When is a win not a win?
A win is always a win, of course. They can try if they want to, but nobody will be able to erase the Steelers’ 19-14 victory over the Ravens at Heinz Field on Wednesday evening from the record books.
Despite Baltimore missing countless players due to COVID-19—including quarterback Lamar Jackson—the Steelers struggled mightily to put their AFC North rival away.
Yes, Pittsburgh was missing some key players in its own right. Running back James Conner is a big deal. Defensive end Stephon Tuitt is a big deal. Center Maurkice Pouncey, a last-minute edition to the COVID list on Wednesday afternoon, is a big deal.
But still. The Steelers, who rightfully had a reason to be angry at a lot of people considering the date of the game was moved three times from Thanksgiving evening to Wednesday afternoon, seemed to be looking in the mirror after the game because of the way they struggled.
Head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t look pleased during his post-game press conference. Same could be said for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who seemed to be angrier at commissioner Roger Goodell for this scheduling fiasco as he spoke to NBC’s Michelle Tafoya after the game than he was his receivers—and he should have been angry at his receivers.
How many passes did they drop? I think it was six, but it could have been more.
I do know that the Steelers were a woeful one of four inside the red zone, a category that the team had excelled at through its first 10 games. That’s how you keep a more compromised foe in the game.
It also didn’t help that Ray-Ray McCloud fumbled a first-quarter punt that led to one of Baltimore’s two touchdowns.
And for as good as the defense was all afternoon—and it really was—a physical lapse by safety Terrell Edmunds allowed receiver Marquise Brown to make things closer than they had any right to be and led to a 70-yard touchdown catch and run to pull Baltimore to within five with 2:58 remaining. Former Penn State star Trace McSorley was the Ravens’ quarterback by that point. He came in to replace an injured Robert Griffin III, who was a bit of a poor man’s Jackson up until the time he left the game.
Thankfully, cornerback Joe Haden offset one of the Steelers’ futile red zone trips by intercepting a Griffin pass and taking it home for a touchdown.
Also, receiver James Washington made up for his teammates’ poor hands by basically securing the win with a man’s-man’s third-down grab amid three defenders.
But it’s hard to feel good about this win. Normally, it would—normally. But as I’m typing out this article, I’m learning, via Twitter and via Stan Savran and Charlie Batch, that outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who suffered a knee injury in the waning moments of Wednesday’s game, will be out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
I now feel about as angry as Tomlin and Roethlisberger appeared to be after the game. Had the Steelers put Baltimore away early…
But they didn’t. Now, the Steelers must get ready for the Washington Football Team on five days-notice. They and their fans must find a way to both celebrate an 11-0 start and deal with the loss of one of their most indispensable defenders.
To paraphrase Tomlin, the Steelers kind of sucked on Wednesday, but they got the win. However, they will now have a huge mountain to climb if they want to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade.
Steelers 19, Ravens 14…and that sucks.