Mike Preston's report card after the Ravens' 23-16 loss to the Steelers

Quarterback: Joe Flacco never seemed to gain a rhythm and came up short on passes that could have been big gains and at least two possible touchdowns. Flacco was comfortable throwing in three- to five-step drop-backs but was timid on anything longer and didn’t step into the ball. The Ravens needed a big game from Flacco and he didn’t deliver. The Ravens have certain packages with backup Lamar Jackson. There are times when he gains yards but also times when he halts momentum. Grade: C-

Offensive line: The Ravens had only 268 yards of total offense, and they weren’t consistently good in any area. The Ravens were without starting tackles James Hurst and Ronnie Stanley. Backups Orlando Brown Jr. and Jermaine Eluemunor were serviceable but had problems with Steelers outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Flacco was sacked only once but hit six other times. Grade: D

Receivers: During the previous two games the Ravens had trouble getting away from opposing cornerbacks and safeties in man-to-man coverage. But that wasn’t a glaring problem Sunday. The more pressing issues were lack of pass protection and Flacco’s inaccuracy. Willie Snead IV had seven catches for 58 yards, and Michael Crabtree had three for 32. The Ravens got a good game from tight end Mark Andrews, who had three catches for 50 yards. He could become the go-to target in the red zone. Grade: C+

Running backs: The Ravens struggled in the running game again. There are no holes and the starter Alex Collins seems to gain yardage only when he bounces outside. Inside the tackles is like a no-trespassing zone for the Ravens; they can’t block well enough to go there. Collins had nine carries for 35 yards and one touchdown. Once the Ravens got behind on the scoreboard, the running game was no factor. Grade: C-

Defensive line: The Ravens were sound against the run but didn’t make the Steelers one-dimensional. Tackles Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams were tough inside against the run, but the Steelers were able to run off tackle against ends Brent Urban and Chris Wormley. When they failed to get pressure against the pass, Wormley and Urban at least they got their hands up to obstruct quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s view a couple of times. This group gave up too many rushing yards on first down. Grade: C

Linebackers: The Ravens failed to get consistent pressure on Roethlisberger except for veteran Terrell Suggs. Suggs didn’t compile big statistics, but he made Roethlisberger move several times in the pocket. Matthew Judon was steady but was late several times by seconds when pressuring Roethlisberger. The Ravens’ inability to cover running backs out of the backfield is no longer a problem; it’s an adventure. Grade: C-

Secondary: The Ravens have played their worst two games against division rivals Pittsburgh and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers kept running hitch and crossing routes against them, and the Ravens couldn’t close and make tackles. There were holes in the seams of the  defense,  and at times the cornerbacks and safeties looked slow and confused. The Ravens couldn’t get the Steelers off the field in third-down situations. Cornerback Jimmy Smith played better than he had in previous games especially in the fourth quarter. Grade: D

Special teams: Justin Tucker converted on three field goals, which is good, but also part of the problem; the Ravens needed to convert some of those field goals into touchdowns. Pittsburgh had only one kickoff return but got 31 yards on it. Sam Koch punted four times for an average of 47.3 yards, including a long of 52. For the first time in recent weeks the special teams didn't do anything that proved too costly. Grade: B 

Coaching: The Ravens strategy wasn’t sound for the game. On defense they didn’t adjust to Pittsburgh’s short-passing game especially hitch and crossing routes. They didn’t try to jam the Steelers or knock them out of rhythm. Offensively, the Ravens can’t score touchdowns inside the red zone as they were able to do when they were winning earlier in the season. A lot of fingers will be pointed at coach John Harbaugh for the loss, and some of it is deserved. But the Ravens had too many injuries to beat a team like Pittsburgh. The only thing they had going for them was that this was a must-win situation, and they didn’t. Grade: D

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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