There is never one clear, overarching factor that trumps all when discussing what went wrong in something as mercurial as an entire football season. The Pittsburgh Steelers no doubt greatly contributed to putting themselves in the position that they are now in, needing help to get into the playoffs. Suspensions and injuries certainly didn’t help.
But if you really need one specific thing to point to in case the Steelers or the Bills lose next week and Pittsburgh fails to advance to the postseason for the third time in the last four years, then it might as well be the 5-10 Baltimore Ravens, who are 2-0 against the Steelers and 3-10 against the rest of the NFL.
If you go back and look at Pittsburgh’s losses this year and want to pick one loss that you would most want to have back, chances are the top two candidates would be either of the two losses that the Steelers suffered at the hands of the Ravens, first in Week Four, and most recently just this past Sunday.
Of course, injuries and suspensions also tie into this one. The Steelers were still without Martavis Bryant for that first meeting due to suspension. Ben Roethlisberger had just suffered a knee injury the week before and was out of that game.
And yet Pittsburgh still should have won that game based on the way that it played out, holding a 20-17 lead throughout most of the fourth quarter, only to see Josh Scobee—who was withholding the extent of an injury, apparently—miss two potential game-clinching field goals.
The Ravens, obviously went on to kick the game-tying field goal to send the game into overtime, and then the offense failed multiple times to put points on the board in extra time, asking the defense to hold on just one time too many as Baltimore ultimately triumphed to notch their first victory of the season, 23-20, at Heinz Field.
It was figured that that loss might come back to haunt the Steelers when it comes to potentially losing the division race to the Bengals, who are now 11-4 themselves, but after losing to the Ravens again this past week, the combination of both losses stands a good chance of keeping them out of the playoffs altogether.
And for Sunday’s loss, there is simply no excuse. The Ravens started their fourth quarterback of the season, who had only been on the roster for less than two weeks, having also lost their starting left tackle and running back with no adequate replacement for either one.
Yet the defense allowed them to convert nine of 18 third-down opportunities, sustaining three drives of more than 10 plays, creating no turnovers while the offense managed to put up just 17 points while handing the ball over twice.
Since the Steelers swept the Ravens in the 2010 season, the Ravens have overcome Pittsburgh in a staggering eight out of 11 meetings, including last year’s Wildcard playoff game. In that span, they have fallen one game short of the playoffs twice, a game short of the division another time, and were knocked out of the first round when they did win the division. This could be the third year of missing the playoffs because of the Ravens.