Out of Pittsburgh’s remaining schedule, their upcoming game against the Ravens is perhaps their toughest remaining roadblock en-route to a perfect 16-0 record.
In the grand scheme of things, this game is definitely more important to the Ravens as they currently sit third in the AFC North behind the Browns. If the Ravens don't start winning these games against higher-level competition, not only will they be on the outside looking in with regards to the Wild-Card race, but less hope within the fanbase would also persist if the Ravens can’t beat playoff caliber teams like Pittsburgh.
Tuesday’s game is of great importance for a multitude of reasons, and the Ravens must step up and do their best to put together a cohesive team effort, which would give them their best shot at victory.
Fundamentally sound and mistake-free football would really help Baltimore’s chances to come out of Week 12 with a 7-4 record.
In the previous Ravens vs. Steelers matchup, both teams played at high levels (especially the Ravens), but a few mistakes and mishaps by the Ravens led to the Steelers, who were outplayed the entire game, snatching away the victory right out of Baltimore’s grasp.
Let’s take a look at the game script.
On their opening drive of the game, the Baltimore offense looked to find some rhythm in the passing game. Lamar Jackson went through his reads on a 3rd-&-6 and targeted Miles Boykin in the middle of the field. Jackson’s pass went awry and LB Robert Spillane undercut the route, intercepted the pass, and took it to the house for six points, giving the Steelers a very early lead in this rivalry game.
Looking to shake off a poor start to the game, Jackson faced another third down and long on the following drive. Unable to find space, Jackson did his best to gain yardage but ultimately looked to go out of bounds. At the same time, Cameron Hayward came in and hit Jackson as he was going out of bounds; a 15-yard penalty extended Baltimore’s drive.
A couple of plays later, Jackson hit Willie Snead IV coming across the middle and Snead took the ball to the 10-yard line. After being unable to find pay dirt on both first and second and goal, Jackson throws an absolute dart to Boykin in the back of the end-zone to tie up the game in the first quarter.
On Ben Roethlisberger’s first drive, he connected with Chase Claypool on a slant that went for a first down. As Claypool was going down, though, CB Marcus Peters found the football and stripped it away from Claypool, forced a fumble, and gave Jackson and the offense prime real estate to take their first lead.
On a 3rd-&-3, J.K. Dobbins took a zone read from Jackson and rumbled to Pittsburgh’s 11 yard line — setting Baltimore up to potentially score again.
Needing to put up crucial points, Jackson stepped up in the pocket on 2nd-&-Goal and had the ball stripped as he threw. Bud Dupree was the beneficiary of Jackson’s fumble, which Pittsburgh recovered. Dupree’s heads up play proved to be an early turning point for Pittsburgh in this game.
Looking to flip the field, Roethlisberger and the Steelers were unable to capitalize and settled for a quick three-and-out.
On the next two drives for both teams, three-and-outs were traded. Pittsburgh’s pass rush proved too much for the Ravens and Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense were slow to gain any new momentum.
The tide turned on the ensusing possession for the Ravens, however. Baltimore leaned on their ground game as Jackson, Dobbins, and Gus Edwards gained significant chunk yardage to put themselves in Steelers territory. The Ravens eventually got the ball at the goal line and punched it in with Edwards to give themselves a 14-7 lead.
Baltimore’s defense again gave Jackson and company the ball back after forcing the Steelers to punt after just three plays.
Jackson and the Ravens now found themselves in a two-minute drill looking to extend their lead. Jackson put together a very nice drive, clocked the ball with three seconds left, and let Justin Tucker take care of the rest to give the Ravens a 17-7 lead at halftime.
To open the second half, Pittsburgh quickly went three-and-out once again.
Deep in their own territory, the Ravens aimed to put this game away early. However, a Mark Andrews-intended pass from Jackson was a little short, which allowed Alex Highsmith to leap up and snatch the pass for an interception.
Following this play, Roethlisberger and the Steelers started their drive at Baltimore’s 22 yard line. On just their second play of the drive, Roethlisberger found a wide-open Eric Ebron on a crossing route, he took it to the end-zone untouched. This cut the Ravens lead to three points with a score of 17-14.
Baltimore went three-and-out on their next drive as the Steelers offense began to find its rhythm. After retaining possession, the Steelers took the ball down to the goal line and gave James Conner the green light to finish the drive and find pay dirt. He did exactly that and helped Pittsburgh take a 21-17 lead. Once again the Ravens offense was unable to mount a response and punted the ball away on the next drive.
The Ravens defense managed to get off the field after giving up back-to-back touchdowns, putting the ball back into the offense’s hands. On 3rd-&-14, Jackson threw an absolute dime to a wide-open Devin Duvernay for a 39-yard gain to extend the drive. Now in prime position to score, the Ravens did exactly that as Jackson found Marquise Brown for a touchdown on 3rd-&-Goal. Baltimore retook their lead with the score being 24-21 midway through the fourth quarter.
It didn’t last long, though, as the Steelers marched down the field on the next drive with the help of a facemask and pass-interference penalty, both committed by the Ravens. On 1st-&-Goal, Roethlisberger found a wide-open Claypool in the back of the end zone to give the Steelers another four-point advantage with 7:29 left in the game.
With their backs now up against the wall, the Ravens kept the ball on the ground with great success, as Dobbins and Edwards consistently moved the chains. The Ravens moved the ball into scoring territory but were unable to execute. On 4th-&-3, Jackson was stopped short of the marker and lost possession of the football after running a QB power play.
The Ravens defense stepped up in a key spot, though, stopping the Steelers short of the first down on their next drive. James Conner came up short of the marker and Pittsburgh punted the ball away with 48 seconds remaining, giving the Ravens one final chance to score and win the game.
Jackson made a series of clutch passes and with just five seconds remaining, he looked to thread the needle to Snead for a touchdown. However, a stellar pass breakup by FS Minkah Fitzpatrick abruptly ended the game and secured a Steelers win, 28-24.
What can we expect for this Tuesday’s game?
With multiple key starters on the COVID-19/reserve list, the Ravens are looking awfully thin.
Still, Tuesday’s game is a must-win for Baltimore for a number of different reasons.
Team moral already seems to be low, but an absolute re-invigoration of playoff hope and a general season-ending confidence boost would follow for the Ravens should they beat the Steelers. Every remaining game could very well be a must-win for this struggling Ravens team.
Another reason that this game is a must win would be the instillation of belongingness among the AFC’s best teams.
Pittsburgh is a top team in the AFC at the moment. However, if a depleted Baltimore team can pull off an upset victory, the Ravens would re-establish themselves as playoff contenders.
To do this, the Ravens must play level-headed and mistake-free football game. Ben Roethlisberger doesn't lose often, and he often turns losses into wins because of sloppy play from the opposition.
The shorthanded Ravens need to string together a coherent and collaborative team effort for 60 minutes in order to do so. Baltimore not beating themselves will be the ultimate test.