Each week, Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson will look back at the Ravens' previous game.
Steelers 19, Ravens 16
STRATEGY: Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell all but scrapped the I-formation, making a bid to accelerate the tempo through a heavy dose of shotgun formations and no-huddle schemes. The shotgun was used 47 of 61 times with 28 no-huddles. It was an effective gambit at times as plenty of three wide receiver sets allowed Joe Flacco to connect with nine different targets. Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees primarily stuck with a base look, generating pressure with a four-man rush where he rarely blitzed or employed overloads. Safeties Matt Elam and James Ihedigbo resisted the temptation to crowd the line of scrimmage despite being dented for 141 rushing yards on 29 carries as the defense was vulnerable to cutbacks and draws.
PERSONNEL: Torrey Smith played all but three snaps, but was largely bottled up except for a 41-yard catch as he was targeted just six times. Jacoby Jones got more involved, targeted eight times. Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson divided playing time evenly at tight end with 31 snaps apiece. Marlon Brown played three snaps less than Jones and caught all four short passes thrown in his direction. Fullback Vonta Leach went down to a dozen snaps, but got an uncharacteristic four touches. The defensive ironmen were defensive backs Jimmy Smith, Elam and Ihedigbo and middle linebacker Daryl Smith. Terrell Suggs was tireless, missing one snap. Haloti Ngata got 43 snaps at nose tackle, but appeared to wear down. Courtney Upshaw (34 snaps) and Elvis Dumervil (33 snaps) split up the strong-side linebacker workload.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Flacco displayed crisp accuracy other than underthrowing Jones, squandering a potential touchdown. He developed a nice rhythm on the lone touchdown drive, working angles and buying time to complete 9 of 10 passes. His play-action fakes were convincing. Ray Rice didn't look like he was running in pain with upgraded mobility and decisiveness even though the running game remained unproductive. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked three times as his big-play capabilities were contained. Jameel McClain made a healthy return from a spinal cord contusion and didn't look rusty.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell mercilessly pounded the defense, displaying patience and power. The Ravens looked unprepared for the handful of Wildcat plays executed by Bell. They weren't ready for a shovel pass to Heath Miller for a touchdown. Tackling was frequently substandard, gap integrity was poor and Ngata got stuck to blocks far too often as Chris Canty, Arthur Jones and Marcus Spears were largely nonfactors. Daryl Smith's run-pass recognition was clearly off, getting caught in traffic and not reacting sharply in pursuit. Lawrence Timmons and Troy Polamalu were rarely blocked. Gino Gradkowski wasn't stout at the point of attack. Dumervil managed to commit three penalties in a single drive, an unusual hat trick. Bernard Pierce's injured hamstring has rendered his power and speed nonexistent. Special-teams breakdowns hurt the cause with a debatable onsides kick flubbed, undone by Justin Tucker's mistimed 'bunt' and safety Jeromy Miles removing the element of surprise by jumping offsides.
TURNING POINT: A lack of cohesiveness and lane spacing on Emmanuel Sanders' key kickoff return was obvious as Miles missed a tackle and Michael Huff and Deonte Thompson failed at their job of providing outside containment and weren't nearly physical enough. The surrendered field position led to Shaun Suisham's game-winning field goal.
X-FACTOR: In the process of spreading the football around to so many different people, the Ravens have to remember to properly involve their most dangerous weapon: Torrey Smith.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun