(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
The Steelers started and ended the game with a bang, but everything in between was anything but pretty. Nonetheless, HC Mike Tomlin’s team advanced to 7-0 after edging the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday. LB Robert Spillane helped Pittsburgh get off to a hot start with a 33-yard pick-six that put his team up a touchdown early. The remainder of the 1st half was all Baltimore, however, and they wasted no time erasing the early deficit. After seemingly forcing a punt on the ensuing possession after the Spillane interception, DE Cam Heyward was called for unnecessary roughness as he pushed QB Lamar Jackson out of bounds at the end of the scramble. After the yardage was tacked on, Baltimore slashed the Steelers defense, ending a 75-yard drive with a Miles Boykin TD reception. After the teams exchanged a few fumbles and punts, Baltimore tacked on 10 more points at the tail end of the 2nd quarter to carry a 17-7 lead into the locker room at the half.
While nearly nothing went as planned for Pittsburgh in the 1st half, the 2nd half was certainly a different story. QB Ben Roethlisberger came alive in the 2nd half, throwing for 2 touchdowns as his team ran a primarily no-huddle offense. The Baltimore defense did not have an answer for the Steelers offense once they found themselves on their own half of the field, allowing a touchdown on every drive in which the Steelers advanced past midfield. While the Steelers offense was potent, it was the timely defensive plays that dictated the result of the matchup on Sunday. The Steelers defense was able to pick Jackson off twice while recovering 2 additional fumbles. Perhaps the most important play of the game was when DL Isiah Buggs tripped up Jackson on a 4th and 3 draw that would have given Baltimore a 1st down inside the ten and a chance to win the game. After Baltimore forced a Pittsburgh 3 and out, they positioned themselves at the Pittsburgh 23, needing a touchdown to win the game. As time expired, S Minkah Fitzpatrick broke up a Jackson pass intended for WR Willie Snead to put the game on ice. While it was a classic Steelers-Ravens slugfest, timely plays gave the Steelers the extra edge that they needed.
The stat sheet will not tell the entire story of the game in Baltimore, but it is certainly noteworthy. The Ravens outrushed the Steelers by over 200 yards on the day and slightly beat the Steelers in air yards too. RB J.K Dobbins was the first opponent of Pittsburgh to have a 100-yard rushing day as he accumulated 116 yards on just 15 carries. Just as well, Lamar Jackson tossed over 200 yards. It was the 2 interceptions that eventually sunk the Ravens on Sunday as Pittsburgh scored half of their points following an interception. Willie Snead had a nice day catching passes from Jackson as he reeled in 5 receptions for 106 yards. For Baltimore, undisciplined play certainly did not work in their favor, as their 110 penalty yards totaled 80 more than their opponent’s mark.
As for Pittsburgh, they played a relatively clean football game on the offensive side of the ball, only turning the ball over once. Roethlisberger did a great job of choosing spots to take risks, and many of them paid off in either touchdowns or pass interference calls. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster was a reliable target for Big Ben as he took in 7 catches for 67 yards, picking up a couple of crucial 3rd downs. RB James Conner found the endzone as he picked up 47 yards on 15 carries. Conner could have had a higher rushing total, but the game script prevented him from receiving many 2nd half carries. On defense, DE Stephon Tuitt had a monster day as he tallied 9 tackles and 2 sacks on the afternoon. Just as well, LB Robert Spillane picked up 11 tackles and 2 PDs in addition to his defensive touchdown. The Pittsburgh defense proved their toughness on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, and its showing could not have come at a better time.
Injuries for both sides impacted the matchup between the two AFC North squads. For Baltimore, they lost T Ronnie Stanley for the season with an ankle injury. The Ravens also lost G Tyre Phillips early in the game. As for Pittsburgh, the loss of DL Tyson Alualu was a big one as the Ravens found success up the middle on the ground, where Alualu has made a living this year. DE Cam Heyward also went down with an apparent leg injury late in the 4th quarter. Getting healthy will be imperative for both teams as they each will look to strengthen their playoff chances in the upcoming weeks.
Baltimore will look to bounce back next week against the Colts in Indianapolis while the Steelers will travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. If today taught us anything, it is that both of these teams are here to stay in this division. Every win will be valuable down the stretch while in a divisional race such as this, and the next matchup between these two foes will take place on Thanksgiving Night. It will be a great one.