Baltimore Ravens

Ravens defense limits explosive Steelers passing game

Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) intercepts a pass intended for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) during the fourth quarter.

Lardarius Webb knew the Pittsburgh Steelers were coming to Baltimore Sunday as hot as any offense in the NFL, and that the world viewed it as a nightmare matchup for a defense that has often allowed chunks of yardage and long scores this season.

He liked it that way, and Webb's premonition that the Ravens could keep the Steelers offense in check, as they have for the past several years, proved true in Sunday's 20-17 win at M&T Bank Stadium.


The Ravens defense held the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to 215 passing yards, his fewest in a full game this season, and forced two.

"I thought we had them all week where we wanted them," Webb said. "With our record, 4-10, they came in and thought that it was going to [be] bombs over Baghdad against us. That's when we had them. So with them thinking that all week, we were thinking we were going to beat them, and we knew it. Guys came out and showed it."


Pittsburgh had scored 30 points or more in six straight games, with a healthy Roethlisberger and trio of receivers — Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton — terrorizing even the NFL's best secondaries.

Yet the Steelers began the game running the ball against Ravens sets that were heavy with defensive backs. The Steelers had success early, rushing for 90 yards on 11 carries in the first half, but never really got into a rhythm throwing the ball.

"We want to make them run the ball, and we were definitely OK with trying to stop the run with just six people in the box," nose tackle Brandon Williams said. "We believe what they can do in the back end, they believe what we can do in the front end, and that's what we tried to do."

Roethlisberger had seven completions for 66 yards in the first half, threw an interception to Daryl Smith in the second quarter and competed a pass to Brown down the field once — a 27-yard gain that came after cornerback Jimmy Smith fell down in the first quarter.

Otherwise, the Ravens were able to keep the Steelers' speedy receivers in front of them. That responsibility went to several players in new or expanded roles.

Webb, who has shifted from being an outside cornerback to playing exclusively in the slot and as a deep safety in the past two weeks, saw his most extensive time at safety. Veteran cornerback Kyle Arrington, who returned after missing last week with a back injury, played effectively in the slot in Webb's place. And cornerback Shareece Wright locked down his side of the field.

With safety Kendrick Lewis playing closer to the line of scrimmage and Will Hill shuttling on and off the field for Webb, the entire veteran secondary was tasked with keeping the Steelers in front of them.

"It was basically don't let [Brown] or [Bryant] beat you," Webb said. "Both of those guys are having outstanding years. Ever since [Bryant] got back from his suspension, he's been on fire. The guy that controls everything is [Roethlisberger], and the way our front seven played today, they controlled [him], so we kind of controlled the game."


Brown, the NFL's leading receiver entering the game, finished with seven catches on 11 targets for 61 yards. Wheaton had three catches for 41 yards, and Bryant was held to one catch for six yards. Nearly half of Roethlisberger's 215 passing yards came on short passes to tight end Heath Miller (five catches, 49 yards) and running back DeAngelo Williams (six, 53).

The Ravens secondary's performance wasn't without flaws — three pass interference penalties in the second half led directly to two Steelers touchdowns. On Pittsburgh's opening drive of third quarter, Jimmy Smith tugged Bryant back on a deep route and received a 29-yard penalty. Lewis had a penalty three plays later on Brown in the end zone, and Smith was flagged for pass interference on Wheaton in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Those penalties swung plays in Pittsburgh's favor, but Smith also had a key fourth-quarter interception, and could have had more had he not dropped a surefire interception in the second quarter and had one he returned for a 101-yard touchdown nullified by a penalty.

The Ravens' interceptions, their first since Week 10, resulted in points. It was a proud weekend for a defense that has been under scrutiny all year.

"Let's give credit to our pressure, but also to our coverage," coach John Harbaugh said. "Our coverage held on for that click or two that gave those guys a chance to get there. You talk about eyes on your luggage, discipline, doing your job, covering your guy all over the field, even through scrambles — it was really just a heck of a performance."