All season it was the defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers that was the surprise and the uplifting group of the team, while the offense worked things around and tried to find itself. The defense helped get the team to this point and on Sunday, it felt like they handed over the baton on this relay race of an NFL season to the offense to finish the last stretch.
Offense Shines, Defense Sputters, Steelers clinch AFC North
Mike Mitchell has bounced in and out of the lineup, playing in two of the last four games. Joe Haden has missed four straight, and this is now week one in life without Ryan Shazier on the unit. The shuffling of not just three defenders, but three impact defenders really reared its ugly head on Sunday. The Ravens ran straight at the middle linebacker position, which was a rotation as expected. They attacked the middle of the field, and the right side, where Coty Sensabaugh and rookie Cameron Sutton split time. The Ravens put up 38 points without the help of their defense. The Ravens offense averages just barley over 20 points per game regularly.
However, the Steelers offense, that has been inconsistent and has struggled to find itself, put up 39 points. Ben Roethlisberger led the way tossing the ball around the football field at will to the tune of 500 yards. Antonio Brown brought in over 200 yards, and in yards combined Le’Veon Bell went over 100. In the surprise of the night, the Steelers used the tight end position to torch the Ravens. Between Vance McDonald and Jesse James, the Steelers put up 14 receptions for 149 yards. That includes ten receptions for James.
This was a Ravens defense that was in the top ten in nearly every category. Sure, they lost Jimmy Smith just last week, but this team should have had some respect in the back end. They held the Steelers down on the ground, but never found a way to stop the attack or find a pass rush to put a halt to the success in the air. The Steelers being able to not only put up 39 points on an elite defense, but do it in a comeback, with a one dimensional offense speaks to the unreal talent emerging from the group.
When the offense is working things out, the defense is there. When the defense is working things out, the offense comes through to put this team at 11-2, an AFC North title and a control of their own destiny as they take on the New England Patriots on Sunday.
News and Notes
Vance McDonald left the game early and did not return, this time with a shoulder injury
It appears that by the end of the season it will be Sean Spence in the middle linebacker position, with the potential of a bit of play from L.J. Fort.
Roosevelt Nix had one of the more impressive touchdowns of the season, plucking a jump ball out of the air to cut the lead to two.