The Steelers’ win over the Ravens was a mixed bag of offensive line play. That was to be expected considering the injuries and illnesses that once again required the team to play all seven active offensive lineman.
When the Steelers were rolling and Bruce Arians was calling plenty of quick passes, there were few problems. But in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh generally lost the battle of the line of scrimmage and managed to win anyway. The analysis is going to be a little brief on the front end today, but here are the numbers and then I’ll post some thoughts on the game.
|Total||Good Play||Total Plays||Percentage|
|Run||Good Play||Total Plays||Percentage|
|Pass||Good Play||Total Plays||Percentage||Pressures||Sacks|
And now here are some quick thoughts:
• Ben Roethlisberger did hold the ball too long on the Suggs’ sack/fumble that led to Baltimore’s second touchdown, but it’s not as egregious as you may believe. Roethlisberger had the ball for 3.4 seconds and against a four-man rush (with no one in his line of sight getting any penetration). He needs to get rid of the ball, but 3.4 seconds is not the same as holding onto the ball for four seconds or more. It was just a great play by Suggs, one of many for him in this game.
• The Steelers threw in some new wrinkles on Saturday. When Pittsburgh found itself deep in its own end early in the second quarter, the Steelers rolled out an unbalanced line with Jonathan Scott flipped over to Flozell Adams’ outside shoulder. The play only gained a piddling one yard, but it was a nice idea.
• The Steelers’ running backs made some nice saves in pass protection. One example that stood out: With Ben Roethlisberger standing in the end zone for his dropback on third and seven, Terrell Suggs beat Ramon Foster to the inside. It was a rush right up the middle, which is tough for even Ben Roethlisberger to shake off, but just before he got to Roethlisberger, Isaac Redman shoved Suggs outside, giving Big Ben a chance to step into his throw.
• Pittsburgh wanted to make sure that Roethlisberger had time to throw. So Heath Miller spent much of the night serving as a blocking back in pass situations, and the Steelers even had a rollout where Hines Ward was asked to make a key pass block on the edge.
• Credit to Pro Football Talk for noticing this first, but Maurkice Pouncey earned the Steelers a key first down with a little subterfuge. Early in the fourth quarter, the Steelers got to the 14 on third and 11 when they needed to get to the 13. Pittsburgh then rushed to the line to try to sneak for the first down before the Ravens were ready. Ravens coach John Harbaugh pulled a fast one of his own by a bogus challenge (which was waived when he “learned” that it wasn’t a first down). That gave Baltimore a chance to get set.
However, the ball had originally been spotted just on the far side of the 14-yard line hash mark (closer to the 15). When Pouncey initially ran up to snap the ball, he slid the ball forward about a foot to the other side of the 14-yard line. The referees didn’t notice it during Harbaugh’s challenge discussion, so when the two teams lined up again, the ball was now on the other side of the hash mark, closer to the 13. The Steelers again tried to rush the snap, and Pouncey again slid the ball forward a foot, but the officials stepped in to cover up the ball to give the Ravens more time to prepare. By now, the ball is roughly at the 13 1/2 yard line, a full two to two and a half feet further than it initially was spotted. When Pouncey lined up to snap again, he moved the ball up a further foot, putting the ball just inches from the 13-yard line. When Roethlisberger sneaked, he only needed about three inches to get the first down instead of a full yard.
• It’s hard to call it a miracle, but Rashard Mendenhall’s game-winning touchdown was both a thing of beauty and an indescribable screw-up. On that play, it’s hard to find one lineman who made an effective block. Jonathan Scott didn’t really block anyone. Chris Kemoeatu was driven into the backfield when trying to pull, then flagged for unnecessary roughness. Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster both attempted ineffective cut blocks that left their men standing unblocked at the line of scrimmage. Trai Essex didn’t really block anyone either. But David Johnson got just enough of Jarret Johnson and Mendenhall executed a nice cutback that left two unblocked defensive lineman flat-footed.
Overall, Flozell Adams struggles can be explained away — he was barely able to stand because of the flu. Pouncey was dominant when he was asked to block Ray Lewis. He had much more trouble in goal line situations blocking 350-pound defensive tackles. Ramon Foster gets a medal for sliding out to tackle, but his overall play was the same so-so blocking you would expect. Chris Kemoeatu made some dumb post-play blocks that he needs to eliminate. Jonathan Scott had a better game against Suggs this week — most of Suggs damage came against other linemen — but he still gives up four or five pressures and a sack a game. I’d be surprised to learn anything else from Scott’s stats this Sunday against the Jets.