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 snap four-game skid, defeat Steelers 21-14

BALTIMORE, MD – After not winning a single game in October, the Ravens came out of their bye strong, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-14.

The win raises Baltimore’s record back to the .500 mark at 4-4, and awards the Ravens first place in the AFC North. Baltimore has now defeated Pittsburgh in four consecutive meetings, including the playoffs.

The Ravens had a 21-0 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Steelers were able to score two touchdowns in eight minutes. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, playing just 20 days after undergoing a knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, found Antonio Brown for a 23-yard touchdown and ran for a four-yard score. Following Big Ben’s rushing touchdown, 48 seconds remained in the game and the Steelers had no timeouts. This led to the Steelers attempting an onside kick that was horribly botched by kicker Chris Boswell. The ball barely left the tee, and a flag was thrown on Boswell that gave the Ravens possession to close out the game.

“It felt really good to get back in the win column,” wide receiver Mike Wallace, a former Steeler, said after the win. “I just really wanted to win for [the Ravens’] sake.”

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Wide receiver Mike Wallace en route to his 95-yard touchdown. Credit: NFL Spin Zone
Wallace made Ravens history on Sunday. The Ravens opened up the scoring in the first quarter when Wallace caught a pass from quarterback Joe Flacco. Wallace was able to evade defensive back Artie Burns and raced to the end-zone for a 95-yard touchdown. The 95-yard score is the longest play from scrimmage in Ravens’ franchise history.

The Ravens added two field goals before scoring their second touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The play came on a Pittsburgh punt. Second-year running back Buck Allen was able to block the punt before rookie wide receiver Chris Moore recovered the fumble and ran into the end-zone. The score by Moore is his second special teams touchdown on the season. After Moore’s score, the Ravens converted a two-point conversion on a reception by wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.

In the third quarter, Roethlisberger had a pass tipped by defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Defensive end Timmy Jernigan was able to pick off the pass for his first interception of the season. Unlike his fumble recovery in week 6 where he ran the ball out of the end-zone before fumbling it again, Jernigan fell to the ground immediately after catching the ball.

The Ravens had a minor scare early in the second half. Flacco scrambled and slid awkwardly without facing any contact, but when he got up there was a bulge sticking out of his left knee. The bulge turned out to be the result of Flacco’s knee brace breaking. Flacco is wearing a brace on his left knee for the entire 2016 season as a result of his torn ACL that he suffered last November. Flacco had to exit the game for a short period to acquire a new brace, but was not injured.

Other injuries suffered on Sunday were to running back Kenneth Dixon, who exited in the fourth quarter with a chest contusion. Wallace also left the game at one point with what was described as an “illness.”

The Ravens have a quick turnaround this week. In just four days, the Ravens will host the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. The Browns (0-9) have yet to win a game this season and fell to the Dallas Cowboys 35-10 on Sunday.

In week 2, the Ravens defeated the Browns 25-20.

“It’s always good to beat your division rivals,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said after the game. “But what does it mean if we don’t win Thursday?”