Perhaps the only thing that can be said from that game is neither of these teams played particularly well.
An ironic statement, considering that lack of quality performance can be at least somewhat attributed to the short rest time between games this late in the season. Yet, an NFL rule meant to protect players took a Steelers touchdown off the board late in the game despite that rule not having prevented the injury in the first place.
The Steelers trailed Baltimore 22-20 with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Running back Le'Veon Bell carried the ball over the goal line, but because his helmet had come off - the result of a hit from Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith - by rule, the play was dead as soon as his helmet came off.
The hypocrisy in the rule should be enough to bring it under question, but considering it's deemed a safety issue, it's hard to draw the line definitively. Regardless, enforcing the rule in that instance in the name of safety is laughably absurd, considering Bell's helmet was knocked off by another player, and both players appeared to lose consciousness.
Injuries told the story at the end. Along with Bell's injury, the Steelers lost Kelvin Beachum (knee) and Mike Adams, effectively removing all of their game-ready left tackles. A few plays later, center Fernando Velasco went down with what appeared to be a knee injury. Cody Wallace snapped to Ben Roethlisberger as he tied Terry Bradshaw's franchise touchdown passes record with a throw to Jerricho Cotchery - finally scoring what was once not allowed.
Baltimore drew two injuries of their own, both at the cornerback position, helping to set up the Steelers' late-game near heroics. Two cornerbacks went down, leading the Steelers to several open looks down the field against a withering and half-strength-and-fading Ravens defense to allow 231 second half yards, and 20 points.
They allowed 98 yards and shut the Steelers out in the first 30 minutes.
That resurgence in the second half was led by seemingly every Steelers player. However, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders choked throughout the game, dropping several passes, including a two-point conversion with a minute and change left on the clock that would have tied the game.
Sanders scored a touchdown in the game, saving him from one of the more nightmarish performances in recent Steelers history, but he personified an offense that didn't make plays when the team needed it to.
The opposite could be said for Bell, who's performance shined even before his touchdown that was taken away on a technicality. Bell rushed 16 times for 73 yards and a touchdown, most of which coming on a 43-yard run in the second half that kickstarted the comeback. Against a strong Ravens run defense, Bell was making hay later in the game as the Ravens defense wore out. The stats may not show it as much as it looked on the field, but Bell left both his stats, and his heart, on the field.
He'll carry the respect he earned with him.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Steelers drop close one to Ravens: All postgame news and updates following Baltimore's 22-20 win over Pittsburgh
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- AFC Playoff Picture: What did Thursday's loss do to the Steelers postseason chances?
- Jacoby Jones: 'if I was (Tomlin), I'd do the same thing'
- Monday Takeaways (Friday Edition): Steelers lose big game, may have lost more as well
- Put an asterisk next to Le'Veon Bell's career touchdown total
- Winners and Losers from Pittsburgh's 22-20 loss to Baltimore