With a chance to clinch a playoff spot by beating the Baltimore Ravens on the road, Sunday, and the New York Jetslosing to the New England Patriots in the Meadowlands, the Pittsburgh Steelers fell flat on their faces against the Ravens, 20-17, at M&T Bank Stadium.
Ryan Mallett, who became the fourth quarterback to start for the Ravens this season, threw for 274 yards and a touchdown while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes against a Steelers defense that just failed to show up in all phases of the game.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for just 215 yards in the loss, while Antonio Brown hauled in seven passes for 61 yards.
Martavis Bryant recorded one catch for six yards, and Markus Wheaton added three catches for 41 yards.
DeAngelo Williams rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and added six catches for 53 yards out of the backfield.
With the loss, the Steelers fall to 0-4 this season when not forcing a turnover. They lost the turnover battle to the Ravens, 2-0, as Roethlisberger threw two costly interceptions and nearly had a third as Jimmy Smith returned a tipped pass 100 yards for a score before the play was negated by an offsides penalty on Courtney Upshaw.
Early on the Steelers were able to run the football very well as Williams racked up 80 rushing yards in the first quarter highlighted by a 30-yard burst that put the Steelers in Ravens territory.
Following the run the Steelers’ drive stalled as Williams was stopped short on 4th down to turn the ball over without scoring points.
Mallett then began to carve up the Steelers secondary, leading the Ravens on a 15-play, 75-yard drive that took more than seven minutes off the board as Mallett found Chris Matthews wide open in the back of the end zone from eight yards out for the opening score of the game.
The Steelers responded with a 10-play, 64-yard drive that looked to be capped off with a fantastic throw-and-catch from Roethlisberger to Brown, but upon further review the pass was ruled incomplete as Brown failed to retain possession as he was falling out of bounds.
Pittsburgh had to settle for a 34-yard field goal from Chris Boswell to trim the deficit to 7-3 just nine seconds into the second quarter.
Baltimore once again marched right down the field on Pittsburgh’s defense as Justin Tucker drilled a 37-yard field goal to push the Ravens lead to 10-3 as the Steelers struggled to figure out the Baltimore offense.
The two teams traded punts following Tucker’s field goal, before Daryl Smith picked off Roethlisberger deep down the middle of the field.
Roethlisberger was looking for Brown in space but the veteran quarterback was under pressure up the middle and forced a bad throw into tight coverage.
Tucker kicked a 50-yard field goal following the interception to extend the Baltimore lead to 13-3 at the half.
Pittsburgh looked about as poor on both sides of the ball in the first half against the Ravens as they did against Denver just one week ago. Everyone remembers how that game ended, which lent hope to the same thing occurring this week on the road.
Not even close.
The Steelers defense forced a three and out after halftime and then marched 79 yards in six plays for a touchdown, aided by two huge pass interference calls on Smith and Kendrick Lewis that accounted for 53 yards, which led to a 2-yard touchdown from Williams to pull the Steelers within three, 13-10 early in the third quarter.
Following another quick punt from Baltimore, the Steelers looked ready to strike once again and take control of the game.
Unfortunately, Roethlisberger tried to force another throw into Brown that resulted in an interception by Smith that gave the Ravens the ball near midfield.
Five plays later the Ravens took a 20-10 lead as Javorius Allen found pay dirt from three yards out. Mallett hooked up with Chris Givens for 39 yards and Kyle Juszczyk for 34 yards to set up Allen’s score.
Pittsburgh answered with an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that was nearly wiped out by Smith interception return off of a tipped pass off of Brown’s hands.
With Upshaw lining up in the neutral zone, it gave the Steelers a free play, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.
After the interception was sorted out, Williams punched in his second rushing touchdown of the game from two yards out, pulling the Steelers within three points with time winding down.
Needing a defensive stop, Pittsburgh forced a punt that rolled into the end zone for a touchback with 2:55 left in the fourth quarter.
Looking to tie the game or take the lead, the Steelers offense never really got going on the final drive and turned the ball over on downs after deep shots to Bryant on 3rd and 15 and Wheaton on 4th and 15 fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs to Baltimore, eventually handing the win to the Ravens.
With the loss, the Steelers fall to 9-6 and now have to beat the Cleveland Browns and hope the Buffalo Bills beat the New York Jets in the final week of the regular season to get into the playoffs.