Be sure to check out my first, second, and third quarter notes, as well.
- The Steelers' second play in the fourth quarter was an awesome one. Pittsburgh was looking at 4th-&-1 on Baltimore's 14-yard line. They lined up as if they were running the hard count, looking to draw the defense offsides, then ran a successful quarterback keeper at the last possible second. Sneaky. Aggressive. Awesome. Not enough head coaches go for it on 4th down in such situations; game theory guys have looked at this a million times over and concluded that you have to take your next likely field position into account, too. So even if you don't convert there, your defense is in good shape and is likely to get you the ball back at midfield on your next drive. So go for the kill, swing for the fences. Unfortunately, the Steelers were stuffed on their next three plays and had to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown. Still, a fourth quarter lead is a fourth quarter lead. Pittsburgh 24, Baltimore 21 with 12 minutes remaining.
- Ike Taylor is having a monster game, batting balls away left and right. Joe Flacco's primary wide receivers, Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason - who Taylor locked onto all day - have done basically nothing the whole game. Instead, Flacco's had to turn to his running backs and tight ends for most of his production. One of the stories of the offseason will be how Pittsburgh's front office handles Taylor's impending free agency.
- Pittsburgh's three-and-out halfway through the final quarter was a huge missed opportunity. Leading by three points, the Steelers were in the driver's seat. But Baltimore's defense came up huge, giving their offense a chance to retake the lead. Lardarius Webb did his part on a 55-yard punt return that began with an absolutely sick spin move. Fortunately, the touchdown was repealed by a holding penalty, and the Ravens had to settle for a game-tying field goal instead.
- I have no idea why the Steelers were forced to waste their first timeout just before the two-minute warning. Perhaps there was some kind of a miscommunication or something, but you can't throw timeouts away like that. Just like not playing to the whistle during the Ravens' fumble recovery for a touchdown, calling the timeout there was unworthy of professional ball.
- Fortunately, Roethlisberger connected with rookie Antonio Brown for 58 yards on the next play. It was 3rd-&-19, which makes the bomb a really counter-intuitive call in that situation. Then again, maybe that's why you give it a try. You're probably not going to convert, so why not take a chance at a game-changing play downfield? In any case, Bruce Arians called a brilliant, aggressive game. Brown and fellow rookie Emmanuel Sanders, Roethlisberger's leading targets on the day, were terrific, combining for seven receptions and 129 yards. The future of Pittsburgh's passing game looks bright indeed.
- I understand that you don't want to give Webb an opportunity to play hero after Rashard Mendenhall's second touchdown plunge, but why squibb it so shallow? Baltimore's next drive began on the 50, which seems like a lot to concede just to avoid the possibility of a return touchdown.
- What a hell of a game. And a weird one, to boot. The two teams combined for just 389 yards, but still managed 55 points (0.14 points per yard), due to a flurry of turnovers and 11 total sacks. The Steelers recovered from two lost fumbles and a 14-point deficit and bested the Ravens 31-24. Amazing.
All that's left is for Steelers fans to root for the New York Jets tomorrow, as they travel to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots. If the Jets can pull off the upset, Pittsburgh will host a second playoff game: the AFC Championship.