Ian Eagle: Baltimore’s Defense Is Exceptional

Ben Roethlisberger is perhaps the toughest quarterback in the NFL, and he showed why on Sunday, suiting up just a few weeks after knee surgery to take on the Ravens in Baltimore. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh (4-4), the Steelers lost 21-14.

It was their straight loss. Even worse, they’ve mustered 16 points or fewer in each of their last three games. Roethlisberger finished 23-of-45 for 264 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

“I do think Ben was physically ready to start; it just didn’t go well,” play-by-play voice Ian Eagle said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Baltimore’s defense, by the way, is exceptional. They are one of the better defensive units in the NFL, and they made Ben pay a lot.”

Over the last decade, Steelers/Ravens has become the most intense, most physical rivalry in the NFL. But for whatever reason, their Sunday meeting didn’t seem to have a lot of juice.

Why not?

“Both teams are not at the level they once were,” Eagle said. “It’s that simple. Pittsburgh is a solid team that has problems. They have problems on defense. That’s been obvious. They can’t get to the quarterback and they can’t turn the ball over. And then offensively, I think everyone just assumed they’d be fine (without) Martavis Bryant. I think that’s been a bigger hit than they anticipated. They got through that initial part of the season without Le’Veon Bell. DeAngelo Williams did an excellent job in his place, but getting Bell going and getting Bell to the end zone has not happened. The numbers are good; they’re not extraordinary for what I believe is the best running back in the NFL.”

Bell has rushed for 376 yards in five games and is second on the team with 36 receptions.

“So (they’ve got) offensive line issues, they’re  not getting the push they normally get, we mentioned the defense, and then on the flip side, Baltimore was riding a four-game losing streak,” Eagle said. “So everybody who had bought in a little bit in the firs month of the season had gotten off the bandwagon and just assumed, ‘All right, this is what he Ravens are, and they’re mediocre.’ I think yesterday was a big statement for them, a big moment for them and maybe a jolt of confidence that they believe they can go out and win this division.”

The Steelers, to their credit, had a chance to win the game in the final minute, but Chris Boswell’s rabona-style onside kick was a colossal failure, as the ball traveled, oh, about a quarter of a yard.

“I had not seen that anywhere ever,” Eagle said. I’ve been doing the NFL for 20 years and I’d never seen it done like that. Obviously the result was something I’d never seen, either. It was almost like a hacky-sack move. Obviously with everything on the line, it was a brutal time for that to happen. Now mind you, if you’re attempting an onside kick, that normally means you’re in desperation mode to begin with, so if that happened at any point when you’re trying an onside kick, no one’s going to react in a positive way. That was just a really major air-ball.”

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