1. Too little too late..again- Once again, the Baltimore Ravens offense got off to a slow start. They were only able to score six first half points for the second straight week in a row. They were able to put together some nice drives early on, but they stalled do to poor pass protection or bad penalties. This is a recurring problem for this offense, and it is unclear what the solution is. In the fourth quarter, when the team needed a touchdown, Flacco was able to drive the team down on a 16 play, eight minute drive and score a touchdown. On that drive, Flacco looked comfortable in the pocket and was able to move the ball down the field, play after play. The coaches need to find a way to get that type of production out of the offense consistently. This offense needs to have more urgency from the start, and not wait until they are losing to start putting drives together. I said the Ravens would need to score at least 20 points to win this game, and that proved to hold true. This defense is carrying its weight, and now it is time for the offense to do the same.
2. Not so special- Coach John Harbaugh has a strong background in special teams and he needs to take more pride in this unit. Chykie Brown jumped offsides on a field goal attempt, but luckily it didn’t result in a first down. On a kick return, they almost let the Steelers recover a kick 50 yards down the field. They almost gave up a kick return touchdown after they tied the game with under two minutes to play. And they didn’t execute the surprise onside kick that Harbaugh called for with 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter. There have been two blocked punts this season and the coverage units have struggled. Special teams is a huge component of the game and Harbaugh is supposed to give the Ravens an advantage. The lack of execution by this group is hurting the team, especially when the offense continues to struggle.
3. Lines struggle- The Steelers dominated the game early on, and that was in large part due to the play of their lines. They were able to push the Ravens defensive line around all game and open up holes for Le’Veon Bell, while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had way too much time to throw on multiple occasions. Baltimore’s offensive line was unable to get any push up front on running plays, and played a large part in the Ravens being unable to convert short yardage situations. Then, in pass protection, the line forced Flacco out of the pocket and caused him to make a lot of plays with his feet. Center Gino Gradkowski continues to get beaten and it is time for the coaching staff to put in backup A.Q. Shipley.
4. Dumb penalties- On one drive we saw outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil commit three bad penalties. He jumped offsides and then, on that same play, he was called for roughing the passer. Later on that drive, on third and long, he sacked Roethlisberger, but was called for a face mask penalty. Michael Oher was called for a bad holding call that pushed the offense back farther. Finally, on the Steelers game winning-drive, cornerback Lardarius Webb was called for illegal contact, allowing for the Steelers to get even closer into field goal range. Penalties have been a problem in the past for Harbaugh teams and they have held back some of those teams. They need to clean up this problem fast, or one penalty at the wrong time could come back to haunt them.
5. Lack of improvement- Halfway through the game I noticed something quite alarming about this team’s performance. They have yet to fix the problems that they said they have been working on. The run game is still not effective. The offense isn’t getting off to faster starts. The defense is still giving up a lot of rushing yards. And they aren’t closing games. This isn’t the third game of the season anymore. The team is almost half way through their season, yet they still are having the same problems. The good news is the team now has a bye week and can look more in depth at their problems. Players will be able to get healthier, and maybe the return of Dennis Pitta is on the horizon. The team has five of their last nine games at home, so that should help as well. Most importantly, there needs to be improvement from this team when they return from their bye, or they won’t be making the playoffs for the first time since Harbaugh and Flacco joined the Ravens.