1. Pittsburgh’s offense remains a work in progress. After scoring on four of its five first-half possessions (2 field goals, 2 touchdowns) to build a 19-0 halftime lead, the Steelers‘ offense went into hibernation. Pittsburgh punted three straight times in the final two frames, missed a field goal and had an interception on an odd replay review. Le’Veon Bell added a game-sealing TD to end the day after a Ravens interception.
Bell was a workhorse. The running back toted the ball a whopping 35 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns, consistently getting to the edge against the Ravens‘ young linebackers. He also added four receptions for 42 yards. It was Bell’s first game of 100-plus yards from scrimmage this season. He popped a few big runs (long of 21), but Bell mostly leaned on his patience and vision pushing forward to keep the clock moving. Handing off to Bell on seemingly every first down, the Steelers were content to churn time after taking a big lead. With the defense shutting down a struggling Ravens offense, it was a formula for the win.
2. Joe Flacco entered Sunday having thrown 69 total passes this season. He put up 49 Sunday. It was an inefficient day for the Ravens quarterback, who piled up just 235 yards on 31 completions. He averaged 4.8 yards per pass and had a touchdown and two interceptions (one tipped on fourth down and one awful decision). Flacco rarely looked deep, and when he did he was either off target or didn’t get help from his receivers (Mike Wallace had an inexcusable drop on a deep sideline toss). The banged-up Ravens offensive line gave Flacco no help. The QB was under siege all day, suffered six QB hits and was sacked four times. As we saw last week, this Ravens offense is not built to come back when they get in an early hole.
3. It wasn’t a pretty day for either quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger was held under 300 passing yards for the 10th straight game. Big Ben compiled 216 yards on 18-of-30 passing with a touchdown and was officially charged with an interception. The Steelers threw the ball just 10 times following halftime. After earning 175 yards through the air in the first two frames, Roethlisberger completed five passes for only 41 yards in the second half. His rapport with his wideouts still seems slightly off, and Big Ben can’t find the touch down the field.
4. The Steelers‘ defensive front was a penetrating force, taking advantage of a sieve-like Ravens offensive line. Cameron Heyward was unblockable all game, racking up two sacks, a fumble and recovery. Ryan Shazier had one of the most impressive performances you could have as a linebacker. The quickest LB to the point of attack, Shazier stacked 11 tackles, one for loss, and three passes defended. When Shazier and Heyward are wrecking the game, offenses have little chance of staying in third-and-manageable situations.
5. The Ravens‘ running backs had little room to run all day. Alex Collins dashed for two long runs (23 and 50 yards) and that was about all of the production out of the backfield. Collins also coughed up a fumble that allowed the Steelers to take an insurmountable halftime lead. Terrance West carried four times for negative seven yards. Javorius Allen ran twice for seven yards and caught six passes for 37 yards, mostly in garbage time. Collins looked like the best back. The second-year pro runs angry, displaying power, tackle-breaking ability on the second-level, and speed to the edge. The fumble issues, however, might keep him from being a featured player.
6. Antonio Brown had a quiet day on the field. The receiver caught just four passes on nine targets for 34 yards. He also had a ball ripped away on the first drive of a second half, which referees ruled an interception after a review. After Roethlisberger didn’t see Brown streaking wide open deep in the first half, the receiver was shown by CBS cameras flipping a Gatorade jug on the sidelines in frustration. Gatorade jugs always seem to take the brunt.