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- Steelers outlast the Ravens in yet another crazy game between these two rivals
Steelers outlast the Ravens in yet another crazy game between these two rivals
Five games. 1341 yards. 79 points. Seven touchdowns (just five by the offense). Three wins. Two losses. First place in the AFC North.
First place in the AFC North Division, that’s where the Steelers currently sit after outlasting the Ravens, 17-10, at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday. That’s correct, despite those funky offensive numbers through five games–btw, the Steelers’ latest offensive performance vs. Baltimore netted 289 yards and dropped Matt Canada’s unit to 30th in the NFL–Pittsburgh sits atop its division going into the bye.
How can that be? How did the Steelers win on Sunday after falling behind, 10-0, early and tallying just 91 yards and three points by halftime?
How did the Steelers win despite entering the fourth quarter with those same three points that came courtesy of Chris Boswell’s right foot? Because Baltimore could do nothing to build on its early 10-0 lead. The Ravens had chances, like in the second quarter when they probably should have extended their 7-0 lead to 14-0. But thanks to back-to-back drops in the end zone by tight end Mark Andrews and receiver Rashod Bateman, Baltimore had to settle for a Justin Tucker field goal.
In the third quarter, receiver Nelson Agholor dropped what would have been a touchdown and a 17-3 lead for the visitors. Instead, Baltimore was forced to punt, and the Steelers remained on the ropes after absorbing yet another body blow.
It was more than just the drops that did the Ravens in, however. How about the decision by head coach John Harbaugh to go for it on fourth and two from Pittsburgh’s 23 with just seconds left before halftime? Harbaugh had the option of sending Tucker out to attempt a 41-yard field goal which would have given the visitors a seemingly commanding 13-3 lead over a Steelers squad that had just scored four offensive touchdowns through the first 18 quarters of the 2023 regular season. Instead, the Ravens’ attempt to put the Steelers away on fourth and two failed when Jackson’s pass fluttered innocently to the natural turf of Acrisure Stadium. That was supposedly a miscommunication, as Harbaugh said he was trying to run the clock down before sending Tucker out, but why even bother being cute with this struggling Steelers team in this rivalry that often comes down to a play or two?
What about that blocked punt by special teams dream Miles Killebrew that went out of the back of the end zone for a safety and pulled Pittsburgh to within 10-5 with 11:12 remaining in the game? The Steelers were able to inch even closer after the offense collected the ensuing free kick, drove 49 yards on nine plays and added another three points on a short Boswell field goal to make it 10-8 with 7:10 remaining. Sure, Pittsburgh’s offense stalled dramatically after having a first and goal from the five, but those fast five points were a reminder to Baltimore that when these two teams get together, you can throw the sanity right out the window.
This was going to be another crazy finish involving the Steelers and Ravens.
Although, it didn’t seem like it would be moments later when Gunner “Fumble” Olszewski committed another special teams gaffe at Acrisure Stadium, and the Ravens scooped up that gaffe and returned it to the Pittsburgh seven-yard line with just 5:33 remaining.
A touchdown would have given the Ravens an insurmountable 17-8 lead. A field goal would have forced Pittsburgh’s sluggish offense to not only produce yards but an actual touchdown in order to win the game.
Instead, much like his father did many years ago when he challenged Ray Lewis to step off the team bus and fight him, rookie Joey Porter Jr. quickly etched his name into the Steelers/Ravens rivalry by intercepting a Lamar Jackson pass in the end zone with 4:06 left in the final period.
And just like in Week 17 of last year when he was able to pull himself and the offense up off the mat late in a game against the Ravens at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, quarterback Kenny Pickett, despite looking pedestrian through the first 56 minutes, showed off that clutch gene of his.
The Steelers drove 80 yards on eight plays and scored the game-winning points when Pickett found receiver George Pickens for a 41-yard touchdown with 1:17 remaining in regulation.
Linebacker Alex Highsmith stripped Jackson of the football, moments later, and T.J. Watt scooped it up and returned it to Baltimore’s 18-yard-line with 1:02 left. This should have clinched it, but since this was Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore, an illegal formation penalty on Chuks Okorafor on third down stopped the clock and saved the Ravens about 35-40 seconds. So, instead of Boswell attempting a field goal with about 15 seconds left, he attempted it with 49 seconds remaining.
You may have feared the Ravens driving the length of the field, scoring a touchdown and deciding to go for two with just seconds remaining (that exact situation unfolded two years ago during a game between these two nutty teams), but Watt squashed that by squashing Jackson on fourth down to end this boxing match once and for all.
The Steelers’ defense stood tall in the second half and limited Baltimore’s offense to a mere 76 yards. Teryl Austin’s unit forced three turnovers on the day and sacked Jackson four times–including two by Watt.
To call Pittsburgh’s defense elite would be wrong–like the offense, it’s ranked 30th in the NFL through five games–but it is accurate to say that the Steelers wouldn’t be 3-2 without it. Pittsburgh’s defense stole a win against the new Browns in Week 2, and on Sunday it helped to steal a win from the old Browns.
Now, the Steelers get to lick their wounds a bit during their bye week. They also need to find a way to generate more than 15.8 points per game over the final three months of the season. But isn’t it crazy that they will get to do those things as the first-place team in the AFC North?
Illogical, but illogical outcomes are often the results of games involving the Steelers and Ravens.
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