By Daniel Benjamin
Baltimore saw its season effectively come to an end as they fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-27 at Heinz Field on Christmas Day. With the loss, the Ravens were eliminated from playoff contention as the Miami Dolphins (10-5) defeated the Buffalo Bills on Christmas Eve. The Dolphins (10-5) clinched the sixth and final AFC playoff spot as the Kansas City Chiefs eliminated the Denver Broncos from playoff contention on Christmas night.
Baltimore came into the key AFC North matchup knowing that they would have to defeat Pittsburgh in order to stay alive for a playoff berth. If the Ravens had defeated the Steelers, they would have still had to of beat the Cincinnati Bengals on the road in order to claim the North division title. But the Ravens’ No. 3 ranked defense gave up 406 yards of total offense and 21 fourth quarter points to the Steelers.
The Ravens moved the ball well against No. 9 ranked Steelers’ defense, racking up 368 total yards with 122 coming on the ground. The Ravens controlled the ball nearly 35 minutes while they picked up 22 first downs, 11 of which came via the air and nine on the ground. The Ravens were also good in third down situations, converting 9-of-17 opportunities—they came into the game ranked 31st in the league in that category at 34.5 percent. However, the Ravens left points on the field as they scored just two touchdowns in five red zone opportunities. Baltimore had the ball on Pittsburgh’s side of the field on each five of their first half possessions, though they managed just six points.
Quarterback Joe Flacco had a pretty good game, completing 30-of-44 passes (68.2 percent) for 262 yards and one touchdown along with an interception. He led the Ravens on a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that spanned 5 minutes 58 seconds to give the Ravens a 27-24 lead with 1:14 remaining in the game.
Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon ran the ball well, accounting for 58 yards on 12 carries. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk rambled 10 yards for the Ravens’ last touchdown, finishing the game with two carries for 15 yards.
Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. had a game with seven receptions, on seven targets, for 73 yards and one touchdown. Tight end Dennis Pitta also had a big day, though wide receivers Kamar Aiken and Breshad Perriman had miscues during the Ravens’ last touchdown drive.
For most of the game, the Ravens did a good job containing the Steelers’ offense, particularly running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Then the fourth quarter happened. Pittsburgh scored touchdowns on all three of their final possessions as they rolled up 240 yards on just 21 plays. The Ravens couldn’t stop the Steelers’ running or passing attack in the final stanza.
Pittsburgh finished with 406 total yards of offense. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns with 10 of his completions going to Brown for 96 yards, including the game-winning touchdown pass. Bell had 20 carries for 122 yards as well as a touchdown.
Special Teams: B
Justin Tucker accounted for 13 of the Ravens’ points, knocking all four of his field goal attempts through the uprights. Punter Sam Koch didn’t register a huge punting average, though he pinned the Steelers inside their 20 on each of his three punts. Punt returner Mike Campanaro returned two kicks for 25 yards.
The Ravens did have a special teams snafu at the end of the first quarter when they were forced to abort a field goal attempted due to a bad snap by long snapper Morgan Cox. Offensive lineman Rick Wagner did recover the ball, but the Ravens still turned the ball over on downs.
The Ravens did have a decent run pass mix and ran the ball very well, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Defensively, the Ravens tried everything in the last quarter as they attempted to halt the Steelers momentum. They just couldn’t. Head coach John Harbaugh made the right decision going for two after the Ravens third quarter touchdown that put them up 14-7.
The Ravens conclude their season against the (5-9-1) Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on New Year’s Day.