Welcome to the most frustrating loss of the Steelers' 2022 regular season.
Yes, just when you thought you were completely numb to the Steelers and their problems—many of which are great—they went and won two games in a row to give you some feeling in your emotions once again.
Not only were the Steelers, 5-7 heading into Sunday’s AFC North clash at Acrisure Stadium, on a bit of a roll, but they were also sneaking—ever so quietly—back into the AFC playoff race.
And if you needed another reason to reawaken your spirit, well, the AFC North clash just happened to be against those hated Ravens.
A victory would do so much for the psyche of the Steelers and their fans.
Unfortunately, the Ravens didn’t want to play along. For that matter, neither did the Steelers in a 16-14 loss that was about as frustrating as those tend to be when they happen against the Fighting John Harbaughs.
Three interceptions by quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who entered the game in the first half in place of starter Kenny Pickett, who was forced to leave with what was suspected to be a concussion, proved to be vital in Sunday's outcome.
Two of those interceptions occurred just when it looked like Pittsburgh, who fell behind by a score of 10-0 early on, was about to take control of the game.
One interception came with 5:35 remaining in the second quarter and the Steelers facing a second and eight from the Baltimore 17; it was caused by linebacker Roquan Smith, who had baited Trubisky into thinking tight end Pat Freiermuth was open over the middle of the field.
The Steelers had just closed the gap to 10-7 thanks to a short touchdown plunge by running back Najee Harris in the first quarter. Needless to say, any score there would have been huge (any score almost always is in a Steelers/Ravens nail-biter).
A second interception came one drive later when the Steelers were set up at the Baltimore 23-yard line with just seconds left before halftime. Much like Smith had done, linebacker Patrick Queen baited Trubisky into thinking Freiermuth was open over the middle.
The Ravens had increased their lead to 13-7 following Smith’s interception, and needless to say...ditto (and ditto).
The third interception came on the Steelers’ second drive of the third quarter when Trubisky tried to hit receiver Diontae Johnson for what would have been a 46-yard touchdown. Ravens safety Marcus Williams made sure that it wasn’t and also made sure to give his team the football at its own one-yard line.
As for the defense? Sure, it only yielded 16 points on the day, but it also allowed the Ravens, a team that was missing starting quarterback Lamar Jackson before the game and also lost backup Tyler Huntley during it, to rush for 215 yards, an insane amount for a Teryl Austin unit that had to have been intent on taking the ground game away and making Baltimore’s offense one-dimensional.
The Ravens’ offense certainly was one-dimensional—Huntley and third-stringer Anthony Brown combined for 94-net passing yards—but that one dimension worked really, really well.
Unlike the Ravens, the Steelers' defense failed to take the football away on Sunday, even if it had a great chance to do so in the second half when running back Kenyon Drake fumbled deep in Baltimore territory.
It was just one of those days.
Speaking of which, Chris Boswell’s 40-yard field goal attempt, which would have drawn Pittsburgh to within 13-10 with over 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, was blocked by Calais Campbell. The Steelers' defense, totally on brand for its personality in 2022, allowed the Ravens offense to march 57 yards and eat up eight minutes on a drive that culminated in a Justin Tucker 30-yard field goal that gave the visitors a 16-7 lead with just over three minutes remaining.
And if you had any hope that the defense would rise to the occasion after Pittsburgh quickly drew to within two points on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Trubisky to Freiermuth with 2:30 remaining and Pittsburgh in possession of two timeouts and the two-minute warning acting as a third, that hope was squashed when running back Gus Edwards picked up six yards, and the first down, to secure Baltimore’s ninth victory and the Steelers’ eighth loss.
What more can be said other than that the Steelers who, at 5-8, trail three teams for the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC, are all but officially eliminated from contention with a month to go?
Yeah, that just about sums it up.
It would have taken a total team effort to run the table and win out to even have a chance at the playoffs. Instead, the Steelers used a total team effort--I can't believe I made it this far without mentioning Pressley Harvin III's 17-yard first-half punt that helped to pave the way for Baltimore's only touchdown--to come out on the losing end of yet another close game against the Ravens on Sunday and put themselves on the brink of clinching their first losing season in almost two decades.