Mike Preston’s report card: Position-by-position grades for Ravens’ 20-19 loss to Steelers | COMMENTARY

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Here’s how the Ravens graded out at each position after a 20-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field:


Lamar Jackson’s struggles aren’t from his mechanics, but his inability to quickly process and read the defense when pressured, particularly from the outside. His first and sometimes only look is to tight end Mark Andrews. These struggles have been present ever since the Ravens’ loss to the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 7. Regardless, Jackson still made plays with his running ability and elusiveness on passing plays Sunday. He missed a lot of wide-open receivers, and his first interception stopped a scoring drive early in the game. Grade: C-


Running backs

Devonta Freeman looked like a new, young running back. He showed good acceleration hitting the holes and had the speed to get to the outside, something this offense has lacked all season. Maybe it took a while for the veteran to get into shape or learn the offense, but he gave the Ravens’ running game a breath of fresh air Sunday and was also a weapon in passing situations. He finished with 14 carries for 52 yards and five catches for 45 yards. Grade: B-

Offensive line

The Ravens’ running game was excellent, especially with pulling guards Ben Powers and Kevin Zeitler. The Ravens created a lot of space with some zone and combination blocks. The seven sacks make it appear that the offensive line was poor in pass protection, and at times it was, but a lot of the problems occurred when Jackson was slow to process the field and read the defense. Overall, the Ravens were physical and dominant at the point of attack on running plays. Grade: C



Andrews was the best receiver on the field, especially with his four catches for 49 yards in the Ravens’ 16-play, 99-yard touchdown drive near the midway point of the second quarter. It’s great that Jackson has Andrews as a go-to guy, but he needs to get the other receivers involved, and they were open. There were times when Andrews and Marquise Brown bailed Jackson out with good catches. Receiver Sammy Watkins was able to get free, but Jackson rarely looked his way until the end of the game. Grade: C

Defensive line

Pittsburgh has one of the top young running backs in the NFL in rookie Najee Harris, but he wasn’t much of a factor Sunday, even though the Steelers did start to wear the Ravens down in the second half. The Ravens got strong run defense from ends Calais Campbell and Justin Ellis. What won’t show up in the box score is how they kept guards off inside linebackers Chris Board and Patrick Queen. Few teams run against the Ravens, especially in short-yardage situations. Grade: C


Queen, Board and fellow inside linebacker Josh Bynes were strong against the run, except for some brief moments in the third quarter. In previous games, outside linebackers Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston were able to get consistent pressure, but the Steelers had quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throw quick passes at the line of scrimmage to neutralize that threat. Overall, it was a solid performance by Bynes and Queen until the second half. Grade: C-


It was surprising that the Steelers didn’t challenge the Ravens more often with long passes. Not just go-routes, but scheme patterns off play-action fakes. Overall, the Ravens held up well as long as Pittsburgh continued to throw short passes, but at times they got lost on the back end. On the 29-yard touchdown pass over the middle to receiver Dionte Johnson in the second half, cornerbacks Anthony Averett and Marlon Humphrey both just looked at each other and hunched their shoulders after the play. Averett missed at least three tackles in the second half alone. Grade: C-

Special teams

Justin Tucker converted two field-goal attempts and the Ravens’ punt coverage unit was excellent. Devin Duvernay looked close to breaking one or two kickoffs for touchdowns, but he is running too east-and-west again on punt returns instead of north-and-south. Grade: B+


The Ravens were well prepared for this game and played with intensity. The offense seemed to have the right plays in the playbook, but the coaching staff has to get Jackson back in his comfort zone. Defensively, the Ravens wore down in the second half, which is unusual considering they dominated time of possession in the first half. That’s not coaching, that’s just getting whupped. The Ravens should have just kicked the extra point at the end of the game instead of going for the 2-point conversion. Grade: C.