The Pittsburgh Steelers lost a heart-breaker to the bitter rival Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving 22-20, and the win keeps the Ravens playoff hopes alive while also putting the Steelers playoff chances in dire straits. At 5-7, the Steelers absolutely have to win their final four games if they want to secure the sixth seed in the playoffs. Below are five performances from the Steelers (some good, some bad) worth revisiting from last night’s crushing loss.
CB Ike Taylor
Taylor definitely isn’t what he used to be (and no, he’s not “still a solid corner”) and is a downright disaster against speedy receivers. Torrey Smith is as fast as they come, and he was burning Taylor all night. Taylor was burned a few times by Smith, including on a huge 54-yard pass play. Smith also baited Taylor into a pass interference and finished the game with six receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown on ten targets (9.3 yards per attempt for Joe Flacco). It was a game to remember for Smith, and it was also a game to forget for Taylor. He had two passes defended, but those were merely superficial positives for Taylor.
RB Le’Veon Bell
Let’s hope it wasn’t a severe concussion for Le’Veon Bell, because the rookie out of Michigan State put on a show last night and has been a crucial part of the Steelers offense this season. Bell gives the Steelers some much-needed balance on offense, and he’s also asserted himself as a good pass-catching back. He finished the game with seven receptions for 63 yards on nine targets, as well as 73 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Bell nearly pushed the Steelers to victory with his performance, but he was the victim of one of the cruelest plays I have ever seen. He absorbed an absolutely nasty collision with Baltimore Ravens corner Jimmy Smith, who was clearly hurt (thankfully, John Harbaugh confirmed that he’ll be fine) on the play as well. Not only was the collision an awful one, but Bell’s helmet was also off on the play; it was probably one of the most scary moments in NFL history. Thankfully Bell is “only” concussed, and we can only hope that he’s fine going forward. His touchdown (which would have been the second of the day for him), by the way, was overturned since his helmet came off before he scored. Ugh, the rules suck sometimes.
Fingers crossed on Bell’s status, but he definitely played a heckuva game yesterday.
TE Heath Miller
The Pittsburgh Steelers best player on offense was Le’Veon Bell, but he best pass-catcher on Thanksgiving was Heath Miller. Antonio Brown was largely held in check by the Ravens defense, but Miller did an exceptional job of moving the chains for the Steelers offense. He caught eight passes for 86 yards on nine targets, and he showed great strength and route-running throughout the game. It’s a shame, though, that Miller didn’t finish with a touchdown reception, because he could have easily left the game with two TDs.
It wasn’t all bad for Sanders, who returned to the game after suffering an injury and also caught a touchdown pass. However, it was mostly bad for Sanders, as he dropped a multitude of passes, including what would have been a game-tying two-point conversion from Ben Roethlisberger. Sanders doesn’t deserve the violent tweets directed at him, but he deserves to be heavily criticized for playing an awful game. I absolve receivers of a poor game if they only dropped a pass or two and played well throughout, but Sanders dropped several passes and did not consistently play well.
Shane Suisham also gets a mention here as a goat for completely botching a 50-yard field goal attempt (I have no idea what he was trying to do), and he also had an awful onside kick attempt.
QB Ben Roethlisberger
I thought Big Ben played a solid, efficient game, and I’m willing to overlook a meager average of 5.8 yards per attempt, largely because Roethlisberger improved as the game went on. He had a rough first half, but he once again played his best football in crunch time and nearly led his team to victory with his arm at the end of the game. He made some beautiful throws that can aptly be described as “wow” throws, but he was let down by Emmanuel Sanders. Roethlisberger threw two touchdowns, no interceptions, and he had a very good 94.6 QB Rating. Although Roethlisberger wasn’t great, I thought he was solid and did whatever he could in the fourth quarter to try and give the Steelers a win.
Jason Worilds played a better game than Big Ben and most players on both teams, so he deserves a shoutout here. Jarvis Jones‘s disappointing rookie season hasn’t been as disappointing due to Worilds play, and it’s been great to watch the veteran hit a hot streak lately. Hopefully he can keep it up, and he certainly kept it up with two sacks and three total hits on Flacco last night. Worilds had a team-high ten total tackles, and he was easily the brightest spot on the Steelers defense. In fact, he, fellow linebacker Lawrence Timmons, and Cameron Heyward were the only bright spots on the Steelers defense.