Steelers' Timmons leads defensive charge
Defense typically dictates the outcome of Steelers-Ravens games. Nothing changed Sunday at Heinz Field, only this time neither defense held up when it mattered.
The Steelers seemingly had victory secured midway through the fourth quarter, mostly because linebacker Lawrence Timmons had called a near-perfect game in the red zone to frustrate Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
But Flacco engineered a 16-play, 73-yard drive to tie the score at 16-16 with 1:58 to play. Suddenly, the game was in the hands of the Ravens' defense.
Like the Steelers, the Ravens couldn't hold serve. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't face a third down in positioning kicker Shaun Suisham for a last-second, 42-yard field goal that lifted the Steelers to a 19-16 victory.
Until Flacco finally cracked the code, the Steelers' defense dominated. More precisely, Timmons was dominant. He had a career-high 17 tackles — 12 unassisted — to help bottle up the Ravens' insipid ground game.
“It's always this type of game. It comes down to who's going to be more physical,” Timmons said. “It's definitely something to build on, but overall it was a great team effort.”
The Steelers figured the Ravens would use a no-huddle offense. But they were surprised some at the pace of Baltimore's play.
The Steelers used six defensive backs, including rookie strong safety Shamarko Thomas and cornerback Cortez Allen. They abandoned their defensive set and used one defensive lineman almost exclusively, primarily defensive end Cam Heyward.
“We didn't exactly know what they were going to do coming out of the no-huddle,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “It's all about adjusting. You don't practice for it, and you don't see it on film, but when it happens it's about how you respond instead of us going into shock.”
“They passed more than we thought they would,” cornerback William Gay said. “We just stayed on top of our keys to prevent the big plays.”
The Steelers quickly countered the Ravens' deployment of a spread offense and three-receiver sets.
“We did a good job communicating,” Timmons said. “It's tough when they're doing the run-and-gun, but we knew what to expect.”
“Everybody got up for the game. Troy (Polamalu) and Ryan (Clark) gave us pep talks. Everyone just did their jobs.”
The defensive secondary — save the Ravens' final drive — did its job. The Steelers held Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones to a combined seven catches for 93 yards. Smith got 41 of his yards with cornerback Ike Taylor smothering him along the sideline.
Flacco finished 24 of 34 passes for 215 yards.
“They put together a nice sequence of plays on that scoring drive,” Gay said. “It was a chess match, and they got the best of us on that series. It's a matter of inches that separates us in games like these.”
The Ravens' receivers came within inches of altering the outcome. But Gay twice denied them potential touchdowns. He stripped Jones of the ball just shy of the goal line on a deep post route in the third quarter, then jarred the ball loose from Tandon Doss early in the fourth quarter to make Baltimore settle for a 32-yard Justin Tucker field goal to leave the Steelers with a 13-9 lead.
“Jones beat me, and I kept saying, ‘Please God, let me catch up to him,' Gay said. “Luckily Flacco put the ball in the air to give me a chance to knock it down.”