I thought about doing another 'Key Things to Take Note of' thread, but doing it weekly seems a little redundant. I'll do one after week 17 and we have our playoff spot all locked up, as well as the AFC North.
Instead, I decided to break down a couple of the key players and coaches from last night, including a couple of big surprises - both good and bad.
We Still Don't Have a Legitimate Running Back
Jonathan Dwyer - 16 Carries / 49 Yards - 3.0 YPC.
Those numbers won't cut it. I recognize that they sealed up the middle and didn't allow Dwyer to get any open lanes - but that's the problem in and of itself. Dwyer is a one dimensional runner that can't bounce it outside with any consistency and that showed last night. The Ravens' gameplan to stop our running backs was simple, but effective - clog the middle and make them bounce it outside. This is a team that had trouble stopping the run and yet had great success stopping Dwyer and Redman because they're not franchise running backs.
For our offense to really come together, a legitimate running back needs to be acquired. Whether this comes through the draft or free agency, a running back that Ben can hand off to and can make plays either at the line or behind it is necessary. Dwyer and Redman aren't capable of making these plays and Steelers brass has to recognize this.
Kelvin Beachum's Night Summed Up in One Word - Wow.
This kid - wow. Watching him single block Haloti Ngata three times
last night was impressive. He opened lanes for Dwyer on his side, but the ineffective running was a big reason why the score was close. However, moving past that, the kid looked good. He looked as good as Adams did after 3 - 4 starts in the NFL in his first game. He made mistakes and looked like a rookie at times, but that's to be expected. The good outweighed the bad in this game, and he looks like he has a very, very high ceiling. The kid was impressive last night and showed why they kept him on the roster over guys like Ryan Lee, who were signed to the practice squad.
If this kid continues to improve, we're going to have too many good tackles and it'll be a fight for who starts - something that's new for this offensive line.
Kidding. Come back soon, Ben. That being said ...
Charlie Batch's Night
I can't really put into words what Charlie's night was. All I can do is smile and shake my head. Completing 10 - 11 passes for 110 yards in the fourth quarter are Roethlisberger-like stats and these numbers were put up by a seasoned veteran. He showed that he has heart and the ability to make this team believe, giving them more of a reason to win. Batch's night was simply remarkable. His emotions after the game shows he truly has passion and heart left for this team and will do whatever it takes for them to win, because they're like a family to him. Him getting teary eyed got me a little misty, too.
If this was Batch's final bow, it was a memorable one. Thanks for all you've done, Charlie. Steeler Nation loves you more than you could know.
Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown Are Only as Good as Each other
The first thing I'm going to acknowledge is the fact that we have three very good, very young and very explosive wide receivers on this team. The fact that they are together on this team makes this offense what it is and with Ben at the helm, they become the best trio of receivers in the NFL. Period.
That being said, they're only as good as one-another. It seems like if one struggles, the group does what it can to pick up the slack until all three are back on their game. Manny had a couple of drops - one of them was bigger than the other - but Wallace picked up the slack and caught two more balls - consecutively - after that. I don't know how many of you caught this, but on the sidelines Mikey and Brown were both there for Sanders after the open field fumble. They were making sure he didn't get too down on himself and his confidence stayed high and it worked. Sanders made a huge catch in the redzone to help set up Heath's touchdown reception.
These guys work together, and say what you will about Wallace, these guys are a unit. When Wallace had the sideline drop, Brown and Sanders both made big catches to respond.
Signing Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders are absolute musts
. Mike has struggled this year and as big as a Wallace fan I am, I won't deny this. He's adjusting to a new system and it's been like teething so far, but eventually he'll get it. Let's not forget the great receiver we have here because of a few drops - he's still great. Call his attitude or effort into question - with merit - but he's young. We can't simply let him go because he's having a tough year. Is he worth "Larry Fitzgerald money"? No, but the only proof we have of him asking this kind of money is ... well, we don't have any. We have no idea what he asked for in his contract, but I very much doubt he'll be turning down a 5 year / 50 million dollar deal should the Steelers offer him one again.
Max Starks is a Pro Bowl Left Tackle
Terrell who? That's what I was asking last night because Suggs was ineffective and quiet all game. He didn't do anything. Attribute this to him being injured, but I think it's much more likely that he was simply shut down by Starks who is in the midst of his best year in his career. I'd go as far to say that he's playing like a top 3 LT in all of football, protecting Charlie's and Ben's blindside all year so far. The fact he's not getting recognition is an absolute travesty. If anyone needs to see why he should get honored like this, throw on the Ravens game film. Horseface didn't do anything.
Our Defense Shut Down and Confused Joey All Night
Thank you, Cam Cameron, for not using Ray Rice. He was averaging 6.5 YPC, but instead thought it was a good idea for Flacco to throw it 34 times. Oh, how wonderful it is when OC's think they can outsmart LeBeau.
Joey had no idea what was going on. Sure, he hit a pretty deep ball to Boldin but one great pass isn't going to win you games. Playing sub-par all night and getting worked by an elite defense exposed Flacco for exactly what he is - an average quarterback that has moments of greatness. He was pressured all night and threw poor passes to receivers.
The next man up mantra in this defense is amazing. Ike goes down, and Cortez Allen has the best night of his career so far. He gave up a PI call (questionable) but made up for it with his great defense all night. Torrey Smith had 3 catches for 33 yards while playing against Allen - impressive numbers for a sophomore working against one of the better receivers in the AFC.
If there was one tiny dark spot on the defense, it was Jason Worilds. Before I get trashed, hear me out. Jason has an impeccable ability to get to the quarterback, but once he's there, he doesn't know what to do. This can be pointed to Joey's big frame (6'6, 245) but he had a clear shot on Joe which he missed and gave up an easy pass play. Mistakes like this can't be made from a second round pick - we expect more from our OLB's. Come back soon, Woodley.
Also, welcome back, Troy. We missed ya'.
Overall, Last Night Showed Me That We're Great
How many teams could beat a 9-2 team that had won 16 straight home games with a third string quarterback while missing their pro bowl OLB and (should be) CB? The Steelers are a resilient team and seem to play best when they're the underdog with everything to prove. This is a team that can achieve greatness, and we're starting to see this team take mold now.
Bring on San Diego.