Offensive Line Tormented By Steelers, James Harrison


The matchup with Pittsburgh Sunday night looked more like a Steelers highlight reel from 2008.

Quarterback Joe Flacco was under siege all game, specifically by 36-year-old outside linebacker James Harrison. The long-time Steeler came out of retirement earlier this season, and played his best game in years as he consistently beat Baltimore's offensive line to torment Flacco all night.

Harrison led a Steelers pass rush that collected four sacks and 10 hits on Flacco.

"We just didn't play well enough," left tackle Eugene Monroe said. "We didn't execute where we needed to. They did a good job tonight."

Harrison finished the game with seven tackles and two sacks. He also forced Flacco into an interception by getting into the backfield to hurry a pass.

The Steelers are known for their exotic blitz packages and disguised coverages from Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau, and they threw a little bit of everything at the Ravens. They consistently brought pressure up the middle, and they attacked the interior linemen with blitzes or stunts inside by the edge rushers.

"They had been turning up their pressure recently, so it was something we expected," center Jeremy Zuttah said. "We just have to execute better."

The Steelers didn't necessarily overload the Ravens up front with all-out blitzes, but the pressure was successful as Pittsburgh used a lot of movement to confuse the offensive line.

"They were bringing guys, but they usually weren't bringing guys that we couldn't protect," Flacco said. "I thought they did a good job of getting pressure with the guys they were bringing and were covering the best they could."

The problems in the protection were two-fold. The blockers had to pick up the blitzers to keep them from having an open path to the quarterback, and Flacco needed to get rid of the ball quickly by finding his open targets.

"We just have to do a better job with our pass protection," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "We have to do a better job of making them pay when they blitz us. That's something you just have to do. They come after you and you have to get the ball in someone's hands. You have to make a play to talk them out of it. We didn't do enough to discourage that at all really at any point in time during the game."

The pressure only intensified after the Steelers took a two-score lead in the second quarter. The Ravens shifted to a pass-heavy offense in the second half to try to erase the deficit, and the Steelers made life very uncomfortable for Flacco.

"You fall behind a little bit and then they can kind of tee off because you have to throw the ball to get back in the game," Zuttah said. "When they get in pass-rush mode, you just have to brace a little more and hold on a little bit longer."

The hits took a toll on Flacco, and the offense never seemed to get back into a groove after the solid first quarter. Instead of looking downfield, Flacco had to consistently keep an eye on the pressure bearing down.

"We definitely did not really accomplish what we wanted to today," Flacco said. "Part of that was because they really came after us and we just didn't do a good enough job."

The protection has been up-and-down for Flacco throughout the season, and the Ravens know they will have to keep their quarterback upright down the stretch if they are going to make a run to get back to the playoffs.

"We've got seven games left," Monroe said. "We'll correct the things we need to and move on, same as if we would have won."

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