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Mike Preston’s report card: Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 19-14 loss to Steelers | COMMENTARY

Here’s how the Ravens graded out at each position after Wednesday’s 19-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here’s how the Ravens graded out at each position after a 19-14 road loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday afternoon:

Quarterbacks

Backup Robert Griffin III played as expected: like a quarterback who hasn’t started a game on the road since 2016, and one who doesn’t take a lot of snaps during practice. He made two early mistakes that proved costly, throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown and fumbling a handoff to running back Gus Edwards. He was a threat as a runner, particularly on runs up the middle, but couldn’t deliver the ball downfield. Sound familiar? Third-stringer Trace McSorley performed well under duress and came up with a big 70-yard touchdown pass late in the game that gave the Ravens a chance to win. He replaced Griffin, who went out with what is believed to be a hamstring injury. Grade: D

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Running backs

Combined with Griffin, both Edwards and Justice Hill were effective both inside and outside the tackles, with Edwards a little tougher inside. The Ravens delivered some solid runs by cutting back against the Steelers’ fast and aggressive defense. Hill was adequate as the third-down back on passing situations. Grade: B

Offensive line

The Ravens got as much as they could get from this makeshift group. Overall, this line was better than the regular starting unit, especially at the point of attack. Undrafted rookie Trystan Colon-Castillo might have had the best performance by a Ravens center all year. The line performed well at run blocking but struggled in pass protection, as usual. Tackle D.J. Fluker seems to get a holding penalty or two every week. Grade: C+

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Receivers

The Ravens didn’t have much of a passing game and part of that was a result of the Steelers’ pass rush. Griffin missed several open receivers and the Ravens relied too heavily on a short passing game. They didn’t have a dominant receiver, and tight end Luke Willson dropped a potential touchdown pass at the end of the first half that would have given the Ravens the lead. That was a momentum killer. Grade: D

Defensive line

The Ravens stymied Pittsburgh’s running game with penetration at the line of scrimmage, especially by defensive end Derek Wolfe. In the past four games, Wolfe has been the Ravens’ best defensive lineman. Tackle Justin Ellis also played well and helped control the action up front. Tyrus Bowser had a strong game as a pass rusher and in run support playing the end and outside linebacker positions. Grade: B+

Linebackers

Patrick Queen and L.J. Fort played well on the inside and Bowser held the edge on the outside. Chris Board also had a good game. This group had to step up with outside linebackers Pernell McPhee and Matthew Judon out while on the reserve/COVID-19 list. As a group, the linebackers played well against the pass and got decent drops in coverage, which hasn’t always been the case this season. Grade: B+

Secondary

The cornerbacks were outstanding. The Steelers kept going after Marlon Humphrey but had little success. Safeties DeShon Elliott and Chuck Clark tackled well after short receptions. The secondary also got some help from Pittsburgh’s receivers, who dropped several passes. The Steelers showed very little interest in playing this game while the Ravens were hungry. Grade: A

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Special teams

The Ravens forced a fumble on a Steelers punt return that led to their first score and an early lead. Devin Duvernay returned two kicks for 44 yards, but the Ravens did not get much from their punt return unit. The Ravens had two penalties on special teams that hurt their field position, especially in the second half. Sam Koch averaged 45.9 yards on seven punts, including a long of 58 yards, and hit three inside the 20-yard line. Grade: B

Coaching

The Ravens deserve credit for keeping this team together and being competitive. They had more than 20 players added to the reserve/COVID-19 list since they played the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 22, and they should have gotten blown out in this game because of how short-handed they were. Coach John Harbaugh made a mistake in clock management at the end of the first half by running the ball without a timeout, but keeping this team together was incredible. Grade: B+

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