"There are a lot of denominators there, and I think they're pretty straightforward,” Harbaugh said at his weekly Monday news conference Oct. 2. "Getting turnovers, stopping the run, getting first downs, getting off the field on third down -- those are big factors."
The most glaring issue has been an offense that has failed to score during the first half in either of the past two games. The Ravens set a franchise-record-low with 15 yards in the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sept. 24, and then had another disastrous first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers Oct. 1 with 69 yards off offense in the first half as they fell behind, 19-0.
The Ravens rank 30th in total offense with 269.8 yards per game and last in passing offense (142.5 yards/game) and passing yards per play (4.19).
Given those numbers, much of the criticism is centering around Flacco, whose 65.0 passer rating is second-to-last among quarterbacks with at least 100 passes.
"The quarterback is the focal point of the whole thing," Harbaugh said. "It always comes back to the quarterback. ... When it's good, he gets a lot of the credit, and when it's bad, the quarterback gets a lot of the blame. But he's got to get better. And Joe said [Sunday] ... it starts with him. So that's good that he does that, that he thinks that way; that's what the great ones think.
"I want to see him play well. I want to see him put up numbers and make plays, but it's not just him. It's the offense in totality that has to be better."
Indeed, the list of players making mistakes against the Steelers didn't end with Flacco. Wide receiver Mike Wallace got open down the left sideline and dropped a low throw that hit him in his hands and would have been at least a 25-yard gain. Running back Alex Collins fumbled in Ravens territory, leading to a Steelers touchdown. And a patchwork offensive line minus Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda struggled to hold off the Steelers’ defensive front.
Flacco is "getting hit too much," Harbaugh said. "We've got to work on that. ... Keep your quarterback clean, the quarterback's going to be a lot better."
NO UPDATE ON B. WILLIAMS: Harbaugh had no update on defensive tackle Brandon Williams, who has missed the past two games with a foot injury. "When he starts practicing, you'll know he's close," Harbaugh said. On Sept. 29, Harbaugh had said Williams was dealing with a lower-leg injury and had "fingers crossed" that he'd be back in a week or two. Harbaugh also expressed frustration with how long cornerback Jaylen Hill's hamstring injury has lingered. The undrafted rookie was hurt late in the preseason and has missed all regular-season four games.
TROUBLE ON THE EDGE: With the run-stuffing Williams sidelined, Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell piled up 144 rushing yards, but Harbaugh said most of that damage came because the Ravens failed to set the edge against him. "We're not defending the run as well as we want to," Harbaugh said. "Interior-wise we're playing OK. Not as good as when Brandon was there, but Michael Pierce has played really well. ... Our problem yesterday was more on the edges."
COLLINS WORKING ON BALL SECURITY: Harbaugh said the Ravens will work with Collins on his ball-carrying technique after his second fumble in three games. Collins, who broke open a season-long 50-yard run against the Steelers, is now the team's leading rusher with 206 yards on 25 carries. "We're working on the way he carries the ball," said Harbaugh, who said they are correctable, technique issues. "I don't think we have any ‘fumblers,'" Harbaugh added. "Once you think a guy is a fumbler you're pretty much kind of done with him. But none of our guys I feel that way about. ... I'd say this: We can't be turning the ball over. That's just it. We just cannot be turning the ball over. That's not the way we're going to win games."