What we learned from Sunday’s Week 17 games - Kevin Patra
Despite Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram and a bevy of starters sitting out, the Ravens still bowled over the Steelers to move to 14-2. Baltimore gobbled up 223 rushing yards, with eight players getting carries. Gus “The Bus” Edwards led the way with 130 yards rushing on 21 carries, blasting through a good Steelers defense that came in allowing just 102 yards rushing for the season.
The ground performance gave the Ravens the all-time team rushing record for a season, soaring past the 1978 Patriots. Of Baltimore’s 19 first downs, 15 came on the ground Sunday. Robert Griffin III, making his first start since Week 17, 2016, performed fine leading Greg Roman’s offense that ran the ball 44 times. RGIII didn’t stretch the field but didn’t need to, adding 50 rushing yards on eight carries and passing for 96 yards on 11-of-21 passing with a late meaningless deflected INT. The cherry on top of John Harbaugh’s season-long opus came with the score still 19-10 with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter. Harbaugh called a fake put on a 4th-and-1 from his own 11-yard-line. Baltimore converted to drain more clock. The no-fear Ravens head into the playoffs still churning with their 12th straight win.
The weather conditions didn’t help, but quarterback Robert Griffin III looked rusty in the win against the Steelers. Griffin’s movement in the pocket resulted in multiple pressures and sacks that could have been avoided. In addition, he completed just 11 of his 21 passes and most of his 96 passing yards came after the catch.
Rookie running back Justice Hill looked impressive in limited action against the Steelers. Hill gained almost all of his rushing yards after contact as he was tough to tackle. Furthermore, he forced multiple missed tackles both on his run plays and his receptions.
The Steelers wanted to lean on their running game, and while they did break off some chunk gains, they weren’t consistently able to, in part because of the power displayed by the Ravens run defense. Nobody exemplified this more than Justin Ellis, an afterthought when many are talking about Baltimore, but a player who has quietly come in and made a nice contribution when asked to.
If there is a problem with the Ravens run defense, it’s once you get past those big bodies up front. All too often this season, with Sunday no exception, Patrick Onwuasor has failed to make a play when an offensive linemen gets near him.
Ravens Put Exclamation Point on Historic Season - Todd Karpovich
“This puts an exclamation point on an excellent season,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m very, very proud of these players and these coaches. We’re about to move into the next part of the season, the most important part, obviously.
“But with this part behind us, it’s worth to take a minute and look at it. It’s the best team in the regular season this year. There’s no doubt about it, That’s done. That’s an exclamation point. But that doesn’t count for anything in the next season.”
“We’re just going to keep on getting better, keep on pushing each other,” defensive tackle Domata Peko said. “We’re just getting started.”
The Breakdown: Five Thoughts on Ravens vs. Steelers - John Eisenberg
Starters such as Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Matthew Judon, Orlando Brown Jr., Bradley Bozeman and Chuck Clark played just about every snap, and they played hard, as if a trip to the playoffs was on the line instead of already locked up. “I wanted to play, man; I’m a baller,” Judon said.
The Steelers were outmatched, physically dominated on both sides of the ball. “It speaks volumes about our locker room,” Griffin said, and who can argue? For the Ravens, this game was all about pride, competitiveness, finishing what you started and keeping a special thing going. That was more than enough motivation for a team that has become the NFL’s best since it last lost in late September.
But on a day when Baltimore’s backups dominated Pittsburgh’s A team, it was clear the Ravens have left their chief rivals in the dust. For that matter, they’ve left the entire AFC North in the dust.
The Ravens successfully defended the title they won a year ago, winning this year’s division race by six games.
Things can change in a hurry, but for now, the Ravens are lengths ahead of everyone.