One win alone wasn’t going to make up for a pair of losses in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ prior two games, or a tie before that with an underdog Detroit Lions team. Entering Week 13 with a 5-5-1 record and in a crowded group of teams on the outside of the AFC Wild Card picture, the Steelers needed multiple victories to climb back into a playoff spot, and turn around a low point in the year.
But a win on Sunday would go a very long way toward making up for the prior three weeks. Not only to climb in the playoff picture and get back above .500, but Sunday’s Week 13 game for Pittsburgh came against the 8-3 Baltimore Ravens, a primary rival and the leaders of the AFC North. In another outstanding entry to the team’s storied recent history, the Steelers earned a 20-19 victory to move to 6-5-1 on the season, and stay in the postseason picture.
One of the primary figures in Pittsburgh’s win, T.J. Watt expressed the importance of Sunday’s win over Baltimore, in an interview with the NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala.
“Back on track, honestly. It’s been such an up and down season, and to be able to get back on track is huge, to be able to smash the run relatively well, just going to look at the film and see how it went. But a win is a win, and we’re damn sure happy it’s in the AFC North, too,” Watt said.
The win is a big one within the division for Pittsburgh, who is now 2-2 with wins over Baltimore and Cleveland, and a pair of losses to Cincinnati. Cincinnati also lost on Sunday to go to 7-4, putting Pittsburgh just back of them for second in the North, both pursuing 8-4 Baltimore (Cleveland had its bye Week 13).
It also allowed Pittsburgh to keep its postseason hopes alive in an incredibly thick race for three available Wild Card spots. Following Sunday’s evening games, 13 of the 16 teams in the AFC had six, seven, or eight wins.
Watt was instrumental to the victory, finishing with 3.5 sacks and three tackles for loss after missing all week as he fought to return from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Together with former Raven Chris Wormley (2.5 sacks), they led the Steelers in getting seven sacks on Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson.
And it was Watt getting in the face of Jackson on the decisive two-point attempt by Baltimore, forcing a pass just over the head of tight end Mark Andrews, who could not tip it to himself for the conversion. Jackson had led Baltimore all the way down for a touchdown in the final two minutes, but the Ravens elected to go for two and the win rather than kick an extra point and head to overtime.
Pittsburgh also rose to the challenge in containing Baltimore’s considerable ground game, which had only 107 yards on Sunday, its fourth-fewest in a game this season. That was a major step in the right direction after giving up almost 200 to Cincinnati the week prior, and over 150 to the Los Angeles Chargers the week before that. Each game saw Pittsburgh’s opponent score 41 points, with the ground games being a key component of that.
The Steelers are still outside of the postseason, though with brighter hopes after the win than had Baltimore achieved that two-point pass to win. It also gives the team much-needed momentum as they turn around quickly for their Thursday Night Football game of the season, against the Minnesota Vikings on the road.
Sunday’s 20-19 win didn’t entirely make up for the ground lost over the last three games. But it did take a big step in that direction, though Watt cautioned looking too far ahead, stating “We’ll have to wait and see, I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”