clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 2015: Instant analysis from Ravens' win vs. Steelers in Week 16

New, comments

The Baltimore Ravens might only be 5-10, but they did what most Ravens fans were hoping for at the beginning of the season, and one of the only things that would make a terrible season a little better. The swept the Pittsburgh Steelers and likely pushed them out of playoff contention on Sunday.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens might only be 5-10, but they did what most Ravens fans were hoping for at the beginning of the season, and one of the only things that would make a terrible season a little better. The swept the Pittsburgh Steelers and likely pushed them out of playoff contention on Sunday.

It was a game that the NFL thought wouldn't be exciting or have playoff implications, so they flexed it out of it's prime time slot on Sunday night. Once again, it shows that the league has little understanding of it's own teams and what those rivalries look like as the score was close through all 60 minutes. As is said after every game between the two, this rivalry is what real football is all about and is "for football fans." Tough players and hard hits were the call on Sunday in another game that will go down in the books between the two teams that adds to the tension every year.

So what did we learn? What can we possibly glean out of a week 16 game that the Ravens had no business being in and matters little to them in the long-run?

Heart can trump talent

No one can say that the Steelers were looking past the Ravens as winning would have done a lot to lock up their postseason hopes, not to mention that it's the best rivalry in the game. So how is it that a 4-10 team entering the game could beat the much more talented 9-5 Steelers that had so much on the line? For me, it all comes down to heart.

The Ravens were playing not only for this season, but for the future. Head coach John Harbaugh made it clear before that the final weeks of this season would be used to evaluate talent for 2016. Young players step it up in order to get their shot at starting in the future or even seeing a uniform next year, while the veterans know this team will have to make some salary cap purges in a few months and would rather not be on the bad end of them. The fear and excitement to show what they are made of saw every player on the field hustle like I haven't seen them do all year long and put everything they had into every play. The desire; the need to beat the guy across from you was what made the difference today.

Here come the Mallett 2016 comments

For whatever reason, franchise quarterback Joe Flacco can't seem to shake his vocal haters. With Ryan Mallett taking it to the Pittsburgh Steelers defense on Sunday, he has done a lot to secure his backup quarterback role in 2016 with the Ravens. Also with that win, Mallett has given the Flacco haters all the ammunition they care about to call for Flacco to ride the pine.

It's a dumb argument whatever they will present, but Mallett did look good and we can't let that diminish what he showed in week 16. For the entire game, Mallett displayed the laser arm that we've heard so much about prior to his signing with Baltimore. The first half, he was given time to sit in the pocket and make choices and he did so with no hesitation and picked correctly. Hitting receivers in stride, or in zone bubbles, or right out of their breaks, or in tight coverage; the former Houston Texan showed what you want to see out of any quarterback prospect. The second quarter is where it was sold for me.

The Steelers began to blitz him heavier to try and rattle his cage. While he lost some of his technique and especially his footwork, he kept passes where only the receiver could get them. That meant a lot of passes hitting the turf, but the end result was a quarterback that didn't throw an interception and didn't allow the Steelers to get into the game physically or emotionally. Playing the role of game manager at times and knowing when he had to take the riskier shots, Mallett proved that he was wise as well as smart.

Defense of old

Everywhere you turn, you see remarks about how the Baltimore Ravens defense is terrible and they are right. The secondary is beyond suspect and has downright cost the Ravens multiple games over the last two seasons. The pass rush is non-existent far too often, only making matters worse. However, with heart and a solid game plan from defensive coordinator Dean Pees, the Ravens defense made the 5th best offense in the league look mediocre.

The Ravens made the most of the splash plays they were handed. In previous games, potential interceptions bounced off finger tips and hit the ground. In week 16, the Ravens grabbed two of them and would have had a third, pick-six had it not been for the stupid play of just one player. Now keep in mind that the Ravens are the worst in the league at getting interceptions and have mustered only 4 throughout the entire 2015 season to date. A lot of what we saw on Sunday came from corners jumping routes, and a pass rush that harassed Ben Roethlisberger frequently.

The 20th ranked defense when it comes to sacks with only 31, the Ravens were able to get 3 against a shifty and hard to bring down Roethlisberger. A lot of that pressure came off of three and four man rushes, allowing the Ravens to keep additional defenders back and make Ben throw in tight windows and bad spots.

The result of everything was a defense that looked more like the ones of the late 2000's. The ones that we see fans wish the team had again. Maybe, just maybe this is a huge building block and a glimpse that we'll see it again in 2016.