The Steelers dropped to 6-4 and, more importantly, two games behind the rival Baltimore Ravens with a lackluster loss on Sunday night in Pittsburgh. In a few weeks the Steelers will travel back to Baltimore for a game that will likely decide the division title. A lot can be said about the Steelers' performance tonight, but here a few quick thoughts:
- We'll start with the positives. First, I really liked the play of the defense, but especially Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis. Both Taylor and Lewis shut down Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. The rest of the defense played extremely well and did not surrender a touchdown. Their great effort was, unfortunately, wasted.
- Running back Jonathan Dwyer put in another promising performance. The "Little Bus" is proving to be the go-to back for the Steelers, and Sunday's performance reinforced my feelings that Rashard Mendenhall has become expendable in the offseason (ESPECIALLY WHEN HE STAYS IN BOUNDS DURING A CRUCIAL DRIVE!).
- Now for some negatives. Mike Adams needed help. A lot of it. The rookie was consistently waving the "olé" blanket at oncoming passrushers. He needs some work on the pass rush. He'll learn, though.
- Mike Wallace is not Larry Fitzgerald. Therefore, Mike, please do not compare yourself to him. Wallace, while making some spectacular plays (like the ones against the Giants and Chiefs), continues to frustrate Steelers fans. Wallace coughed up a costly fumble that led directly to three valuable points. Then Wallace failed to get his feet down on a perfectly-thrown Leftwich pass in the corner of the endzone. Earn that contract, Mike.
- Leftwich started the game with a flurry of big plays. He came crashing back down to Earth throughout the game, quite literally. Byron was visibly hurt or uncomfortable in the fourth quarter. He couldn't make a routine pass of 20 yards to Mike Wallace (who also gave little effort). If Leftwich was truly hurt, Mike Tomlin needs to pull the string. Charlie Batch probably has less talent, but a healthy body could have benefitted the Steelers.
- That brings us to Tomlin. Calling the final timeout with 2:04 left on the clock allowed the Ravens to run a pass play, which caused the Steelers to jump offsides, giving the Ravens another down and the ability to run of another 40 seconds of clock. Poor clock management.
- Special teams gave a big play to a talented return man, Jacoby Jones. That was the only mistake from the defense and special teams.
- Joe Flacco, still not elite.