The Baltimore Ravens shocked a lot of people in NFL circles yesterday as they managed to not only beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-17, they managed to hold a Steelers offense to under 20 points which seemed almost impossible during the late stretch this season.
Here are two notes from week 16:
- The Steelers, prior to this game vs the Ravens, scored 30 points in six straight games which is a franchise record. That ended Sunday,
- The Steelers scored a point in 21 straight quarters entering the game against the Ravens and that ended Sunday as well.
The Ravens are 5-10 this season but sweeping the Steelers has to make Baltimore feel a lot better given the terrible circumstances they have been in throughout the year. With 10 losses on the season, can anyone really learn much about the Ravens that they haven't learned earlier this season? Yes there is.
What we learned
1.) Kamar Aiken is emerging as a starting wide receiver and Jeremy Butler is starting to emerge as a quality wide receiver as well.
There were a lot of questions about Aiken to start the year and he didn't have a good outing in the Ravens first-seven games of the season. But since Steve Smith Sr. has been out of action for the Ravens, Aiken has 70 receptions for 868 yards with five touchdowns on the year. Assuming Smith Sr. returns for the Ravens next year, Aiken is really making a push for the Ravens not to draft a wide receiver high next year in the NFL draft with his play.
Butler on the other hand is developing into a smart wide receiver. He is slowly finding ways to find the soft spots in coverage against opposing defenses. In my opinion, Butler is a keeper. He has the size at 6-2 weighing 213 pounds and he has 25 receptions for 306 yards on the year. Butler has seen limited action this year, but when he has had the opportunity, he has made the most of it catching passes in traffic and fighting for the ball at the highest point.
2.) Ravens can still play some defense
With the kind of defensive performance the Ravens had yesterday against a potent Steelers offense and shutting down Denver Broncos offense to zero touchdowns in week one, you begin to wonder why this defense has had so many lapses during the season. Steelers wide receivers in Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant were held to a combined total of 10 receptions for 108 yards against the Ravens Sunday.
When you look at those numbers and then you remind yourself that the Steelers offense on Sunday was led by Ben Roethlisberger, what is the excuse for the Ravens defense allowing 450 yards to Josh McCown and 340 yards to Colin Kaepernick? There's no real legitimate excuse whatsoever.
While it was obviously good to see the Ravens defense play vintage Ravens defense in week 16, it's frustrating to know that they still had it in them all this time this season but never really showed it when it mattered most.
3.) Ravens have Steelers number
In the year of 2015, the Ravens beat the Steelers three times (including the playoff victory earlier in January) and the Ravens have improved their record to 8-3 against the Steelers since the start of the 2011 season. In fact, since Ravens head coach John Harbaugh arrived in Baltimore in 2008, the Ravens are 10-9 vs the Steelers (including the playoffs) and that doesn't sit well in Pittsburgh but it sits very well in Baltimore.
The Ravens are slowly gaining control of this rivalry. Even though some Ravens fans were hoping for a top five draft pick this year, sweeping the Steelers will always top a draft pick.