Breaking down the tape: Risk vs. Reward

A look back at the Steelers' 23-20 overtime loss to the Ravens via the magic of the DVR:

THE TRADEOFF:QB Mike Vick didn't throw an interception against Baltimore, but he also finished with just 124 yards passing (19-for-24) and the Steelers netted only 96 yards through the air.

It appeared to at least one observer as if the intent was to protect the football at the expense of attacking down the field.

"There's no risk in what they're doing on the offensive side," CBS analyst Phil Simms observed late in the second quarter.

There was a reason for that.

"We coulda done a little more," down the field, Vick said. "But our gameplan was to try to run the football, get the ball into the hands of the guys at the appropriate time and not try to force it. We were getting a lot of double-coverage back there. And when they're playing two-high safeties you can't just force the ball down the field.

"I think (offensive coordinator) Todd (Haley) did a good job of putting the gameplan together so that we were able to execute the way we can execute and make the plays at the appropriate times."

Vick was more productive when he took some shots.

He went 5-for-8 for 74 yards on passes that went 10 or more yards past the line of scrimmage.

He was 12-for-15 for 30 yards on passes that went 5 yards or fewer past the line of scrimmage or never made it to the line, including completions that netted 2 yards, minus 5 yards, no gain, minus 1 yard, 1 yard, minus 1 yard and 1 yard.

Vick was also sacked four times.

"Some of those were down-the-field passes," Vick said. "Two sacks I took I shouldn't have taken."


Photos from the last matchup vs the Ravens at Heinz Field on October 1st, 2015.

A.B. STREAKS SNAPPED:**The Ravens covered WR Antonio Brown with a variety of players (CBs Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Web and Will Davis were among those who took their turns and there was often help from a safety). It wasn't as if Smith locked down on Brown and personally limited him to five catches for 42 yards.

And Brown could have extended a pair of streaks that wound up being snapped at least five catches for 50 yards in 35 straight games and at least five catches for 70 yards in 21 consecutive games with better execution in a couple of instances on the throwing or receiving end.

Brown got both hands on a 36-yard pass into the end zone in the second quarter but didn't come up with the catch.

Brown was also open and caught a pass along the sideline in the third quarter but was unable to get both feet down in bounds after snaring a ball that had sailed a little on Vick. That negated what could have been a 22-yard gain.

"If I make about two (more) catches I probably have 100 yards and a touchdown and it might determine the outcome of the game," Brown said. "That one in the end zone was one. Along the sideline I think if I turn my hands an attack the ball a different way I think that would have been a big first down in the game.

"The guy (in coverage) wasn't even close. I think I let my feet go dead and made an over-the-shoulder catch instead of turning my palms out. I thought it sailed a little bit, too. But as a pro wide receiver you gotta be able to turn your hands inside-out and attack the ball."

Vick and Brown also failed to connect in overtime on a fourth-and-1 from the Baltimore 33-yard line when Vick threw high and behind Brown.

"That one is going to haunt me for a long time," Vick said.

Added Brown: "I think it's going to haunt us all."


RINGING THE BELL:**RB Le'Veon Bell's 129 rushing yards snapped a streak of 29 games in which the Ravens had not allowed a 100-yard rusher. But Bell was a non-factor in the passing game.

He finished with seven receptions, one shy of his career high (he'd caught eight in a game on three occasions), but for just 21 yards. Only eight times in his first 30 games had Bell finished with fewer receiving yards.

The Steelers threw to Bell almost exclusively out of the backfield and Baltimore reacted quickly and decisively on those throws.

Bell gained 9 yards on his first catch third-and-16 from the Steelers' 14 three snaps into the game but he drew the attention of seven Ravens defenders. CBs Webb and Smith, S Kendrick Lewis, LBs Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith and DT Timmy Jernigan all converged on the tackle. It would be that kind of night for Bell in the passing game.

Five of Bell's receptions went for a combined 5 yards (2, no gain, minus 1, 3 and 1).

His last reception gained 1 yard on third-and-2 from the Baltimore 34 with 10:25 left in overtime. S Will Hill III read the play, reacted and dropped Bell in his tracks.

SPENCE WAS SPECIAL:LB Sean Spence played 49 snaps on defense (62 percent) and 24 on special teams (75 percent).

His biggest play might have been sniffing out the fake-field goal the Ravens attempted from the Steelers' 20 trailing 20-14 in the third quarter.

TE Nick Boyle, who was at the end of the left side of the line, and LG Marshal Yanda pulled right on the play, something that normally doesn't happen "at all," Spence said.

"I saw them," he continued. "Field goal is really like a bang-bang play. When I first came off the ball it felt passive. I located the ball and chased it down."

Spence followed Boyle and was in position to tackle him from behind after holder Sam Koch's shovel pass.

Yanda had CB Brandon Boykin lined up and DE Lawrence Guy was in position to block S Mike Mitchell while leading Boyle around right end.

Had Spence not dropped Boyle it likely would have been up to LB James Harrison to chase the play down from behind before Boyle made it to the end zone.

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