The Bengals enjoyed their much needed bye week. Meanwhile, the Steelers rolled over Baltimore to pull further ahead in the division whilst the Browns fought valiantly against the NFL’s best offense, that of the Kansas City Chiefs, but ultimately came up short.
Pittsburgh Steelers 23, Baltimore Ravens 16
It feels like every review of the Steelers this year has started with the same guy James Conner. Sunday’s matchup with the Ravens was no different. Conner not only ran the ball 24 times for 107 yards, he also had 7 receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. When you consider the Steelers ran 76 offensive plays, Conner was clearly the offensive focal point. That’s 40.78% of the offensive snaps which is an impressive workload for the young back.
The Pittsburgh defence is posting some impressive numbers. The team hasn’t allowed more than 21 points in a game since September. Although the running of Conner is a factor in this, as it helps the Steelers control the clock, that’s still an impressive figure. In Week 9, they were also stout in the redzone, forcing Baltimore to settle for field goals on three of its four (75%) trips inside the 20 yard line. “We are growing every day,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “Guys are getting better.
The Ravens have injuries across their offensive line and it’s forcing them to play some different players. One young player that is starting to stand out for the right reasons is third round pick, tackle Orlando Brown. Brown was heavily criticised for his combine numbers (especially his 40-yard dash time and bench press). Yet when you looked at Brown in gain he was a good, sometime dominant, prospect. Projected as a first round pick he fell to the third round based in large on these scores. The 6-8 22 year old has surpassed expectations in his three starts this season. Brown is an aggressive player as his block of TJ Watt, and the demolition that followed, shows. According to Pro Football Focus, the former Oklahoma star gave up zero pressures against Steelers and he has allowed no sacks or hits so far this season.
Baltimore’s lack of a running game continues to infuriate their fans. On 16 attempts they gained 61 yards. Despite Alex Collins averaging 3.9 yards a carry he only ran the ball 9 times. That’s not going to help take the load off quarterback Flacco. Given the lack of a running game this year Flacco hasn’t played at the level befitting a player paid as highly as he is. Currently ranks 17th in adjusted net yards per attempt and 18th in passer rating.
Change ahead for the Ravens? Expectations were high for the Baltimore Ravens this year and, after a fast start, the team have lost three straight games. John Harbaugh’s offense has lacked creativity. The bye week will give the Ravens time to regather and work on the fundamentals. The Ravens have 28 sacks in 2018 but have failed to deliver since racking up 11 sacks against the Titans in Week 6.
Kansas City Chiefs 37, Cleveland Browns 21
Greg Robinson started his first game at left tackle for the Browns and it should be his last. He simply looked lost. Under Hue Jackson the Browns left tackle was Desmond Harrison. He did not play well either. However the problems went deeper than that as the coaching decisions of and Todd Haley have not helped keep Baker Mayfield upright. Whilst the Browns do not have the tackles to facilitate long-developing plays they may have an upgrade waiting in the wings. I wrote a detailed piece on second round pick Austin Corbett here. The Browns simply must see what they have in Corbett. He can’t be any worse!
Perhaps linked to this, Freddie Kitchens got the ball out of his prized number one pick’s hands quickly. A lot of the short, quick passes for Mayfield seemed effective as he was able to dink and dunk his way down the field, taking advantage of the accurate passing that was so often talked about in the build up to the draft. Dropped passes have been an issue for the team all year. According to ESPN Antonio Callaway has dropped 6 passes in 45 targets. That’s an impressive 1 drop every 9 targets. If the Browns receivers could improve on their league high 6.3% of passes dropped I’m pretty sure that would help Baker too.
Duke Johnson is alive! The Browns, under new offensive coordinator, rediscovered that Johnson can actually play. Whilst the team used rookie Nick Chubb (22 carries for 85 yards) as the primary runner, Johnson ran the ball once for 8 yards but featured heavily in the passing game, adding 78 yards and two touchdown on 9 receptions. Expect this to continue moving forward following these comments from Baker Mayfield, “Obviously, he is one of our playmakers. Whenever we get a chance to get him going … those are the types of plays we expect him to have. That is what he is capable of. That is what he has shown time in and time out when you get him involved that much. We have to continue to build on that.”
Injuries may be about to limit the Cleveland Browns defence after this matchup saw rookie cover man Denzel Ward leave with a hip injury before E.J. Gaines was ruled out with a concussion meaning he will need to pass the NFL’s concussion protocol before being eligible to play this week.
Jonathan Cumbleton writes about the AFC North for Ninety Nine Yards, covering the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Steelers. Johnny is a Philadelphia Eagles fan who has followed the game since 1990. You can follow more of his writing on Twitter @Cumbleton.