Positional notes: Steelers vs. ravens

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Cardiac Steelers.

I’m not sure there’s another way to describe this group in general without using the word cardiac. That’s what they are at this point.

The Pittsburgh Steelers win badly, but more importantly – they win.

That’s exactly what happened on Sunday Night Football in Week 17 against the Baltimore Ravens, when rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett again led a game-winning drive in the final minutes, firing a hit on the play to running back Najee Harris on the left sideline to the game. The game-winning score and star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick shut out Tyler Huntley on the Ravens’ last drive to seal the 16-13 victory, keeping the black and gold alive in the AFC playoff picture again.

Let’s get to some notes and enjoy this one.

QB-B-

Another week, another thrilling endgame twist from newcomer Kenny Pickett, this time on the road in a hostile environment.

Much like the comeback against the Las Vegas Raiders on Christmas Eve, Pickett made the magic happen after having his fair share of ups and downs on the day. Final numbers might not be impressive (15-of-27, 168 yards, one touchdown), but he did it when it mattered most, going 5-of-6 for 64 yards in the game-winner.

His 20-yard field goal rolling to the left and throwing it back across his body to tight end Pat Freiermuth on the dive was remarkable. So did the 28-yard dart down the middle to Steven Sims, who finally set up his 10-yard touchdown pass to Najee Harris on the run down the left sideline on a game-winning broken play.

It’s pretty hard to quantify, but Pickett’s chutzpah and general “it” factor are off the charts. He never blinks at big moments and really brings a serious calming influence to those moments, which he resonates with his teammates. He just doesn’t blink and it’s the high tide that lifts all the boats at those times.

The Steelers absolutely have something here with Pickett. Now it’s about finding that consistency across games so the Steelers don’t have to rely on late-game heroics every week.

RB – A+

What a performance by the duo of Harris and Jaylen Warren.

After struggling against the Ravens in Week 14 at home, Harris and Warren dominated from start to finish against the Ravens, playing bully ball from the game’s opening play.

Harris had arguably the best game of his career to date, finishing with 111 rushing yards on 22 carries and added two catches for 14 yards, including a late game-winning 10-yard touchdown run on a rushing drill with Pickett, defeating Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith moved up the sideline to score.

On the ground, Harris was a force to be reckoned with. He once again went through tackles consistently and had the pile drop forward overnight, giving the Steelers a consistent and powerful rush offense overnight.

Warren was great as a change-of-pace option behind Harris, finishing with 12 carries for 76 yards. He got an explosive 31-yard run on the game’s first drive on a well-engineered jet sweep that was a new wrinkle for offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Between tackles, Warren was a force, as was Harris.

Warren was also very impactful in the passing game, finishing with three catches for 22 yards, including a 10-yard long to move the Chains on the game’s first drive.

Great running backs night.

WR — C+

On a night when the running game was the focal point of the Steelers offense, the Steelers receivers did not have the impact many had hoped for in the matchup.

Diontae Johnson (two catches, 35 yards) and George Pickens (two catches, 29 yards) weren’t as impactful overall, though they made some key receptions, including Pickens’ 15-yard catch to convert a game-winning third and 14. first half. Johnson nearly went down with a big play later in the game on a deep shot by Pickett, but failed to get his second foot inbounds.

The issues with receivers had to do with their inability to stay infield in lanes, especially Pickens’ play on a Pickett run in which he threw a seed in the run to Pickens. However, he was benched due to Pickens going out of bounds early in his route. Diontae Johnson also couldn’t get down with a third-down reception in the first half.

Steven Sims came up big for the Steelers in the finale, throwing his 28-yard reception down the middle on the Steelers’ game-winning touchdown attempt. He led Steelers receivers with three receptions for 34 yards on the night.

TE — B-

A false start penalty on Pat Freiermuth’s first drive of the game turned what should have been a touchdown drive into one that settled for a field goal. Pre-snap penalties are still quite painful.

The good news is that Freiermuth bounced back after that, finishing with three receptions for 36 yards, including a 20-yard sliding clutch on the game-winning touchdown, moving the Steelers to midfield, setting up Pickett’s offense for Sims on the next play. . He is an accurate tight end and continues to make key plays in big situations for the Steelers.

After struggling a week behind from a blocking standpoint, Freiermuth, Zach Gentry and Connor Heyward have bounced back in style, combining with the offensive line to really win at the point of attack and move people out of the venue to open up big lanes. of racing.

HELLO

The last time the Steelers’ offensive line matched the Ravens’ seven linemen, Baltimore dominated from start to finish. It was not the case this week.

Against the Ravens on Sunday Night Football, the offensive line came out determined and dominated throughout the Baltimore matchup, helping the Steelers rush for 198 yards on 41 carries, controlling the game in the trenches and taking it to the Ravens overnight.

Kevin Dotson, Mason Cole and James Daniels really got the back on the inside, consistently winning at the point of attack and creating a serious surge throughout the night. So did Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor.

Aside from the groundbreaking performance, the Steelers allowed only two sacks, neither of which would go against the offensive line, as Pickett stumbled behind the line of scrimmage and touched one, then fell on a game-ending sack. alone instead of throwing the ball away.

One of the best performances of the season for the offensive line. Very impressive.

DL — B-

Baltimore running back JK Dobbins had another great game against the Steelers, rushing for 93 yards on just 17 carries, but overall the defensive line played very well during the game.

Using a six-man front at times, the Steelers defense was able to consistently pull out late in the game thanks to work in the trenches by Larry Ogunjobi, Cameron Heyward and DeMarvin Leal. Ogunjobi finished with two tackles and Leal added three tackles, while Heyward led the offense with four tackles.

However, Heyward had a costly penalty late in the first half, being called for an unnecessary roughness penalty on the pile after a third down stop, extending Baltimore’s drive, which led to a 7-yard touchdown pass by Tyler Huntley for Isaiah Likely. It’s a penalty that largely shouldn’t have been taken, but that can’t be happening with a veteran like Heyward, especially with the importance of these games in the future.

LB – B

Putting more emphasis on stopping the run, Robert Spillane and rookie Mark Robinson took a significant amount of snaps on Sunday night and performed very well.

Spillane led the Steelers with nine game-winning tackles, including one tackle for loss. He played downhill hard and really did well reading his keys and finding the ball. Robinson made an impact early on in the drive, hitting a big hit on the first play of the game. He finished with seven tackles in the win and looked like a guy who could run more next season as BUCK’s starting linebacker.

Devin Bush had limited snaps in the win but finished with two tackles, while Myles Jack was ineffective before leaving the game with a groin injury again.

Outside, TJ Watt stood out in the night. Watt finished with four tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss, racking up a number of pressures on the night as well. He gave Morgan Moses a handful before the veteran offensive tackle was forced out of the game with an injury. Alongside Watt, Alex Highsmith played very well on the run, finishing with three tackles in the win. He didn’t create much from a pass-rush point of view.

DB – A

Once again, the quarterbacks did a good job against the Ravens, holding Huntley and Baltimore to just 120 yards on the night.

Arthur Maulet, Cameron Sutton and Levi Wallace really took away Baltimore’s receiving options on the night, holding DeSean Jackson and Demarcus Robinson to just two total catches for 18 yards. In fact, Baltimore receivers were only targeted five times total on the night.

The chants really doused the receivers overnight.

Although tight end Mark Andrews had a great night, finishing with nine receptions for 100 yards, the secondary really took a lot out of the Ravens in the passing game. Terrell Edmunds was very solid in his return to the lineup, playing well as that extra quarterback in the area and defending Andrews well at times.

He made a crucial play late on third down, breaking up a pass intended for Andrews that would have put the Ravens in field goal range for Justin Tucker. Instead, Baltimore kicked the football, setting up Pickett’s game-winning try.

Minkah Fitzpatrick called the game late once again, shutting out Huntley late on a reckless drive, capping off a strong night for the veteran safety, who finished with nine tackles.

Special Teams — D+

Danny Smith’s unit is heading in the wrong direction at this point in the season.

Kick coverage is a mess. Rookie Connor Heyward missed a kickoff for the second time this season, which allowed Justice Hill to rip off a 56-yard kickoff return in the second half. Cover units got progressively worse this season under Smith. It’s a huge concern.

Then there are the infinite number of penalties on special teams own plays, like Elijah Riley’s game-ending call on hold on a punt, putting the Steelers deep in their own territory. They are constantly shooting themselves in the foot on special teams.

Kicker Chris Boswell missed a field goal in the victory, but recovered to drill three field goals in the victory. However, he has a conversion rate of just 69.2% for the season. It is one of the lowest numbers in football this season. It has mostly been a losing season for the Pro Bowl kicker, much like the 2018 season was.

Punter Pressley Harvin III had a strong night kicking the football, averaging 49.5 yards per punt on two punts, dropping one inside the 20-yard line.

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