Tim Benz: Plenty more to vent about from Steelers’ loss to Ravens

October 3, 2018

Dejected Steelers fans watches the Steelers lose to the Ravens in the fourth quarter Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018 at Heinz Field.

You know what? I’m not done spouting off about that loss to the Ravens.

Usually, after a Pittsburgh Steelers defeat, that’s what writing my “airing of grievances” column is meant to accomplish.

You think that’s for you to read? Ha! That’s for me to vent.

But we have some parameters that we try to honor when it comes to word count, column length, etc. So on occasion, I leave some stuff on the table.

Sunday night, I felt like I left half the meal.

We told you about another crummy start, third downs on both sides of the ball, this mysterious Ryan Switzer-based offense and the officiating.

But the more I think about it, the more frustrated I get about the pass rush, the running game and the play of the quarterback, as well.

The poor pass rush is particularly bothersome. Joe Flacco dropped back 44 times. He got sacked only twice.

Flacco is no Russell Wilson when it comes to eluding the rush. So that means there was either no pass rush, easy lanes to step into, enough room within the pocket to maneuver before it collapsed or receivers getting open so quickly that the rush couldn’t get home.

Likely, there is a little bit of truth to all of that.

Bud Dupree had one sack. That was his only tackle of the game. T.J. Watt had four tackles. But he defended no passes, caused zero turnovers and had no sacks or quarterback hits. In fact, Watt hasn’t recorded a sack since totaling three against the Browns in the season opener.

In his second year as a Steeler, Watt has 10 career sacks. Six are against Cleveland. Four have come against the rest of the league.

The defensive ends weren’t much better. Neither Cameron Heyward nor Stephon Tuitt got the quarterback down. Heyward has one sack so far. Tuitt doesn’t have any.

“Every game is different,” Heyward said. “But we aren’t winning the games.”

Actually, I’d say that these games are all starting to look shockingly similar. That’s concerning.

Part of that concern is the running game.

“We were not able to find enough traction (Sunday),” coach Mike Tomlin explained. “We didn’t run it a lot, and I’d imagine the more we run it, the more traction we will find. But as the game unfolded, they were controlling it by possession and winning possession downs.”

Sure. I get that. And the same could’ve been said about the Kansas City game, too. But for as long as the Steelers trailed in those two games, they were still tied at halftime in both of them.

They were still one-score games after three quarters, as well. However, on Sunday night, James Conner got only three carries in the second half.

The Steelers’ running game is gaining a paltry 72 yards per game. Through Sunday, only four teams were worse. With Le’Veon Bell absent, a chicken-or-the-egg scenario is developing. They either aren’t trying to run because they can’t do so effectively, or they can’t run because they aren’t trying.

Either way, the offense is out of balance.

Finally, there’s the quarterback. In terms of yards, touchdowns, and scoring drives, Ben Roethlisberger was the worst passer in the division Sunday. He was badly outplayed on his turf by Flacco. Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield had better numbers, too.

Many of us spent all week bemoaning how easy it has become to move the ball in the NFL these days. Roethlisberger and the Steelers made it look really difficult. Most disturbingly, Big Ben does not appear to be on the same page with Antonio Brown.

“I don’t think I am on the same page as anybody right now,” Roethlisberger lamented after the loss. “I am not playing well enough. I need to play better.”

Let’s hope he’s aware of exactly how accurate he is. It is easy to blame yourself when most in the public would prefer to blame someone else. But Roethlisberger is right. He hasn’t been very good aside from the first half of the Tampa game.

He leads the NFL in yards. But that’s mainly due to volume. Roethlisberger is also second in attempts while tracking at 23rd in completion percentage and passer rating.

OK. I think I’m finally done with the Baltimore game now. As Bill Belichick once said, “It’s on to Cincinnati.”

Oh, wait. The Steelers have Atlanta next before the Bengals. The Falcons have Matt Ryan and his three stellar wide receivers. I might need three days to get over that one instead of just two.

The secondary may need four days.

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