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Bad Coaching and Missed FGs Doom Steelers in 23-20 OT Loss to Ravens

October 2, 2015
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Bad Coaching and Missed FGs Doom Steelers in 23-20 OT Loss to Ravens

The Pittsburgh Steelers put their faith in Michael Vick and Josh Scobee, two past-their-prime veterans who were not on the team before August, and it cost them in a 23-20 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

By game’s end, it was easier to count what the Ravens had — a kicker and a defense they trusted, plus Justin Forsett — than what they didn’t. The Ravens avoided their first four-game losing streak under John Harbaugh in an improbable turn of events.

Everything that could have gone wrong did for Baltimore much of Thursday night.

A team already hamstrung with offensive shortcomings coming into the game lost receivers Steve Smith Sr., who entered the game third in the league in receiving, and Michael Campanaro (rushing TD on a reverse on Thursday, plus two key catches) to injuries. Smith took a huge shot to the kidney in the third quarter and never returned, and Campanaro was carted off with a back injury.

That left quarterback Joe Flacco in a compromised position, especially with his offensive line letting him down and the Steelers’ defense becoming more aggressive the more they could smell out that weakness. Flacco was hardly elite on Thursday, throwing a bad pick, leaving the ball exposed on a fumble in his own end of the field and getting stuffed on a fourth-down sneak attempt late in the fourth quarter.

But he took advantage of the Steelers blowing two chances to ice the game in regulation, both ending in missed field-goal attempts by Scobee in the final 2:29 of the fourth quarter. (The Steelers also bailed out the Ravens with a timeout prior to a key third-and-5, followed by Vick’s incompletion and the Scobee miss from 49 yards out; and the referees put more time on the clock prior to the 2-minute warning, which helped the Ravens immensely.)

Flacco hit rookie receiver Darren Waller and then Kamar Aiken in the final minute of regulation for two huge receptions, and it set up a Justin Tucker field goal to tie the game at 20-20 with 3 seconds left and send it to OT. Flacco took several big shots all game from the Steelers, who had five sacks and eight QB hits as they blitzed furiously — especially late in the game.

But the Steelers failed to take advantage of two good chances in overtime, which cost them chances to win. Put this game on the shoulder of head coach Mike Tomlin and his curious game-management decisions.

A Ravens defense that played some of its best ball of the season in Week 4 — 62 yards allowed in the second half — looked worn down after the emotional rescue, perhaps a bit gassed by chasing down Vick and Le’Veon Bell (29 touches, 150 yards) all game. Bell frustrated the Ravens with his patient runs and incredible vision, especially on his TD run sprung by a Vick block and on a brilliant 22-yard run in overtime in which he looked hemmed in for a loss.

So facing a fourth-and-2 from the Baltimore 39-yard line, the Steelers forgot all that. They were stopped as Vick was stoned on a oddly designed sweep. Why run that when you have Bell? It was an awful decision by Tomlin, who played his gut and lost the battle.

And then the Steelers went on to lose the war. The Ravens punted after a three-and-out, andAntonio Brown brought back the return 29 yards and then hauled in a 17-yard pass after being kept in check most of the game. The Ravens were on their heels and yet held Bell to a yard on third-and-2 (a great stop by Ravens safety Will Hill there) and watched Vick — who threw some dangerously off-target passes and turned cold after a solid first half — throw high to Brown on fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 33-yard line.

Again, no Bell.

If your excuse is that your kicker stinks, too bad.

If you’re worried about Bell’s workload, then maybe DeAngelo Williams should have gotten more than two carries in the game, both of which came in the opening series of each half.

Or if you’re just guessing out there, as it appeared Tomlin was doing, you have problems.

Did he not trust Bell? Likely not. More likely it was an offensive line that started to wear down as the Steelers gained only 113 yards on their nine drives in the second half and overtime.

The Ravens took over, and Justin Forsett helped cap off a brave effort (27 carries, 150 yards) with five runs to help set up Justin Tucker for the game-winning 52-yard kick.

The Ravens — somehow — are alive at 1-3 in a strange division (and games ahead against theCleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers) and the Steelers not much ahead of them at 2-2 but now with a key head-to-head loss. Plus, it raises the question of the sustainability of Vick, who was accurate on short stuff early but showed his limitations, even with good playmakers at his disposal, in this offense while Ben Roethlisberger is out.

The Steelers had no business winning this game, and the Ravens had no business winning it, and yet that’s exactly what happened. Bad coaching, bad kicking and a lack of trust killed the Steelers on their home field. Guts and clutch plays saved the Ravens from their season being over on Oct. 1.

Rarely do games feel this strange and critical in Week 4.

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