The Breakdown: Eisenberg's Five Thoughts At Steelers


Five thoughts on the Ravens' 43-23 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night at Heinz Field:

Ravens Couldn't Match Steelers' Firepower
After the Ravens had the upper hand early, a fumble by rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro in the second quarter let Pittsburgh into the game, and let's not sugarcoat it, once the Steelers got going, they steamrolled the Ravens. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had three touchdown passes by halftime. He ended with six. The Ravens pressured him early and even sacked him on three straight plays at one point, but once he got going, he had plenty of time to throw and plenty of open receivers to target. And while the Ravens offense is improved, it could not come close to matching the Steelers' firepower in the developing shootout. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was lukewarm, especially after he threw a second-quarter interception that set up a Pittsburgh touchdown. Bottom line: The Ravens gave up the early momentum with turnovers and then were the second-best team on the field for the rest of the night.

Guessing Taliaferro Gets Slack, But Fumble Pivotal
I'm hesitant to pin too much blame on a fumble early in a game in which the Ravens committed 10 penalties, allowed six touchdown passes, yielded four sacks and seemed to lose their poise several times in the second half. But Taliaferro's fumble was big. The Ravens had a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter and possession on a drive near midfield when Taliaferro slashed through the line for a gain, but coughed up the ball as he fell. "Just have to protect it better," he said, obviously disappointed, after the game. The Steelers picked up the fumble and quickly produced a touchdown that tied the score. Taliaferro touched the ball very little the rest of the night. When he fumbled in a preseason game, his playing time shrank. I doubt that cause-and-effect policy will be in effect this time. His star was ascending when he lost the fumble. The Ravens like what they see from him, and he's a rookie, so I'm guessing he gets some slack. But this was a pivotal mistake in a crucial game and he can't afford to lose another fumble.

Ravens Secondary Out Of Its League
As feared, the Ravens secondary had the roughest of nights without cornerback Jimmy Smith, out with a sprained foot. The unit simply wasn't good enough to handle Pittsburgh's impressive fleet of receivers, led by Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Dominque Franks, cut by the Ravens earlier this season, was overmatched, and veteran Lardarius Webb also struggled. After starting slowly, Roethlisberger had his best-ever passing performance* *against Baltimore. The Ravens had to put pressure on him to have any shot at slowing him down, and they actually did so early, but the charge did not last. Webb was beaten deep for a touchdown. Safety Darian Stewart was too late on a crossing pattern that produced a touchdown. In the third quarter, Antonio Brown escaped Chykie Brown, caught a pass on the sideline, and weaved all the way across the field to complete a 54-yard scoring play, breaking several tackles and stiff-arming the Ravens' Will Hill to the ground along the way. It was a play that spoke volumes. The Ravens were out of their league on this night.

Flacco's Season Stalling Out
After a strong start, Flacco's season has stalled out lately. He has thrown five interceptions in the past three games, a ratio reminiscent of 2013. Sunday night, he threw one big early completion, a touchdown pass to Torrey Smith, but couldn't make enough happen the rest of the night. And his second quarter interception was crucial, coming just minutes after Taliaferro's fumble. "I was trying to throw the ball away," Flacco said. The Steelers blitzed all night and dared Flacco and the Ravens to take advantage, and they did not. Flacco was under pressure and absorbed more tough hits than in any prior game this season. "They were blitzing us," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "You have to do a better job in pass protection, and you have to do a better job of making them pay when they come after you."

Quick Takes
Flagged for three personal foul penalties, the Ravens admitted they lost their poise in a chippy game. "You have to walk away after the whistle," Harbaugh said … The Ravens are now 2-3 on the road this season and have lost nine of their last 13 games away from M&T Bank Stadium … Rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley had a rough night in pass coverage … The Ravens were rewarded for showing faith in Jacoby Jones, who finally broke out of his funk, returning a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown … With the AFC North's two other teams, Cleveland and Cincinnati, winning on Sunday, the four teams in the division are now a combined nine games over .500, best of any division in the NFL ... Terrell Suggs deserved his flag for a late hit on Pittsburgh's LaGarrette Blount in the third quarter, but he didn't go for Blount's knees, as many Steelers and the crowd seemed to believe … The Ravens have gone from first place to last place in two weeks.

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