will play over and over again on highlight reels.

As far as the rest of the offensive line goes, there wasn’t much that stood out, good or bad. As a unit, they struggled to consistently run the ball (3.7 ypc), but two touchdowns on the ground is two touchdowns.

Keep an eye on Alejandro Villanueva’s shoulder injury, which caused him to leave for a few snaps before coming back in. He’s been wearing a brace on that arm since the start of the season. We’ll see if it got worse.

DL — C

Not so good this week from the Steelers’ defensive line.

The Ravens rushed for 5.8 yards per carry on the night, and the Steelers’ defensive line rarely won one-on-one matchups against a depleted Baltimore offensive line. In fact, not one Steeler defensive lineman recorded a tackle for loss in this one.

Stephon Tuitt did record two quarterback hits, including one big one late, while Cam Heyward and Tuitt each batted down a pass, but it just wasn’t a night to write home about for this unit.

Javon Hargrave recorded four of the six total tackles of the trio, but he was pushed around at times, which was a bit concerning.

LB — C-

The Steelers really missed Ryan Shazier’s ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline against the Ravens.

You have to love Arthur Moats the guy, but he was a step slow last night and struggled to tackle Alex Collins on a few key plays. Credit him for stepping into a position he hadn’t played in four years, but it didn’t go so well.

Vince Williams played with his hair (or lack thereof) on fire at times, finishing with seven stops, good for second on the team, but even he was a step slow reacting at times.

Sean Spence clearly looked like a guy just brought in off the street, while LJ Fort made a few nice plays down the stretch, on both special teams and defense.

At outside linebacker, Bud Dupree continues to be maddening. He goes far too long on stretches of invisibility, and that was the case the entire game against the Ravens, finishing with just one tackle while rarely getting much of anything going as a pass rusher.

TJ Watt came on strong late in the game, picking up his sixth sack of the season, forcing a fumble on Joe Flacco that went out of bounds to end the game. Along with the sack, Watt finished with four tackles, one tackle for loss and a team-high three quarterback hits.

DB — D

Yes, I know that most of the pass interference calls against the Steelers on Sunday night were garbage, but they happened. That’s not what this grade is for.

The Steelers’ secondary continues to be a problem for a defense that has gradually declined, in terms of stats down the stretch.

The defense gave up five splash-play receptions in the win, allowing Flacco to throw for 269 yards and two scores. On top of that, Collins ran all over the Steelers, forcing a ton of missed tackles that both Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis would like to forget.

On Moore’s touchdown in the first half, both Cam Sutton and Davis were picked on by a great throw from Flacco into the turkey hole, but Davis was way late reacting, almost as if he never saw Moore breaking open.

Joe Haden might come back next week, but I’m not sure even he can plug the holes in the dam right now in this secondary.

Special Teams — A-

Boswell and Jordan Berry were really, really solid against the Ravens. Boswell drilled all four field goal attempts, including the game-winner for the second-straight week, while Berry really stood out punting the ball, averaging 47 yards a punt on three tries.

He really flipped the field at times, despite not dropping a punt inside the Baltimore 20-yard line.

Rogers didn’t do much of anything on punt returns, actually losing two yards on his lone return attempt, while Bryant was an abject disaster on kick returns. He averaged just 11 yards per kick return on five tries. That’s almost unheard of!

I’m all for giving him another shot, but he has to be much smarter with where he’s fielding the ball and how he attacks the kick coverage unit.

  • Brenton deed

    No area is really weak … just inconsistent… let’s hope they do it at the right times…. with all the bad injuries this year (now wentz) the SB winner is going to be the one who produces at the right time. Beating NE would be a good start ( REALLY?)

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Not to look too far ahead, but I sure hope the theme of this next year’s draft for defensive players is TACKLING.

    That was……………really bad.

  • NCSteel

    You were too polite regarding the DB’s and Bryant brings down the entire special teams unit nearly a grade.

    Seriously, in regards to Bryant…
    If anyone thinks the “threat” of the long ball is real with him on the field is kidding themselves.
    Bryant is a disaster and should be benched.

    In man, the guy that draws him has got to be thinking, “nice to get a day off once in a while”.

    He sucks. Period. Sucks.
    I’ve been backing him all season and waiting for the breakout, time to face reality. He sucks.

  • NCSteel

    Worst tackling team I think I’ve ever seen outside of a few high school teams.
    Somehow we are where we are but you’re spot on.

  • srdan

    I don’t know man, that safety is over there a lot. DCs don’t agree with you

  • Am I the only one who feels like Bryant is showing a serious lack of effort out there at times? From the terrible fielding of kickoffs, to his ‘blocking’ when someone else catches the ball, to his disinterest in fighting for deep balls it just seems like he’s over this season.

    As crazy as it might sound, I wonder if Justin Hunter would at least put forth more effort.

  • Chad Weiss

    Tuitt played at an all pro level Sunday night.By my account he had two qb hits,5 qb hurries,a crucial tipped pass giving us ball back for game winning drive. On plays his way he was doubled team and still holding up runner for others to make plays.He was doubled teamed 94 percent of game ,tripled three other plays,also hit flacco to cause bad pass on last drive of game and tipped another. He only had three bad reps and was dominating double teams all night.Butlers scheme took him out of four plays . He got pancaked one play,missed a tackle,and tripped on last play of the game. Besides that he played at an all pro level.. Anybody please go back and watch every play of tuitts and tell me he wasn’t the best player on defense on either side of the field. I just watched every snap of game and logged it in a thread in here. Tuitts was an absolute best tonight!!

  • Danny Porter

    I would rather see Chic or Deebo than Dupree right now.
    He seems to run himself out of every play

  • ducious

    Agreed. He seems to be going through the motions. One play he gained about 9 yards but he could have reached out and tried for a first. Instead he leisurely strolls out of bounds. No effort to extend. Ho hum. Not sure if it’s true or not but it does appear that he is indeed disinterested.

  • Sdale

    Interesting. Thanks for breaking that down. As I was watching the game, he didn’t stand out to me, but I wasn’t paying as much attention to the line as I was the secondary.

  • The Tony

    It’s hard to say if a player is disinterested, especially in Bryant’s case where he is working towards a contract. Hard to imagine a player being disinterested on prime time against a division rival

  • The Tony

    Thanks for the work. Just watching live, it appeared that the defensive line struggled to get penetration, but that’s the issue of not focusing on one player, you tend to miss the double and triple teams

  • Chad Weiss

    I didn’t notice first time I watched it or the second or third but fourth time I focused on just him and was kinda blown away how dominant he actually was.

  • NinjaMountie

    Seriously, is Chickillo that bad in practice? What more does Dupree have to “not do” to give Chick a shot?

  • Buccos9

    I agree that Bryant looks like he he is going through the motions. My question is why Heyward-Bey is not getting a shot in place of Bryant.

  • Mark

    I feel Martavis is just going through the motions and actually hurting the team. The young man is immature and not ready for the spot light. JuJu will get his spot on the outside if he continues playing this way. He’s trying to find the sideline no matter what. His toughness is non existent.

    The DL really let us down though. I expected Cam, Tuitt, and Hargrave to own the Ravens, however, all they were doing was catching blocks and getting pushed around.

    OMG Bud Dupree was straight Houdini, all he does is try to run around blocks instead of using his size and strength to his advantage. He runs up field leaving huge gaps in the C hole.

  • Mark

    Our young OLB’s have no clue on how to squeeze down on the C gap while keeping their outside shoulders free for bounce out runs by the RB. James knows how, but can’t get back outside, speed is gone.

    Dupree is the worst as he runs up the arc, creating a hug crease in the C Gap for RBs to bounce outside.

  • Jim Foles

    Against cinci he did this 4 times in a row. Almost like he is brain dead.

  • francesco

    Regarding MB…this weather condition is not ideal for him. I see him in the West Coast.

  • gentry_gee

    Ridiculous grades for the D. Should all be D- and below. The D-line was just brutal all night & the secondary was pure garbage. This is one of the worst defenses ever assembled.