Homistek: Plenty to Blame –– But One Primary Reason for Steelers Loss
Blame the Pittsburgh Steelers special teams for the team’s 16-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Acrisure Stadium Sunday.
Pressley Harvin punted the ball 51 feet –– yes, feet –– in the first quarter, leading to a Ravens touchdown courtesy of J.K. Dobbins just two plays later.
Chris Boswell, fresh off the injured reserve, had a crucial 40-yard field goal blocked with 11:19 remaining in the game.
The Steelers trailed at that point, 13-7. Following the blocked kick, the Ravens marched down the field, burnt the clock, and iced the game with a Justin Tucker field goal.
Don’t want to blame the special teams?
Blame the Steelers’ run defense then.
The Ravens rushed for 215 yards on 42 carries, a 5.1-yards-per-carry clip.
Dobbins handed out the most punishment, racking up 120 yards on just 15 carries (8.0 yards per rush) but Gus Edwards provided the perfect complement, gaining 66 yards of his own at a 5.1 yards-per-carry clip.
This came with the Ravens down Lamar Jackson, mind you, who missed the AFC North showdown with a knee injury. Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley isn’t known for his passing prowess, so the Steelers knew what to expect.
The Ravens’ path to victory in Pittsburgh would involve an enormous dose of the running game. Shut that down, and you’re cooking.
Instead, the Steelers were gashed repeatedly up front.
Remember that scoring drive I mentioned above that ended with a Tucker field goal to make it a two-possession game late in the fourth quarter?
On that drive alone, the Ravens rushed for 44 yards, earned four first downs, and burnt seven minutes and 55 seconds of precious time.
The Steelers needed the run defense to step up then more than ever. That happened instead.
“We didn’t get off the field,” Cam Heyward said after the game at his locker. “Each game is a different philosophy, but during this game, you have to know it is coming down to the run game.
“We did not execute enough to give our offense another chance. They sustained drives, and we should have known at the end that everything was coming downhill. That’s what stings the most.”
So the special teams stunk. The defense failed its sole objective.
But neither issue resonated quite like another with the Steelers’ locker room.
“We lost [by] not capitalizing on red zone points.”
That’s Steelers running back Najee Harris keeping it blunt postgame.
Oftentimes, particularly after a tough loss, players say the “appropriate” or “PR-friendly” things when confronted by 400 microphones and cameras.
And while Harris’ comment wasn’t exactly controversial, it’s worth noting such a straightforward and direct response.
Why did the Steelers lose to the Ravens?
Well, here’s exactly why, dear reporters. I’ll say it clearly for you.
It’s easy to point to the blocked field goal or to the lackluster run defense, or, or, or…
The failings were many in this one. We get it.
But despite all that, the Steelers needed to do one thing to defeat the Ravens: Score in the red zone.
Harris didn’t mince words. He didn’t need to think about it. Listen for yourself:
To Harris’ point, the Steelers got inside the 25-yard line five times against the Ravens. They scored 14 points on two of those trips and left with zero on the other three.
(Sure, the red zone is the 20, but the Steelers got to the Ravens’ 23-yard line and 22-yard line, which validates the point nonetheless.)
That’s five high-quality chances to get points netting just one rushing touchdown, one passing touchdown with 2:34 to play, two interceptions, and a blocked kick.
Not gonna cut it.
The Ravens, meanwhile, got inside the Steelers’ 25-yard line four times –– and scored four times.
In a game marred by lackluster play across the board, it’s kinda easy to pinpoint the Steelers’ biggest failure in retrospect.
It wasn’t just Harris pointing out the obvious postgame, either.
“We just [need to] score points in the red zone,” wide receiver Steven Sims said when asked how the Steelers can recapture some of the momentum they carried into this one, winning three of their last four. “That would fix everything. If we score one of those trips we had today in the red zone, we win the game. It’s really just that execution.”
“No team [wants] to do that,” rookie wideout George Pickens added on the team’s lack of red-zone success. “I would probably say [it’s] very frustrating. But besides that, all you can do is just go back and keep working.”
So, sure, go ahead and cite this as the reason the Steelers lost to the Ravens in Week 14:
Calais Campbell BIG PLAY BLOCKED FIELD GOAL 🔥🔥🔥🔥.
Let’s Get This Win Flock Nation 🔥 pic.twitter.com/BuDGpF1svz
— NFL Daily (@SportsContent23) December 11, 2022
You can point to this, too:
TUNE IN ON CBS. pic.twitter.com/Vr3aw1s2NT
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 11, 2022
Ravens runs like this certainly didn’t help the Steelers’ cause, either:
WELCOME BACK @Jkdobbins22!!
TUNE IN ON CBS! pic.twitter.com/h1XvbxZcFm
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 11, 2022
But if you ask the players?
It boils down to one thing, and it’s not even a discussion. The Steelers have to secure points in the red zone.
Sometimes, the answer is just that easy.