*PITTSBURGH -- The resurgent Steelers were rolling into this weekend with a seemingly reborn quarterback and regenerated defense, but the loss of superstar running back Le'Veon Bell and a gutsy performance from the Ravens were too much to overcome on Saturday in a 30-17 Baltimore win. Here's what we learned: *
- If Baltimore's front can play like this again, could they potentially upend the Patriots next Saturday? New England's singular glaring weakness right now may be their inability to slow down some of the NFL's elite fronts, especially when those fronts show a steady stream of exotic blitzes. Watch the camera angle from behind Ben Roethlisberger when he throws one of his two game-ending picks. That is, quite simply, a quarterback's worst nightmare.
- Is it fair to say we expected more from the Steelers' defensive line Saturday? When the conversation shifts to Joe Flacco's mobility -- which is, actually, better than expected -- one has to wonder if James Harrison and Jason Worilds left some sacks out there. Harrison was heads up on the first undrafted free agent rookie to start a game at left tackle in NFL playoff history. Although it might be tough to compare given that Baltimore had some obvious passing downs to tee off on, we expected a more complex blitz package like we saw during the team's last matchup in November.
- Kelvin Beachum's holding call with a little more than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter eliminated any bounce that was left at Heinz Field. Believing that Dri Archer had just scored, putting Pittsburgh within a touchdown and two-point conversion, the Steelers heard from their crowd for the first time in almost an hour. Two plays later, Bruce Gradkowski was in at quarterback for a third-and-21.
- Wondering if Dean Pees is maybe just a year or two past the age where he could get some legitimate head coaching interviews. The Ravens' defensive coordinator, who, by the way, has been coaching against Roethlisberger since college, had an ideal situation laid out in front of him, but still unfolded some diabolical blitzes that won the game. Save for one possession where his defense was caught in Tampa 2 with Antonio Brown running behind three defenders, it was a solid game plan. Also, while we're on the subject of Ravens coordinators, what do we make of Gary Kubiak's performance? His running game may have been less dependable than Pittsburgh's on Saturday night, but still did a nice job of organizing his protections. We saw Justin Forsett step up nicely on a few.
- The lack of Bell in Pittsburgh's offense was no more pronounced on the team's first drive when Ben Tate got five snaps and the start. As many times as Pittsburgh went with an empty set, they had plenty of max protect situations and relied on Antonio Brown to get separation in a vast, talented secondary. Max protect with a bad running game is a lose-lose situation that isn't going to win you playoff games. Pittsburgh really needed a running back that knew the passing game who could beat a linebacker in single coverage and provide an outlet.
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