What we learned: 5 leftovers from Steelers’ win over Ravens

November 30, 2018

Five things we learned from Steelers 23, Ravens 16

1. The return of Artie Burns remains on hold

Coach Mike Tomlin didn’t play Burns on defense for the second consecutive game. The rationale for Burns sitting against Cleveland was that the Pittsburgh Steelers third-year cornerback was benched for being late to a team walkthrough.

Tomlin, however, has indicated that he doesn’t have a doghouse and believes the only way for Burns to work his way out of his slump is to, well, work. That didn’t happen against the Baltimore Ravens as Coty Sensabaugh played all but one snap at cornerback.

Burns twisted his ankle in practice on Friday and maybe he was held out as a precaution. Sensabaugh, however, also was listed as questionable with a toe injury, but it didn’t prevent him from playing the entire game.

Cam Sutton, who was healthy, also didn’t see a snap on defense as the Steelers kept their dime defense in storage and went with the quarters package in passing situations. Safety Morgan Burnett and inside linebacker L.J. Fort replaced linebackers Vince Williams and Jon Bostic in these situations.

2. The littlest player makes two of the biggest plays

Slot cornerback Mike Hilton helped prevent a pair of touchdowns in the first half when he made two nifty plays at the goal line.

Hilton, who stands 5-foot-9, jumped and tipped a pass away from 6-4 tight end Mark Andrews on the Ravens’ first trip inside the red zone.

On the second trip, with the Ravens facing a third-and-goal at the 4, Hilton upended Lamar Jackson for a one-yard loss.

The Ravens got field goals on those drives, trailed 14-6 at halftime and never caught back up to the Steelers.

For all of the contributions that veteran Joe Haden has made at cornerback, Hilton has proven to be just as value in the slot.

3. Second-round pick gets into the act

Remember James Washington? The rookie wide receiver who was supposed to solidify the No. 3 receiver role after the departure of Martavis Bryant?

You’re excused if his contributions had been forgotten. Entering the game Sunday, Washington had five catches for 49 yards, he went two consecutive games without a reception and was inactive the previous week against Cleveland.

Not only was Washington reintroduced to the offense against the Ravens, he was on the field for 70 snaps or 86 percent of all offensive plays. To put that in context, he got more playing time than running back James Conner and tight end Vance McDonald.

Washington overcame an early drop to finish with two catches on five targets for 17 yards. True, those are modest contributions, but it’s a start for Washington, whom the Steelers are hoping will improve in the second half much like JuJu Smith-Schuster did in the back end of his rookie season.

4. The flags continue to fly

Reverting back to bad habits, the Steelers were called for eight penalties that accounted for 103 yards against the Ravens. The Steelers remain the most penalized team (per game) in the NFL.

Although the Kansas City Chiefs have drawn 76 penalties to the Steelers’ 74, the Chiefs have played one more game. In all, officials have thrown 87 flags against the Steelers through 8 games - 12 have been declined and one has been offsetting.

What concerned Tomlin on Sunday were the trio of pass interference calls against his defense. Morgan Burnett (16 yards), Terrell Edmunds (33) and Coty Sensabaugh (19) were the guilty parties.

These three pass interference calls came on separate drives that led to 13 of the Ravens’ 16 points.

The defense wasn’t the only guilty party in the PI department. Antonio Brown was called for offensive pass interference when he pushed off cornerback Jimmy Smith in the fourth quarter.

Looking for a positive? Special teams accounted for just one of the eight infractions.

5. Ben puts worst foot forward

Ben Roethlisberger hadn’t orchestrated a punt since 2013, and now everyone knows why.

The Steelers were facing a fourth-and-6 at the Ravens 38 on their first drive when Roethlisberger backed up with the intent of surprising the defense.

But Roethlisberger’s punt out of the shotgun formation didn’t catch safety Eric Weddle off guard. As soon as he saw Roethlisberger backing up, Weddle retreated in the secondary. Weddle caught Roethlisberger’s 27-yard effort at the Ravens 11 and returned it to the 29.

That gave Roethlisberger a net of nine yards on his sixth career punt.

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