Between blogs like this one, your friends and family, and local sports talk, I’m sure you’ve heard about 100 people complain about Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees. They’ll say he backs off the gas pedal late in games and it costs the team.
But the problem isn’t Dean Pees. Nor is it John Harbaugh – at least not directly. No, the problem is with the personnel on the field.
Dean Pees and the defense held Antonio Brown in check for much of the first half, which he has been doing for his entire career. Just look at how the Ravens have performed against the star wideout compared to the rest of the league.
Pees has been the coordinator for all but the first two years of Antonio Brown’s career. He’s been the one scheming to stop him.
But when the hurry-up offense comes into play – like it did for most of the fourth quarter, particularly on the final drive of the game against the Steelers – personnel is what’s important. Pees cannot call the plays that have been designed to stop the wideout when the players are the ones making the calls on the fly. Which means the defense becomes more vanilla and it becomes more about talent than it does about a battle of the minds.
In those situations, the Ravens have been failing for a long time. They failed against a rookie quarterback Week 15, but were fortunate enough to make a stand on a 2-point conversion. This time, they failed to prevent the Steelers from driving down the field. They failed to keep tabs on their receivers as they found huge holes because of mental coverage errors. They failed to put any pressure whatsoever on one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
And in crunch time, they failed to be the more physical team and make the tackle before a tiny, 180-lb receiver could reach his arms across the end zone.
None of those things fall on Pees. They all fall on a defense that has overachieved based on the talent that’s on the field. And for this season, Dean Pees should be praised, not ridiculed, for getting more out of his talent than most coordinators would.
And now, we should be looking directly at Ozzie Newsome and the personnel department to improve this team. They need a better pass rush, and they need to find it soon. With the premium this league is playing for players in that role, it will be tough.
So we better find more players like Terrell Suggs and Pernell McPhee in the draft and fewer players like Za’Darius Smith and Kamalei Correa or we could be seeing more games like this one for years.