A more objective viewing
Watching games like this a second time always help clear up some confusion. With the emotion laced around it, it's hard to accurately say whether it was as good, or as bad, as it seemed.
This game was perhaps the worst dual-performance in a game the Steelers were involved all season. Pittsburgh's first half utter confusion was only topped by Baltimore's second half meltdown. Neither of these teams appeared ready to play in this game. Hopefully, Dan Rooney is requesting the Steelers don't have to play on the road on a short week for a third consecutive year. Speaking of that...
Competition vs. Quality
A game can be competitive in the sense the score is tight, guys are shoving and jawing and it looks to be coming down to the wire. That does not mean it's a well-played game. Thursday's game was sloppy, undisciplined and uncharacteristic of two teams not usually known for those kinds of negative traits. They're both well-coached, and while some jaw-jacking between plays is pretty much par for the course, the massive shortcomings from both teams on both sides of the ball for extended periods of time can only be blamed on the Almighty Dollar.
Yes, it's great theater, but great competitive rivalries should not be played on three days' rest. I'm not interested in what the NFL will sell its fanbase as far as this being an "instant classic." It was a poorly played football game. The winner is undisputed, but A.) this game is played at a much higher level if it was Sunday, and B.) It's tough to say a rested team wouldn't have beaten the tar out of either team if they performed against them the way they did Thursday.
It's not that the Steelers are flat-out eliminated from the playoffs. Sure, they still have a shot. But what are the odds any of the three injuries suffered by Kelvin Beachum, Mike Adams or Fernando Velasco will turn out to be the day-to-day variety? As per usual, I'm not a doctor, nor will I engage in amateur diagnosis, but to a man, none of them looked good.
Let's just look at the worst-case scenario. All three are lost for the year. The Steelers are signing a tackle to start against Miami in nine days, or Guy Whimper is on the left side. Matt Spaeth either plays, or goes on injured reserve. If it's the latter, David Paulson plays against Miami.
It's been a rough go with injuries recently, but Thursday might have been the worst yet. Beachum and Velasco played well, Adams fought hard at least, and even being out-quicked by Terrell Suggs, he still deserves credit in shutting the biggest Steelers killer of all out. All three of them may have trouble returning to the field in this season.
Night and Day
Jason Worilds put the best pass rush he's ever had on Michael Oher. He beautifully knocked Oher's hand down, allowing him to slip past the leverage-less right tackle, and into Joe Flacco, for a strip-sack. Worilds had two sacks in this game, and a career-high 10 tackles. He's seeing dollar signs now. It's dramatic to suggest it, but perhaps the Steelers should either rush LaMarr Woodley back onto the field as a means to cool off the pending free agent, or maybe just move rookie Jarvis Jones to the now-hotly debated left outside linebacker position in order to do the same thing.
The exact opposite of that was Emmanuel Sanders, the Steelers receiver who didn't see a play big enough for him to botch in the loss. He splays himself parallel to the ground to catch a pass that was headed for his midsection, failed to secure it and injured himself on the play. He dropped a touchdown, and caught another. Then he dropped a two-point conversion that would have had the Steelers' kicking off in a tie game after having been down 16-7 just minutes earlier.
Whatever money Worilds made, Sanders lost. That's the way of the Steelers/Ravens rivalry. Hero in Week 7, Goat in Week 13.
It was probably too much to ask either of these defenses to come up with big plays; so many of them have been made over the years, it seems unfair to ask for another. But let the record show the two Steelers/Ravens games in 2013 yielded exactly zero turnovers from either quarterback.
Flacco fumbled once, on Worilds' sack, but Flacco didn't put the ball anywhere near a Steelers defender. While Ben Roethlisberger appeared to be victim of the short-week prep time than any other player, he did not turn the ball over. Special teams plays seem to be turning into vogue as far as determining these games. Justin Tucker was Baltimore's MVP. Sanders' big kick return in Week 7 set up the Steelers' win. Jacoby Jones had part in a scoring drive, and his punt return touchdown in Week 11 last year gave Baltimore its only touchdown.
That doesn't seem quite right.
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
- Jones is no Usain Bolt
- Is it better to have hoped and lost
- 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'
- Put an asterisk next to Le'Veon Bell's career touchdown total
- Winners and Losers from Pittsburgh's 22-20 loss to Baltimore
- Steelers vs. Ravens final score: Baltimore tops Pittsburgh 22-20 after bizarre finish