The Pittsburgh Steelers came into Sunday’s game with their tails between their legs after the Houston Texans beat the brakes off of them last weekend. Many members of the media both local and nationally called for the dismissal of offensive coordinator Matt Canada after the horrid start to the regular season. However, head coach Mike Tomlin and the front office staff have stayed put and allowed Canada to call plays again this week.
The Steelers rank near the bottom of every major offensive category in the league. Pittsburgh ranks 29th in points per game, 27th in passing yards per game, and 27th in points per game. Needless to say, the high-powered, fast-scoring offense Pittsburgh fans saw in the preseason was nothing more than a mirage. But all of that was in the rear-view mirror as the AFC North foes met in Pittsburgh this afternoon.
The first half of the game looked like Lamar Jackson and the Ravens were going to run away with this one. Out-scoring the Steelers 10-3 and moving the ball all over the field. The Steelers defense was in their usual bend but don’t break form and that’s exactly what they did. For a second week in a row, the Ravens came out flat in the second half of the game and that was the demise of the Ravens.
In what ended up being an ugly win for Pittsburgh, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin dialed up a winning formula. The Steelers defense was stout forcing a fumble right before half-time, then pinning Baltimore deep before Pittsburgh’s special team captain Miles Killebrew blocked a Jordan Stout punt for a safety. After that, all the momentum was on Pittsburgh’s side of the ball, or so it seemed. After a few three and out’s by both teams the Ravens punted the ball back to Pittsburgh and all hell let loose when Pittsburgh’s return man Gunner Olszewski fumbled setting the Ravens up in a first-and-goal situation.
Even with their backs against the wall TJ Watt and the Steelers defense were ready for the challenge. After a short run by Baltimore running back Gus Edwards and a quick shovel pass to Mark Andrews, Lamar Jackson made his biggest mistake of the game. That mistake? Testing Pittsburgh’s rookie corner-back Joey Porter Jr on a fade route. Porter not only got in position to defend the pass but ended up intercepting it and setting Pittsburgh up for a game-winning drive.
Kenny Pickett finally started playing a little more freely at this point with the help of second-year wide receiver George Pickens. Pickens who has become an early favorite for Pickett made a miraculous toe-tapping catch along the sideline to extend the drive before both Pickett and Pickens read the cover zero Baltimore was in and hit the home run. Pickett connected with Pickens on a 41-yard go-ahead touchdown to seal the game for Pittsburgh.
That’s all this year’s rendition of the Steel Curtain needed to ice the game. Once Baltimore got the ball back edge rusher Alex Highsmith made sure to put his stamp on the game with yet another strip sack on Lamar Jackson. Pittsburgh added a field goal on that possession leaving just enough time for Baltimore to try and orchestrate a game-winning drive of their own. TJ Watt had other plans though as he sacked Lamar Jackson on fourth down and squashed any hopes the Ravens had to win this game.
While the offense was, well exactly what it’s been all year to this point they did enough to keep Matt Canada around for another season, and most of all win a big divisional game. While the stats weren’t eye-popping by any means running back Jaylen Warren’s game and effort can’t go unnoticed. He kept a couple of drives alive by making guys miss in space and hurdling would-be tacklers. He’s slowly infringing on the playing time of Najee Harris and is looking like he could be a real matchup issue for teams coming up.
With the 17-10 win Pittsburgh heads into their bye week 3-2 and in first place in the AFC North. Meanwhile, Baltimore falls to 3-2 as well but sit in second place, and head to London to take on the Tennessee Titans.