Ravens eliminated from playoff contention with 31-27 loss to Steelers

PITTSBURGH, PA – The Ravens needed to win out in order to win the AFC North and clinch a playoff berth, but they fell 31-27 to the Steelers on Sunday and are now officially eliminated from the postseason.

The Ravens had a 20-10 lead entering the fourth quarter, but could not stop a Pittsburgh offense that scored 21 points in the final 15 minutes of the game. That would end up being the difference that the Steelers needed to win on Christmas Day and seal Baltimore’s fate. 

Pittsburgh’s win officially knocks the Ravens out of the playoffs. The Steelers (11-5) are now two games ahead of the Ravens (8-7) in the AFC North standings, so Pittsburgh will still have the edge over Baltimore regardless of what happens in the final week of the regular season.

“Obviously a disappointing, bitter loss,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said after the game. “[The Steelers] went down the field [in the fourth quarter] and scored three touchdowns. [They made] big plays, and got the ball in the end zone, which was obviously the big difference in the game. I wish them all the best in the playoffs.”

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The Ravens has trouble stopping Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who finished the game with 122 rushing yards. Credit: Newsday
The Ravens will now miss the playoffs for the third time in four seasons after winning Super Bowl 47 in 2013.

As usual, the Ravens and the Steelers battled to the very end. At the end of the third quarter, the Ravens had a 17-10 lead. While Pittsburgh was able to score touchdowns in each of their final three offensive drives, the Ravens still managed to score 10 points in the fourth quarter. With 1:18 to go in the game, Joe Flacco connected with fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who got in the end zone to give the Ravens a 27-24 lead. However, the Steelers got the ball back and scored the game-winning touchdown with nine seconds left on a four-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to receiver Antonio Brown. Brown made the catch on a slant-route and had to extend his arm in order to get the ball over the goal line. It took replay to confirm the score, but the video showed that Brown’s arm had just the right amount of distance to count as a touchdown.

Brown was able to have a big day in the absence of Baltimore corner-back Jimmy Smith. Brown finished the game with 10 receptions for 96 yards that included the game-winning score.

“Our offense gave us 27 points,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said after the game. “Usually when our offense scores 27 points and we’re winning in the fourth quarter, it works out in our favor. It is very disappointing in that fashion, but you have to respect the Steelers. We had 1:18, and they did a good job of not being denied.”

The Ravens had five offensive drives in the first half, and they got into Pittsburgh territory each time. But, they only had six points to show for it after the fist 30 minutes of the game. In the first half, Baltimore let three points slip away when they failed to kick a field goal as punter Sam Koch could not catch a snap from long-snapper Morgan Cox. The ball was snapped high, and Koch could not get the ball down for kicker Justin Tucker, leaving three points on the scoreboard.

“There were 5-10 points that were left out there and could have made the difference,” Flacco said after the game. “You’re are given your opportunities but we were just a little bit short.”

Next week the Ravens will battle the Bengals (5-9-1) in Cincinnati on New Year’s day. The game is essentially meaningless, but both teams will be playing for pride. Even in these meaningless week 17 games, there are certainly some things to be on the lookout for. There will be rookies looking to build off of their first seasons, impending free agents trying to prove why they are deserving of a new contract, and bubble players looking to prove that they have a place on the team.

With Baltimore’s elimination from the postseason for the second consecutive year, next week’s game could be the springboard for what is sure to be an interesting offseason for the Ravens, as several big decisions could be on the horizon.

Ravens, Steelers set to battle for AFC North dominance

To be published in The Voice, Bloomsburg University’s student-run newspaper.

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Quarterbacks Joe Flacco of the Ravens and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, both Super Bowl champions, hope to lead their team to an AFC North crown. Credit: clicRBS.

There are four weeks left in the NFL regular season. The playoff picture is becoming clearer by the week, but some divisions are going to take longer to sort out. One of those divisions is the AFC North. The Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, both with records of 7-5, look to finish ahead of the other and host a home playoff game.

It is no secret that these two teams are bitter enemies. There have been countless battles between the teams over the years. Baltimore Ravens legends like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have dueled with legends of the Steelers, including Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward. While many of the players involved in this rivalry have either switched teams or retired, there are still some old faces as well as some fresh young talent to keep this envious battle alive.

In one corner, you have the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens got off to a hot start this season, starting 3-0 before going on their first four-game losing streak in the John Harbaugh era. Since that four-game skid, the Ravens have made up some ground, winning four of their last five games. One of those wins was a 21-14 win over the Steelers in week nine.

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Last Sunday Flacco threw for 381 yards and four touchdowns, including two touchdown passes to tight end Dennis Pitta – Pitta’s first scores since 2013. Credit: Russell Street Report

Last Sunday, the Ravens defeated the Miami Dolphins 38-6. It was just the second double-digit victory for the Ravens this season. Quarterback Joe Flacco played his best game in recent memory, throwing for 381 yards and four touchdowns. Baltimore’s offense has struggled all season, but the unit finally put together 60 minutes of pure dominance.

As solid as the Ravens’ offensive showing on Sunday was, their defense has held their team together all season long. The Ravens’ defense ranks first in the NFL against the run and seventh against the pass. It is almost impossible to run the football on this defense with Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams blocking all the holes. Linebackers CJ Mosley and Zachary Orr are playing out of their minds. Terrell Suggs, playing on one arm, and Elvis Dumervil, recently returning from a foot injury, provide a formidable pass rush. The secondary is the weakest part of this unit, but with a veteran like Eric Weddle at the helm and corner-back Jimmy Smith shutting down receivers, the Ravens have been kept in games even when it seemed impossible that they could overcome their offensive struggles.

Oh, and let’s not forget kicker Justin Tucker, who many are already naming team MVP for the Ravens. Tucker is a perfect 28-for-28 this season in field goal attempts, including eight successful kicks from 50 or more yards. With several NFL kickers struggling to make extra points (under the new rule), Tucker’s brilliance has certainly eased the stress of Baltimore fans concerned about an offense that has struggled, particularly in the red zone.

If the Ravens are to win this division, they are going to need to become road warriors. Three of Baltimore’s final four games will be played on the road – at New England, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The Ravens are 2-3 on the road so far this season, so if they plan on hosting a home playoff game, they are going to have to perform well in enemy territory.

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Free-agent aquisiiton Ladarius Green had a breakout game against the Giants, hauling in over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown catch. Credit: Ramblin’ Fan

In the other corner stands the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have been a streaky team as of late, going on a four-game losing streak before winning their last three games. This past weekend, the Steelers convincingly defeated the New York Giants 24-14 and held the Giants scoreless in the first half. Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdowns, and Le’Veon Bell ran for 118 yards on 29 carries. Free agent acquisition Ladarius Green also had a stellar day, recording 110 receiving yards and a touchdown.

From the outside looking in, everyone wants to focus on Pittsburgh’s offense. In fact, many experts were picking the Steelers to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl solely based on how strong their offense is. While the Steelers may still reach the Super Bowl, it is no secret that the offense has not performed as well as most people had predicted. In a three-game stretch earlier this season, the Steelers’ offense was held to under 20 points. However, the Steelers are capable of putting up big offensive numbers on any given Sunday. After that three-game stretch, the Steelers have put up at least 24 points in every game.

The Steelers have pro-bowl caliber players at several positions on offense. Roethlisberger continues to be one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, doing so with a bad knee. Roethlisberger has now played five games since injuring his meniscus against the Dolphins, throwing nine touchdowns during that stretch. Big Ben has several weapons at his disposal, including Bell, Green and receivers Antonio Brown and Sammie Coates. The defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers features a great front seven that ranks sixth against the run, but their secondary is suspect, having been a weakness for a few years now.

The Steelers have an easier four-game stretch to finish out the season, playing the Bills and the Bengals on the road before returning home to face the Ravens and the winless Browns. That game against the Ravens will be played on Christmas Day, and could possibly determine the winner of the AFC North. As of this writing, the Ravens possess a half-game lead over the Steelers because of their victory over them in week nine. The Ravens have also won four-straight games against the Steelers, including the playoffs.

As the NFL playoff picture transpires, the AFC North race is one of the top storylines to watch for the rest of the season. With that being said, this Christmas Day game might be the single most-important game remaining on the NFL schedule. You might have to wait to finish up opening your presents, because this game will be must-watch television.