Here’s what the Baltimore Sun sports staff had to say immediately after the Ravens’ 16-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday night’s Week 17 game at M&T Bank Stadium.
Childs Walker, reporter: The Ravens’ two-minute defense let them down again as the Steelers drove 80 yards in 3:20 to come from behind in a typical Baltimore-Pittsburgh slugfest. The Steelers went right at the Ravens’ strength and succeeded, rushing for 108 yards in the first half and almost 200 for the game. Clutch plays in coverage by Brandon Stephens and Chuck Clark kept Pittsburgh from reaching the end zone in the first half. J.K. Dobbins ran the Ravens into position to score just before halftime, and Tyler Huntley showed considerable poise in finishing the drive with a touchdown pass to Isaiah Likely. Such red-zone conversions have been too scarce for the Ravens. Huntley made another terrific throw to Mark Andrews in the third quarter to dig the Ravens out of a hole and put Justin Tucker in position to hit from 51 yards. Now, they’ll wait to see what the Cincinnati Bengals do Monday night against the Buffalo Bills and more importantly, to see if Lamar Jackson returns to practice this week.
Mike Preston, columnist: Championship-caliber teams shouldn’t get beat by a division rival at home late in the regular season with a rookie quarterback. Pittsburgh beat the Ravens at their own game with a strong running attack and Kenny Pickett made some big plays at the right time. The Ravens’ “bend but don’t break” defense bent at the wrong time in the closing minutes. The good news is that the Ravens have already earned a playoff bid. The bad news is that they lost to a Steelers team that struggled earlier in the season but has made strides of late.
Ryan McFadden, reporter: The Steelers had the Ravens’ defense on edge with their running game, totaling 198 yards on the ground as running back Najee Harris played hard throughout the night. Although the Ravens received a solid outing from running back J.K. Dobbins and tight end Mark Andrews, the offense as a whole continues to disappoint and show its inability to handle pressure-packed moments, like the one they faced during the final seconds Sunday.
C.J. Doon, editor: In today’s NFL, only the Ravens and Steelers can play a classic game scoring less than 30 combined points. Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett introduced himself to the rivalry with a stunning final drive, capping an 11-play, 80-yard march with a memorable 10-yard touchdown pass to running back Najee Harris. Everything that happened — even a scrum and ensuing unnecessary roughness on Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward that helped the Ravens score the game’s only touchdown — felt hugely important. We’ve come to expect nothing less from this rivalry, which delivers drama even with a backup quarterback taking on an unproven rookie. There’s still plenty for the Ravens to improve on after they gave up their most rushing yards all season, couldn’t score after getting a 56-yard kickoff return and allowed two long drives in the fourth quarter. Every week, it feels like we’re left with more questions than answers about this team’s postseason aspirations.
Tim Schwartz, editor: The Ravens could not stop Steelers running back Najee Harris, who ran all over them before catching the game-winning touchdown in the final minute. Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett was also excellent on the final drive, completing 5 of 6 passes for 64 yards. Baltimore’s defense was solid overall, but this offense cannot get the job done when it matters with Tyler Huntley under center. They won’t go anywhere unless Lamar Jackson comes back, and he’ll need to shake off the rust fast. At least tight end Mark Andrews returned to form with 100 receiving yards and running back J.K. Dobbins carried the ball 17 times and looks healthy. On to Cincinnati, where the Ravens hope to still have a chance to win the AFC North.