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Ravens versus Steelers proves why the Ravens will still be a contender next year

This is a massive cop-out. I'm sorry.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

When racking my brain for who I thought deserved the distinction of 'Player of the Game' not one name stuck out to me. Sure, Ryan Mallett was good. But did he win the game for the team? Nope. Was Daryl Smith's pick crucial? Absolutely. Did it change the tides? Not exactly. The same could be said for a lot of players who had some nice plays in the game. So for that reason, I'm not naming a player of the game. Instead, I'm calling this one a true team effort.

The Ravens played team football at its best. The entire team, offense, defense, and special teams, played as one. It was beautiful. Unified, coordinated, and mistake-free football. That was something I haven't seen from the Ravens in a long time.

The offense was efficient and mistake-free. In a simplified system for the newcomer, Ryan Mallett commanded over the field. He was able to throw darts all day long behind a stout offensive line. Mallett picked apart the Steeler secondary, and was authoritative with his arm. Mallett made good decisions, and the ball was not once in danger of being picked off. Helping Mallett out was some great play from his receivers, who had steady hands all game long, and a stout running attack led by rookie Buck Allen. What we saw today was a maturing young offense finally finding its place. It wasn't flashy, revolutionary, or even worthy of many highlight reels, but it worked. If the Ravens and Marc Trestman can make do this well with the healthy remnants of their offense, then I can't wait to see this team with Flacco, Forsett, Perriman, and Smith, Sr. all back on the field.

On defense, we witnessed a defense answer its wake-up call about sixteen games too late. The pass rush got to the quarterback, and the young trio of Jernigan, Smith, and Williams put up a great performance that was a testament to their progression over the season. The secondary also managed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and locked down one of the league's best aerial attacks. Jimmy Smith finally managed to shake off some of his injuries and pulled in two one pick while showcasing some nice coverage at times. Shareece Wright also continued to impress by being the man mostly responsible for Antonio Brown, who caught seven balls for just 61 yards. Considering what Brown has been known to do, that's pretty great. While the Ravens' secondary (and defense as a whole), still has a way go, today's game is proof that the team still has a lot of talent that on defense that can be built on.

If anything, today's contest shows that the Ravens are very much a contender. Even in their beat-up state, the Ravens managed to take down an undoubtedly superior team. The Ravens still have many talented players on both sides of the ball who will continue to progress and mature as time goes on. There's been a lot of talk about the Ravens going through a "rebuilding phase", but I simply can't subscribe to that. This game is a testament to the Ravens' future, and solidifies my belief that the Ravens can bounce back to be a contender next year.