Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
The Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger are not going to be much better than their performance in a sloppy 13-10 loss to Baltimore showed. Either way, the Steelers sit at 6-4, and playoff hopes suddenly look bleak.
Steelers vs Ravens 2012: Defense Allows no Touchdowns, but Pittsburgh Falls to 6-4 with 13-10 Loss (via SBNSteelers)
Defensively, it was aggressive, but not like the past. Offensively, it was slogging and unbalanced, not at all like the past.
Special teams was the difference.
Ravens punter Sam Koch was probably the game MVP as Baltimore defeated Pittsburgh 13-10 for its 12th consecutive AFC North win. More importantly, it all but clinches the AFC North, leading by two games with six games to go.
Ravens punt returner Jacoby Jones took a punt 63 yards for a touchdown. It was the main difference in an otherwise dull, sloppy and uninspiring performance on both sides. Baltimore's offense failed to score a touchdown, and one of their two field goals came on short field after a Mike Wallace fumble on the Steelers' second drive.
The absence of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger loomed large before the game, and was a major factor throughout. While the Steelers' offense improved from the first half to the second, the Steelers scored three points on their final 10 drives, with an interception and a field goal to go with eight points.
Pittsburgh's defense, which played outstanding overall, stung itself at the end, as defensive end Brett Keisel jumped offside on 3rd-and-7 after calling their final timeout. The clock ran to the two-minute warning, giving the Ravens a 3rd-and-2 snap. James Harrison sacked Ravens QB Joe Flacco, forcing the punt, but Koch came up huge again, pinning the Steelers at the 16 yard line.
What transpired after that was a litany of mistakes typically caused by teams that do not win close games. Running back Rashard Mendenhall failed to run out of bounds when the Steelers had no timeouts remaining. A fumbled snap led to a Byron Leftwich deep pass to Wallace that fell about 15 yards short and saw no effort from Wallace to come back to the ball.
In a game with very few fireworks, Baltimore simply made a few more plays on defense, and the edge earned on special teams gave them the win.
The Steelers fall to 6-4, and also troubling is the loss comes yet again in the AFC. With all four losses coming within the conference, they'll be at long odds to capture any playoff tiebreakers from this point on, and likely won't be able to lose more than once the rest of the season if they wish to qualify for the playoffs.