Third down a problem down

A look at Ravens 21, Steelers 14 via the magic of the DVR:


THIRD-DOWN DROUGHT:** The Steelers went 0-for-10 on their first 10 attempts at third-down conversions while in the process of falling into a 21-0 hole through three-plus quarters.

The issues they experienced on third downs were as varied as their inability to convert was impactful.

Those included:

Protection _ Third-and-5, Steelers' 17-yard line, first quarter: Linebacker Terrell Suggs came off the right side of the defensive formation unblocked as part of a four-man rush. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got the ball off before getting popped but his deep pass for wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was under-thrown and almost intercepted by safety Lardarius Webb.

Finishing _ Third-and-8, Steelers' 10, second quarter: Roethlisberger hit running back Le'Veon Bell in the right flat 5 yards shy of the line to make, but cornerback Tavon Young closed hard and stopped Bell in his tracks 2 yards short of the sticks. Linebackers Zachary Orr and C.J. Mosley arrived in a hurry to help finish Bell off.

Recognition _ Third-and-8 from the Steelers' 33, fourth quarter: Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown couldn't hook up on a throw into coverage over the deep middle. Wide receiver Eli Rogers was open along the right sideline but apparently went undetected.

Distance _ The Steelers' first 10 third-down attempts required an average of 8.1 yards to convert. They were consistently behind the chains, which didn't help.

Execution _ Third-and-18, Steelers' 33, second quarter: Roethlisberger had time to pump the ball against a three-man rush and eventually let it fly deep for Heyward-Bey, who had inside position on Webb. The ball glanced off Heyward-Bey's outstretched right hand.

It wasn't just long balls that proved beyond the Steelers' third-down grasp for much of the afternoon.

After Roethlisberger overthrew Bell in the left flat on third-and-7 from the Steelers' 20 in the second quarter, CBS analyst Rich Gannon characterized the throw as one "Ben Roethlisberger makes in his sleep.

"Ben looks out of sorts right now," Gannon continued. "He just doesn't look like his normal self."


PUNT TROUBLE:** The Steelers punted for the eighth time on the afternoon midway through the third quarter. Safety Sean Davis, positioned on the right side of the second level of punter Jordan Berry's protection, took two slide steps to his right and headed up the field in coverage. Baltimore running back Javorius Allen, who had been banging into Davis with regularity while rushing punts throughout the game, peeled back this time and chased Davis, who wound up arriving at the other end of Berry's punt in time to induce a fair catch from return man Devon Hester.

The Steelers punted for the 10th time early in the fourth quarter. Davis again moved right and then up the field in coverage, but this time Allen didn't peel back and follow. Instead, he kept coming and had a clear path to block Berry's punt.

Baltimore rushed seven on that occasion and linebacker Vince Williams, linebacker Steven Johnson, long snapper Greg Warren, linebacker Tyler Matakevich and linebacker Anthony Chickillo all executed blocks up front.
Tight end Xavier Grimble, the left side of the second level, also had a man.

Safety Robert Golden, in the middle between Grimble and Davis, moved left a step at the snap, waited momentarily and then headed up the field as the punt was being blocked.

NOTHING WORKED: Bell carried nine times in the first half and gained 17 yards on the ground (he also earned a 15-yard penalty for grabbing Suggs' face mask).

The Steelers never did find a personnel group or a formation that allowed them to consistently run the ball.

It wasn't from a lack of effort.

They tried running with two wide receivers, two tight ends and Roethlisberger under center.

They tried Roethlisberger handing off after accepting a shotgun snap.

They tried three wide receivers, with two in a stack-right alignment, and a tight end.

They tried two wide receivers, a tight end and tight end David Johnson lining up as a fullback in front of Bell.

They tried three wide receivers ("trips" right) and a tight end.

They tried three tight ends and a wide receiver.

And they tried offensive lineman Chris Hubbard reporting as an eligible receiver with a tight end and two wide receivers.

No matter what the Steelers were in, Bell was often contacted in the backfield or the immediate vicinity of the line of scrimmage.

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