If the Pittsburgh Steelers miss out on the playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens can take the credit. The Steelers are no longer in control of their destiny after losing 17-20 to their now 5 and 10 hated rivals for the second time this season. It’s Baltimore’s first sweep of the season series since 2011.
At the start of the game it appeared the Steelers offense would have their way. Pittsburgh received the opening kickoff and appeared to be attempting to make a statement. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley called 5 consecutive run plays which resulted in 52 yards, followed by a short 3 yard pass on third down put them at the Baltimore 25. But, the promising drive yielded no points when Coach Mike Tomlin chose to go for it on 4th and 1, and the Ravens D held.
Quarterback Ryan Mallett, making his first start as a Raven after being signed on December 15th, proceeded to march the Baltimore offense 85 yards (38 by Rush, 47 passing) that ended with an 8 yard touchdown to Chris Matthews. The Steelers playoff hopes began its slow death from there.
The Pittsburgh D allowed Mallett to throw for a career high 274 yards. This is the same guy who got cut by the Houston Texans–who have gone through 4 QBs this season–for sleeping through his alarm. But, as has been the case throughout the season, the Steelers couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down. Baltimore converted 9 of 18 3rd downs in the game, and at one point Mallett was 5 for 5 passing on the key down.
Pittsburgh has proven all season long they can’t be left on the field too long. It showed Sunday with Baltimore winning the time of possession battle 34:20 to 25:40. Baltimore gained 386 total yards, 121 via rushing and 265 through the air.
Even with the D playing down to the level of their competition, the high-powered offense had their chances. But they looked out of sync all afternoon. Not once did they resemble the unit that average 35 points a game over the last 6. In their 5 first half possessions they managed to score only 3 points, and had drives of 2 punts, an interception and a turnover on downs.
Roethlisberger came into the day leading the NFL in passing yards per game at 336.9. He only passed for 215 yards, 193 if you count the yardage loss by the 3 times he was sacked. The Ravens gave up an 8th worse 25.7 points per game coming in to Sunday. The Steelers only managed to get 17. The Ravens were also giving up an 8th worse 342.7 total yards per game. Pittsburgh only gained 303.
DeAngelo Williams was the lone bright spot as he rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries with 2 touchdowns, but 84 of those yards came in the first half. Antonio Brown was held relatively in check by the Baltimore secondary with only 7 catches for 61 yards and 0 touchdowns.
The Steelers only hope for the playoffs now is a victory over the Cleveland Browns next Sunday, and a win by the Buffalo Bills over the New York Jets. If both happen, the Steelers would get in as the 6th seed.
OTHER KEY NOTES
• Pittsburgh’s franchise record of 21 consecutive quarters scoring points coming into the game was snapped in the first quarter when they didn’t score on their two possessions.
• With his 4th catch of the day, Antonio Brown joined Minnesota Vikings great Cris Carter as the only players in NFL history with back-to-back 120 catch seasons. Carter did it in 1994 and 95.
• Steelers are 3-3 this season when trailing at halftime. They trailed the Ravens 13-3 on Sunday.
• Coach Tomlin is now 10-11 vs Ravens in his career. 9-10 against John Harbaugh.