Off by an Inch; Off by a Mile

The Steelers told SCI's Mike Prisuta that it wasn't a case of being physically manhandled by the Ravens last Sunday. Prisuta takes us through some of the examples.

The problem in Baltimore wasn't quite what it appeared to be, according to the Steelers.

They didn't get physically pummeled by the Ravens as much as they were out-executed.

That, at least, is the story the Steelers are sticking with at present.

It still added up to a whole bunch of points for the Ravens and almost none for the Steelers. But what transpired wasn't anything the Steelers don't think they can recover from.

Guard Chris Kemoeatu had a relatively simple explanation for what was going wrong offensively as the Steelers were getting blasted, 35-7.

"You can't be on edge," Kemoeatu assessed. "You gotta be on point. We were kind of on edge on some of the stuff."

"On edge" in the NFL vernacular means "a second late, two seconds late," Kemoeatu explained. "You gotta react and then react again to all the ‘what ifs?' We were a second behind on that."

A classic example of the funk to which the Steelers succumbed occurred on the first of Terrell Suggs' three sacks. The Ravens rushed four against an empty set that deployed five pass protectors. Suggs wound up stunting around Haloti Ngata, who was being engaged by Maurkice Pouncey and Doug Legursky, and finding an EZ Pass lane to Ben Roethlisberger between Pouncey and Kemoeatu.

"Four-down look, Ray [Lewis] walked up," Kemoeatu remembered. "Ray ended up dropping. We were supposed to switch it off, but at the same time I'm supposed to be there to help Pouncey."

Kemoeatu ended up blocking no one initially and then helping Jonathan Scott after Suggs had run through the center-left guard gap.

"There was nothing they brought that was new," Kemoeatu said. "We repped it, we saw it, it was just technique stuff. Gotta see it a little faster and react a little bit faster to it."

Baltimore's second sack resulted from Heath Miller, who stayed in for protection in another empty set, having to handle Jarret Johnson and Lardarius Webb despite Steelers' blockers out-numbering Ravens' rushers six to five.

"I knew it was 2-on-1," Miller said. "In those situations you try to bluff at one, slow down No. 2 and hope the ball comes out fast. I tried to come back and get a little something on the inside guy (Webb) to give Ben time to get rid of the ball.

"When I turned around he still had the ball. There's not a lot you can do."

In such instances Roethlisberger has to get rid of the ball quickly. In this instance he didn't, in part because a wide receiver failed to read the blitz and execute a "hot" route.

Yet another example of what was too often taking place occurred on the first play of the second half, Ngata's now-infamous blow up of Rashard Mendenhall and recovery of the subsequent fumble.

Legursky appeared to merely chip at Ngata on the way to Lewis, a suspected progression Legursky conformed this week. Clearly, Legursky wouldn't have turned Ngata loose had he suspected Ngata was otherwise unaccounted for.

"Clearly," Legursky agreed.

And so it went.

Of course, physicality was also a factor. The Ravens were the tougher and more relentless team. But …

"I don't think they gave us anything we hadn't prepared for or seen on tape," Miller said. "But like l've always said when we're playing those guys, it's one thing to know where they're going to be; it's another thing to get 'em blocked.

"It's hard to block Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, all those guys when you know where they're going. But if there's a minute of indecision and they're on the edge they're tough to block."

That they are, but the Steelers have blocked them before with success. They'll do so again if they can get back "on point" and away from "the edge."

That wasn't the case in Baltimore because of how well the Ravens played and because of what Kemoeatu characterized as "first-game stuff."

It's a plausible explanation, at least until the Steelers play their second game.


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