A simple twist is all James Harrison needed to find that fountain of youth.
Harrison became the oldest player to have multiple sacks in back-to-back games as the 36-year-old sacked Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco twice during Sunday’s 43-23 win at Heinz Field.
That was only part of Harrison’s day.
Harrison finished with seven tackles and three quarterback hits to go along with that pair of sacks. And the veteran linebacker and former defensive player of the year, who came out of retirement a few weeks ago, has a simple stunt rush call with a blitzing Troy Polamalu behind it.
All three of Harrison’s hits on Flacco came when Baltimore offensive linemen Eugene Monroe and Kelechi Osemele couldn’t pick up a twist.
Monroe returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing more than a month after knee surgery. Two of the sacks came with Polmalau blitzing.
• It was a first-and-10 at the Steelers 48-yard line, and LeBeau called a combination rush with Cam Heyward and Polamalu blitzing from the edge. Harrison looped inside and had a free shot on Flacco, who tried to throw it away, and instead threw an interception.
• It was the same call right after the two-minute warning before halftime, and it resulted in a hard shot on Flacco by Harrison on a second-and-8.
• Late in the game, Harrison teamed up with Brett Keisel on the twist this time and Harrison got a clean hit on Flacco. Harrison used a quick first step to beat Monroe to the inside.
It wasn’t all scheme for Harrison.
His first sack came with one of his patented dip-and-rip moves. He got under Monroe to sack Flacco.
Harrison’s second sack came when he dropped into coverage. Harrison saw Flacco scrambling and came off Owen Daniels to record the sack.
Harrison wasn’t the only one having success with this basic scheme.
Arthur Moats’ sack also came on a simple twist.
• The Steelers had their troubles defending Baltimore’s outside zone running attack during their first meeting (17-133). That wasn’t the case on Sunday. They held the Ravens to 56 yards on 13 carries. The Steelers’ success came because they pushed linemen in the backfield at the point of attack — especially nose tackle Steve McLendon. McLendon pushed back center Jeremy Zuttah on three occasions that resulted in runs of minus-2 yards, 1 yard and 5 yards. Inside linebackers Ryan Shazier, Lawrence Timmons and Sean Spence also contributed by shooting the gap and making plays.
• Ben Roethlisberger has taken more shots down the field over the last few weeks, but the short, controlled passing game remains intact. Roethlisberger’s first 15 passes went 10 yards or fewer in the air. The first one that traveled further was Roethlisberger’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant. Out of Roethlisberger’s 37 passes, nine went longer than 15 yards down the field with four of those resulting in touchdowns. Roethlisberger’s average pass went 7.9 yards down the field. Last week against the Colts, his average was 8.5 yards.
• Roethlisberger was accurate last week, having only two errant throws out of his 49 attempts. Against the Ravens, he wasn’t as accurate, but he wasn’t far off. Out of Roethlisberger’s 12 incompletions, six can be classified as errant throws with the majority of those coming late in the second half.
• The offensive line had a bad series early in the game, allowing three sacks on three consecutive plays, but after that, Roethlisberger barely was touched. Roethlisberger was knocked down only twice the rest of the game, and those came on blitzes by Matt Elam.
• Antonio Brown finished with 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown, with 94 of those yards coming after the catch including 35 on a 54-yard touchdown reception. Brown arguably is the best all-around receiver in the league, and now he has added another weapon to his arsenal — the stiff arm. Brown used the stiff-arm on four of his receptions, helping him gain 42 of his 144 yards.
• Bryant’s speed isn’t a surprise to anybody anymore, and the Ravens’ secondary played that way. Bryant, who caught three passes for 44 yards, including touchdowns of 19 and 18 yards, played 37 snaps and faced press coverage only seven times. To combat that, the Steelers threw one screen pass to Bryant. However, the Steelers were happy to have Bryant have a free release the majority of the game. Both of Bryant’s touchdowns came against off-coverage.
• The Steelers continued going with a pair of three wide receiver sets against the Ravens, and continued to favor the group of Brown, Bryant and Darrius Heyward-Bey. That grouping was used 15 times against the Ravens followed by Brown, Bryant and Wheaton, with 10; and Brown, Wheaton and Lance Moore with 10. When the Steelers employed two wide receivers, they favored Brown and Wheaton (10) followed by Brown and Bryant (six).