One of the three keys I said earlier this weekend would be crucial for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens was game management and sure enough, it boiled down to that tonight in the Steelers 13-10 loss to rival Baltimore.
The Steelers burned two timeouts in less than a minute in the third quarter inside the red zone yet came away with only three points. After gaining much of the yardage on the ground, Steelers’ Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley called for a fade to the back pylon on third and short inside the five. Although Mike Wallace caught the ball, he had very little room to get his feet in bounds and the Steelers settled for the field goal.
The blown timeouts and poor play-call was the epitome of a bad night for both coaches who wasted an amazingly valiant effort by the defense who limited the Ravens’ offense to just two field goals.
Baltimore’s only touchdown of the night came on a 63-yard punt return by Jacoby Jones in the first quarter after the Steelers took the lead on Byron Leftwich’s improbable 30-yard touchdown run less than a minute into the game and a Ravens’ field goal.
The special teams gaffe was yet another symbol of the poor play of the unit this season. Tomlin and coach Amos Jones are supposed to be ‘coaching up’ this group after Tomlin fired Special Teams’ Coach Al Everest during the pre-season. The poor tackling on that play was a microcosm of the poor tackling by the special teams’ units in a few other instances as well.
The shame of this loss is that the Steelers had every opportunity to win it were it not for poor play-calling, pathetic game management and untimely penalties. You can say all you want to that Byron Leftwich’s inconsistency cost the Steelers and I couldn’t argue much, but the real issue was not establishing the dominance of the running game against the 27th-ranked run defense in the league. Losing those two timeouts didn’t help either.
Should the Steelers miss the playoffs by a game, there are other losses to point to for blame, but should they make the playoffs as a wild-card because of this loss to Baltimore, they have only themselves to blame and they know who they are.