No Emotion, No Defense

The Steelers' lack of emotion was evident in their 35-7 loss to the Ravens.

No one asked Mike Tomlin after the game whether his defense was too old. But someone did ask the Steelers' coach if he thought his defense looked slow during the 35-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

"We just didn't make enough plays," said Tomlin. "I'm not ready to judge it from a speed standpoint."

Tomlin got specific with the problems.

"We didn't turn around enough ballcarriers," he said. "We didn't get off well enough on third down. We didn't create turnovers. Usually speed is a part of that equation, but I'm not ready to say that at this juncture."

Turning Around Ballcarriers

The Steelers have allowed two 100-yard rusher in their last 51 games. Those running backs are Ray Rice in 2009 and Ray Rice on Sunday.

Rice rushed for 107 yards in the opener. Combined with Ricky Williams's 63 yards, the Ravens gained 170 yards rushing against the Steelers for an average of 5.5 per carry.

The Steelers didn't allow that many yards rushing to any team last season. In fact, the Ravens rushed for only 148 yards in all three games against the Steelers combined last season. And the last team to top the 5.5 average per carry against the Steelers was the Patriots, who, oddly enough, averaged 6.1 per carry during a 33-10 loss in 2008.

Neither could the Steelers "turn around enough ballcarriers" on three third-and-1s Sunday. Rice scored a touchdown the first time, and gained 13 the second. He was stopped the third time, but a silly unsportsmanlike penalty on Ike Taylor negated the stop. To the Steelers' credit, James Harrison did stop Rice on a fourth-and-1 play.

Getting Off on Third Down

The Ravens converted all of the aforementioned third-and-1 plays. All totaled, the Steelers allowed the Ravens to convert 44 percent of their third downs, most painfully during a 84-yard drive that put them ahead 21-7, when the Ravens converted all four of their third-down plays.

The percentage may have been much worse for the Steelers had they kept the score close because the Ravens didn't convert any of their final five third-down plays.

As it was, only three teams put up better conversion percentages – and only slightly better – against the Steelers last season: the Packers, Jets and Browns.

Didn't Create Turnovers

Did they even come close? The Steelers didn't hit hard enough to jolt anyone except for perhaps a Lawrence Timmons tackle of Rice in the middle of the line. But Timmons spent most of the game tackling receivers around the shoulders, which was obviously not the Ravens' way in forcing seven Steelers turnovers.

Some of that had to do with a fierce pass rush. Some of it had to do with playing center field and gathering in balls that were poorly thrown. But most of it – and most of the win – had to do with running, hitting and tackling with intensity.

The Steelers might be old, and they might be able to overcome that with instincts and wisdom. But they won't create turnovers playing without emotion. Nor will they win many games.


Steel City Insider Top Stories