The Baltimore Ravens tried.
The Ravens, who brought up 10 players from the practice squad on Wednesday, were seriously shorthanded due to a COVID-19 outbreak. That’s why the game against the Steelers got postponed from Thanksgiving to Sunday, and then to Tuesday, and then to Wednesday.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers finish 16-0 this season, we’ll look back at this game. A healthy Ravens team might have beat the Steelers. The Ravens’ “B” squad battled and hung in for a long time but didn’t have the talent to knock off a fantastic Pittsburgh team.
If the Steelers end up with a perfect record, they won’t apologize. The Steelers are 11-0 after a 19-14 win. You can play only who is put in front of you, even if that team has 17 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Ravens battled hard
Before the game, Steelers defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt said the Steelers should pad the stats in what should be an “easy one.” Nobody gave the Ravens much of a chance.
The Steelers took an early 6-0 lead on a pick six from Robert Griffin III to Joe Haden. At that point, you’d have assumed Pittsburgh would roll over a depleted Ravens team.
That didn’t happen. The Ravens were shorthanded but played hard. A touchdown by Gus Edwards and the extra point put Baltimore ahead 7-6. The Ravens held the Steelers to two field goals and a fourth-down interception on their first three trips to the red zone. Had it not been for a clock management fiasco at the end of the first half, the Ravens would have had a halftime lead.
Eventually, missing all those players caught up to the Ravens. The Steelers got a touchdown from JuJu Smith-Schuster early in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 19-7. The Ravens were missing quarterback Lamar Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews and had a patchwork offensive line against a fantastic pass rush. Hitting for a couple quick scores wasn’t going to happen. It didn’t get any easier with about seven minutes left when Trace McSorley replaced Griffin, who had injured his hamstring on a run in the first half.
Still, Marquise Brown’s 70-yard touchdown from McSorley with 2:58 left kept Baltimore alive. A ridiculous third-down catch in traffic by Pittsburgh’s James Washington, which easily could have been picked off and put the Steelers in danger of losing, practically ended Baltimore’s hopes for an upset.
The Ravens’ Twitter account had to tip its cap to the team, even though it was a loss to a hated rival.
There’s no quit in this team. We fought 'til the end. pic.twitter.com/3jHbGwa4jp
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 2, 2020
The Ravens are 6-5 after the loss, which is their third in a row. They are officially eliminated from the AFC North race, and if the regular season ended today they wouldn’t have a wild-card spot either.
About the only good news for the Ravens as they leave Pittsburgh is that the game is finally done.
Steelers improve to 11-0
The Steelers have given no indication they are chasing an undefeated regular season. Ben Roethlisberger said the team isn’t worried about that, only winning a Super Bowl.
It’s possible they’ll have no choice. The Chiefs are 10-1 and there is only one bye available in each conference with the expanded playoff format. The Steelers might need to go 16-0 just to stay ahead of Kansas City in the AFC.
The Week 12 win was ugly. It was weird, with a football game happening on a Wednesday afternoon in an empty Heinz Field, as the Ravens played with what amounted to their junior varsity team.
The Steelers might not have a goal of going 16-0, but they’re five wins away after one of the strangest games we’ll see in this already unusual season.
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