Close but no cigar.
As hard as they tried to extend the game, the Pittsburgh Steelers fell short against the Baltimore Ravens by a score of 22-20. The loss itself sends the Steelers to 5-7, and their postseason dreams are now shattered with the Ravens moving to 6-6.
What cost the Steelers tonight was exactly what cost them during their 2-6 start to the regular season: piss-poor showing on offense in the first half.
Pittsburgh was shut out in the first half, spotted the Ravens a 10-0 lead, and probably relied too heavily on the run and jumbo formations out of the gate. While they did string together a couple of drives over 40+ yards, a botched field goal attempt by Shaun Suisham and a decision to punt gave Pittsburgh nothing to show for their efforts.
To their credit, Baltimore’s offense came out prepared and ready to strike. Joe Flacco led the Ravens to a touchdown on their first drive of the game, and Torrey Smith capped it off with a seven-yard catch after beating Ike Taylor on one of many occasions. Smith came through big tonight for the Ravens as he was his usual downfield-threat self and logged six catches for 93 yards.
The biggest star of Baltimore’s game tonight must go to Justin Tucker. Their second-year kicker was absolutely “money” tonight for them, and his five field goals proved to be enormous in the final outcome of the game. While Pittsburgh’s defense stiffened inside their own territory, Tucker’s kicks were extremely crucial.
On the subject of Pittsburgh’s defense though, kudos must go to Jason Worilds. His 10 tackles led the team tonight, as well as his 2.0 sacks. At this point, I would rather have him starting over LaMarr Woodley and I hope that Pittsburgh’s coaching staff feels the same way. “Mr. Stay Puft” is far too ineffective to be taking up cap space, and the younger and better Worilds (team-leading 6.0 sacks on the season) is a better option long-term.
Thankfully, the bend but not break defense kept the game close enough for Pittsburgh’s offense to finally catch up after they got out of their funk in the second half. “Big Ben,” who was solid in the second half (28/44, 257 yards, two touchdowns total), led his team on a touchdown march on their first possession of the second half to cut Baltimore’s then-lead to 13-7. His eight-yard scoring strike to Emmanuel Sanders was awesome, and he followed that touchdown drive up with another one in the fourth quarter which took 10 plays and covered 60 yards.
Le’Veon Bell finished that drive with a one-yard touchdown scamper, and the Steelers looked to be in business with 9:32 left in the game. Baltimore however responded with another Tucker field goal which made it 22-14, and it was up to Roethlisberger and the offense to tie the game with a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
The offense did their jobs wonderfully despite the fact that Bell, Fernando Velasco, and Mike Adams (who was replacing the injured Kelvin Beachum) all went down with injuries on the final drive. Pittsburgh’s final five plays from scrimmage I might add were quite interesting. From Heath Miller not breaking the plane with the ball, to Bell’s touchdown being reversed on a “no-helmet, play is dead” ruling, to Will Johnson’s drop on third down, it looked like the Steelers might not even get in the end zone.
“Big Ben” eventually hit Jerricho Cotchery on a one-yard touchdown pass with 1:03 left in the game, and the stage was set for the play of the game. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Chykie Brown played Sanders instead of the ball, blocked his vision on the play, and the former S.M.U. Mustang dropped what would have been the game-tying two-point conversion.
The ensuing onside kick attempt was messed up by Suisham, and the game itself was finished. Not only was the game finished though, Pittsburgh’s season went down in flames with that loss. Now 5-7 with another loss to an AFC opponent, a divisional foe no less, the Steelers will not only need to win their final four games to stay alive for postseason play, they’ll need a large amount of help as well.
While Pittsburgh has played much better in recent weeks, they are still a 5-7 team on the outside looking in when it comes to a berth in the playoffs. This final loss was just one final football to the groin for them during their Hans Moleman-like season:
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