5 things we learned from the Baltimore Ravens' Week 5 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers

2T0R8AM Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. 8th Oct, 2023. October 8th, 2023 Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) on the line of scrimmage during Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, PA. Jake Mysliwczyk/AMG Media (Credit Image: © Jake Mysliwczyk/BMR via ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE! Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News

• Lamar Jackson played hero but was let down: The Ravens didn’t lose because of Jackson; they lost because the receivers dropped the ball — figuratively and literally.

• Is a trade-deadline deal coming? Baltimore is in need of edge defender help, with one potential option being the Panthers' Brian Burns.

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

The Baltimore Ravens dropped to 3-2 on the year with a 17-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5.

It was a defeat that, in many ways, doesn’t make sense, given the level of quarterback play on either side of the ball. But in one very key way, it makes perfect sense.

Here are the five things we learned from Sunday.

WR:CB Matchup Chart

No, the Ravens don’t regret the Lamar Jackson contract

After the loss, ESPN’s “First Take” pondered whether the Ravens might regret giving quarterback Lamar Jackson a then-record-setting contract this offseason. Even the box score stats make that look like an overreaction, with Jackson going 22-of-38 for 236 yards and an interception. Beyond the box score, it’s a preposterous take.

Jackson had one of the best games of his career as a passer in Week 5. He appeared dialed in, throwing the ball downfield with poise and accuracy all game. The problem, though, was that his receivers couldn’t catch the ball. Seven drops were the most by a Ravens team since the 2014 season, including two in the end zone on one drive and another that hit Nelson Agholor in stride for an almost-certain score.

Jackson's end-zone throw on the interception by Joey Porter Jr. will be one he wants back, but he was not at fault for the fumble at the end of the game. It came in the middle of his throwing motion roughly 2.7 seconds after the snap.

The Ravens didn’t lose because of Jackson; they lost because the receivers dropped the ball — figuratively and literally.

If a trade is coming, it should be for an edge defender

The Ravens made a splash at the trade deadline a year ago, acquiring linebacker Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears. Smith has been a revelation for the team and leads all linebackers with a 91.1 PFF grade through five weeks. Baltimore has made use of the trade deadline plenty before, notably bringing in cornerback Marcus Peters in 2019, which has prompted many to wonder if the front office will do so again this year. If the Ravens do, edge defender feels like a position they would target, and Brian Burns could be a costly but worthwhile swing-for-the-fences move.

Burns is 25 and in the final year of his contract, so Baltimore would likely have to be willing to part with its first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and sign Burns to a top-of-market deal. That’s a lot, but the Ravens have been unable to draft a top-tier edge defender and Burns is coming off a season where he generated 68 total pressures. Through five games this year, he has registered 13 — five of which were sacks. 

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A first and a second might seem like a lot for the Ravens to give up, especially given that Burns is in the final year of his rookie contract, but it's unlikely they could make a splash like this for much less.

The offense pushed the ball downfield more

The Ravens had attempted only 29 passes 10-plus yards downfield entering Week 5, an average of just over seven per game and the second-lowest mark in the league. Things had gone well when they did, with Jackson completing 19 throws for 402 yards and a pair of touchdowns, earning a league-leading 95.1 PFF passing grade in the process.

Baltimore had 20 such attempts against the Steelers, leading the NFL in Week 5. Jackson again ranked first in the league on 10-plus-yard throws with a 97.8 PFF passing grade, going 9-of-20 for 163 yards and four big-time throws. The problem was that five of those 11 incompletions were dropped, tied with the Minnesota VikingsKirk Cousins for the most this week.

Jackson now has a 98.8 season-long grade on throws targeted 10 or more yards downfield. The volume was up in Week 5, and Jackson’s performance didn’t dip. All signs point to the Ravens' offense breaking out if the receivers can just catch the football.

Patrick Ricard could have made a difference at the end of the game

Despite the new offense in Baltimore, Patrick Ricard has remained an important part of the production. He has earned 11 positive grades from 84 run-blocking snaps this season, working out to once every 7.6 snaps. That is down only slightly from once every 6.1 snaps in 2023, which is impressive since Ricard has largely changed positions from fullback to tight end. You can see this in some of the Ravens' best runs of the year, with Ricard often sealing an edge defender to help spring a chunk gain.

His last snap against Pittsburgh came with 5:33 to go in the game, on a three-yard run. He was off the field on the shovel pass to Mark Andrews that was read well by linebacker Kwon Alexander and dropped for a loss, as well as for the end-zone fade picked off by Joey Porter Jr. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but two runs with the ball at the four-yard line and Ricard on the field would have almost certainly allowed the Ravens to put up points, either three or seven, and close the game out.

From there, the Ravens were trailing, so it made sense that he wasn’t on the field. But it may be worth considering using him as pass-blocking support in similar situations in the future.

Marlon Humphrey is back — but not fully

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey returned to the Ravens' lineup against the Steelers, having missed the first four games of the year due to injury. It’s clear that he isn't all the way back yet, though, and he rotated out with Ronald Darby at one cornerback spot while Brandon Stephens saw every snap at the other. Humphrey finished the game with a 63.0 PFF coverage grade, the highest of all three outside cornerbacks, but burned into the brains of onlookers is the game-winning touchdown to George Pickens at Humphrey's expense.

With no safety help for any of their three cornerbacks on the play, Humphrey was initially covering Pickens well, before losing him around 20 yards downfield. It's easy to criticize the defensive play call, but the Steelers were already in field goal range, so the Ravens were obviously concerned with stopping the run and the Steelers running the clock down. Maybe a fully healthy Marlon Humphrey stays with Pickens all the way, but sometimes you just have to credit the quarterback and receiver for making a tremendous throw and catch in a clutch situation.


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