After a rough start, the defense has really stepped it up a notch and is rounding into form. They allowed only two field goals to a Ravens team that put up 55 points the week prior. The only improvements that really need to be made are the pass rush needs to hit home more and the defense needs to create more turnovers. These two issues go hand in hand.
Overall, the defense has really played well since the beginning of the year especially the secondary. No one player has improved more from the beginning of the year than Keenan Lewis. He has come leaps and bounds from where he was and watch for him to keep moving in the right direction. Honorable mention to Ike Taylor who turned in a stellar game last Sunday after he shut down Torrey Smith and held him to just one reception.
Another player that has shown himself to be more than capable of handling the spotlight is Jonathan Dwyer. He has really responded after being benched for two games. He is the leading rusher for the Steelers at the moment and a lot of Steeler fans wish he could be in on every series. Even though Dwyer has lost weight, he still needs to come out after a series.
One last piece of good news for Steeler fans: David DeCastro has been cleared to return to practice.
The offensive line on Sunday night vs. the Ravens did not play their best; especially Max Starks and Mike Adams. Mike Adams was consistently beaten on the right side and allowed pressure on Byron. Max Starks was not much better and also allowed quite a bit of pressure.
The Ravens loss does not help the Steelers in the hunt for the AFC North as they now have to hope they can win in Baltimore as well as hope the Ravens lose a few games in the interim. It remains to be seen if Big Ben will be back for the second of the two Ravens’ games. Early projections for his injury put him out 3 weeks but don’t count him out just yet. He has a history of coming back from big injuries.
Mike Wallace has had a problem with his hands but nothing was more costly than the fumble he had deep in the Steelers’ territory that led directly to a Ravens field goal. In a game where two defenses are suffocating opposing offenses and points are at a premium you cannot hand points to the other team.
Nothing was uglier than the play calling on 3rd and 2 in the red zone by Todd Haley. Instead of sticking with the run, which helped them march down the field, Todd inexplicably called a corner fade for a 6-foot tall receiver. It left a lot of fans scratching their heads but was not the only bad call by Haley during the game. Instead of shoving the ball down the Ravens’ collective throats he called for Byron to drop back 39 times.
Not only ugly but also just plain nasty was the hit Ed Reed laid on Emmanuel Sanders. He initially received a one game suspension but after the appeal it was reduced to a 50,000-dollar fine. The bigger problem is that there is a lack of consistency in punishment by the NFL. If James Harrison was suspended for two games last year as a “repeat offender” then you bet your bottom dollar Ed Reed deserved every bit of his one game suspension.
Special teams were the absolute difference in the Ravens/Steelers game. Unfortunately the special teams play has been down right awful and many Steelers fans are wondering if Amos Jones is really an improvement over Al Everest. But the onus is on Mike Tomlin to turn things around as he announced after the firing of Al Everest that he would take on more responsibility for special teams.
The Steelers have re-signed Plaxico Burress (WR) to a one-year, $920,000 contract. His contract is not guaranteed so at any time the Steelers can terminate said contract without being on the hook for the money. So consider him a rental.
They have also signed Brian Hoyer (QB) to a one-year contract and he will back up Charlie Batch due to the broken ribs Byron Leftwich suffered in the game. In order to make room for these two players, the Steelers have released Marshall McFadden and Baron Batch. Both McFadden and Batch have cleared waivers and have been signed to the practice squad.