By Christina Rivers

Steelers Offense Grade: C

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Unfortunately, a lot of the poor decisions were as a result of plays called in by the coaching staff in what can only be called a disappointing result from the Steelers offense. After coming out a bit rocky, Vick was able to orchestrate some nice drives in the first half to put the Steelers in a position to score. With both Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams in the offensive backfield, Pittsburgh had a decent ground game before the half. Antonio Brown dropped a ball in the end zone that could have been a touchdown and was relatively forgotten as a target after the play. Instead, Darrius Heyward-Bey was targeted for a touchdown pass. It wasn’t until late in the second half that Brown got his fifth catch in what had to be a disappointing night for the veteran receiver.

The offensive line held up well, with David DeCastro showing how well he can block up-field for Bell and the line as a unit keeping Vick relatively clean on the night (three sacks). Unfortunately, they had little choice but to block on three plays that went all wrong. The first play was a quarterback keeper by Vick when Bell was the better choice to go for a fourth-and-short. On the second, Bell was asked to go for the first down and was stuffed when the Ravens watched the Steelers balk over sending Scobee in for one more try. Throw in a third play that was questionable, at best, to Brown that went unsuccessfully and the offense fell apart in the fourth quarter and overtime period of the game and could not get back on top.

Vick completed 19 of 26 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. Bell rushed for 129 yards on 22 carries and scored once. Heyward-Bey had four receptions for 31 yards and a score. Brown, who was going on his 36th game with at least five catches for 50 yards, saw his streak end when he only gained 42 yards through the air on the night.

Steelers Defense Grade: B-

This week the Pittsburgh defense saw some great individual efforts as well as an overall tempo increase. Five different defenders earned sacks on Flacco: James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Stephon Tuitt, Cam Heyward and Sean Spence. The blitz was back and Flacco was kept off-balance for nearly two-thirds of regulation. Due to the offense being unable to get back on track after halftime, the defense began suffering from fatigue and the Ravens took advantage, making their running game look deceptively improved. Flacco was held to just 189 yards on 20-of-33 completions and lost three fumbles. He threw for a single touchdown to Kamar Aiken.

Cornerback Ross Cockrell gave a decent performance for the Steelers, grabbing his first interception with Pittsburgh on a poorly-thrown Flacco pass and added another takeaway when he grabbed a loose ball caused by the Heyward strip-sack and kept his toes inbounds.

Steelers Special Teams Grade: D

The only reason the special teams unit, as a whole, didn’t get a fail for this game was because the main contributor to the issue was Scobee as the placekicker. On the field goals he was able to make, each of them was close enough to make Steelers fans and his teammates cringe as the ball sailed towards the uprights. They were dreadfully close to being misses. It was the two that actually missed that absolutely killed any momentum the offense put together, takeaways the defense garnered and allowed Baltimore to crawl back from what looked to be their fourth loss to open the 2015 season. Instead, Scobee pushed back-to-back field goals wide. The cries in Pittsburgh for his head are likely to only grow louder after the fans leave Heinz Field sorely disappointed by a game that was looking like it would be fantastic to one that sapped every bit of positive emotional response from them and the team as a whole.

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Brown gave a valiant last-quarter effort on a punt he initially muffed, scooping it back up and blasting through Ravens players until he was forced out of bounds along the sidelines. He had perhaps one man to beat and it would have been nothing but open field to the end zone, but Brown ran out of real estate on what turned out to be a nice return.

Jordan Berry was off on Thursday night, his average punt going just 37.5 yards. He was forced to kick the ball back to Baltimore six times due to stalls by the offense.

Steelers Coaching Grade: D

While Keith Butler looked to have finally broken the secret code to getting some zip back into his defensive front, sending a mix of packages at Flacco and keeping Steve Smith, Sr., and Justin Forsett contained for the most part, his compatriots on the other side of the ball didn’t seem to have their fingers on the pulse of the game. Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley should arguably be very upset with the end result of Thursday night’s game, but a large percentage of that blame is theirs to own.

After all the talk about confidence in Vick at quarterback, there were times when the plays called from the sidelines were often too conservative and limited Vick’s ability as a passer. Opting to go safe and play to the run, things were fairly well balanced until the Steelers defense started to wear down. Then the head-scratching moment – asking Vick to try to go for it on the ground instead of bringing in Will Johnson or Williams to run in front of Bell for a first – occurred.

Brown was on the sideline, not even in the game, at one point during the overtime period. The look on his and Ben Roethlisberger’s faces spoke volumes. This was a team that wanted the win they had fought for and the plays Vick was being asked to run were not the type needed to win. Admittedly, the first time the Steelers went for it on fourth down could have been seen as a really gutsy move away from the conservative. But the second and third time, due largely to Scobee’s inability to convert using his leg, screamed desperation.

Final Thoughts

The Ravens walked away with a win they shouldn’t have been awarded. The Steelers watched a comfortable lead disappear and their team dynamics be tested. Pittsburgh will be on the road at Qualcomm Stadium against the San Diego Chargers on October 12 for their week five match. The Steelers will need the extra time to pick up the pieces.

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Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on
Examiner.com.