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Steelers Scrape Their Way to 11-0 Despite “Junior Varsity” Performance

(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh’s HC was blunt in his assessment of his team following a 19-14 victory over the short-handed Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday afternoon. His criticism was more than fair as the undefeated Steelers nearly caved in the final minutes to a team that was missing almost half of their starting players. While it was not the performance Tomlin expected from his team, they did find a way to make a few more plays than their AFC North rival, ultimately leading them to victory.

The Pittsburgh defense got off to a fast start as CB Joe Haden picked off QB Robert Griffin III and returned it 14 yards to the endzone to give his team an early 6-0 lead. After another forced three and out, what looked like a game that may have been heading for a blowout turned on a Ray-Ray McCloud fumble on a punt return. After a Ravens' recovery, RB Gus Edwards found his way into the endzone in order to give the Ravens a 1-point edge. From there on out, the game looked like what you may have expected from two teams who have been out of their facilities for a period of time. Dropped passes, penalties, and poor decisions plagued both sides. Each quarterback threw an interception on the day. Just as well, each team lost a fumble. What proved to be the difference-maker in this match-up was the steady play of the Steelers’ offense in the second half, coupled with a lights-out defensive performance; barring a few hiccups. One of those hiccups was a Terrell Edmunds missed tackle on WR Marquise Brown that allowed him to take the ball 70 yards to the house late in the 4th quarter. This score provided some pressure on the Pittsburgh offense to close the game out, but they answered the call. RB Benny Snell Jr, filling in for RB James Conner who tested positive for Covid-19, finished the Ravens once and for all as a knifed his way through the Ravens front seven. His 2 first down pickups on the final drive were enough to allow Roethlisberger to kneel out the clock and take his team to 11-0.

While it was not scripted the way Mike Tomlin would have liked, there were a few bright spots Wednesday afternoon for the Pittsburgh Steelers. QB Ben Roethlisberger threw a touchdown to WR Juju Smith-Schuster early in the 4th quarter that ended up being all the Steelers would need. Smith-Schuster finished the game with 8 catches for 37 yards in addition to the score. As for Roethlisberger, he threw for 266 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. His lone interception came on a 4th and goal where he was forced to try and make something out of nothing, and his prayer landed in LB Tyus Bowser’s hands. RB Benny Snell Jr. totaled 93 yards from scrimmage for the Steelers and helped his team sustain drives and close out the game amidst Conner’s absence. On the defensive side of the ball, T.J Watt’s 2 sacks now put him in the lead for most sacks in the NFL with 11. He and LB Bud Dupree combined for 5 tackles for loss on the day. Unfortunately for Dupree and the Steelers, the linebacker out of Kentucky injured his knee while speeding around T Tyre Phillips in the 4th quarter. It was confirmed today by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network that Dupree suffered an ACL injury and is done for the season.

Up next for the Steelers is a Monday evening affair with the Washington Football Team. With only four days of rest, the Steelers will be tasked with stopping QB Alex Smith and WR Terry McLaurin as they are playing their best football on the year currently. As for the Ravens, they will play host to the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday night in Baltimore. Every game is vital for Baltimore as they look to stay in the hunt for an AFC Wild Card berth, and the same is true for the Steelers as they continue their hunt for the AFC’s top seed. Week 13 in the NFL will be important for both teams, as will each and every week from here on out.

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