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Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin during the 17-10 loss to Buffalo 12/15/19 at Heinz Field (Photo Credit: Vince Butts -UMT Sports)

      Steelers Edge Ravens 19-14; Improve to 11-0

[Pittsburgh,Pa] In a strange 6 days that saw this game get postponed and rescheduled due to a Covid-19, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens were cleared to play a rare Wednesday afternoon(3:40pm) game that was originally supposed to be Thanksgiving night. But in the end, some things remained normal in this 2020 season as the Steelers emerged as 19-14 victors to remain undefeated at 11-0.

 

But it was not easy, and it may have proved costly as reports indicate that LB Bud Dupree may have torn the ACL in his knee, which would end his season with 5 games to go.

The average Steelers/Ravens game are mostly hard-fought battles, just like earlier this season when the Steelers held off the Ravens 28-24 in Baltimore. And although many felt like this would be an easy win for the Steelers because the Ravens had seven Pro Bowl players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, (Including QB Lamar Jackson, and RB Mark Ingram) but the Ravens made it anything but easy for the Steelers as they collectively ran for a team-high 129 yards and a TD. Backup QB Robert Griffin III was responsible for 68 of those yards as he led the Ravens to a 9-7 lead.

But great teams know how to find ways to win even when they are not playing their best, and if you ask the Steelers, they’ll tell you that they certainly weren’t impressed with their performance.

“To be bluntly honest, been really disappointed in our performance tonight. We did enough to win, but that’s all. It was really junior varsity, to be quite honest with you. It was in all three phases. We couldn’t run the ball effectively when we needed to. We dropped too many significant passes, very catchable, makeable passes. We didn’t make significant plays in the special teams’ game. Our kickoff coverage unit wasn’t good enough. We turned the ball over. We gave up big plays in critical moments on defense. Can’t have it. They converted a long run on a possession down before the half. Unacceptable.”

For the first time this season, the Steelers struggled on offense. Whether it was the weather or not playing in almost a week, the unit looked rusty, especially the receivers as they dropped passes in critical moments, and the offense was unable to score a TD in the first 3 quarters, despite being in the red zone 3 times. The running game was also non-existent in the first half.

But thanks to a 14-yard interception return for a TD by CB Joe Haden and 2 FGs by K Chris Boswell, the Steelers were still able to maintain a 12-7 lead through the 3rd quarter. Then in the 4th quarter, the Steelers were able to finally find the endzone on an impressive 12-play, 61 yard drive as QB Ben Roethlisberger (266 yards, 1 TD, Int) found WR JuJu Smith-Shuster (8 rec, 37 yards) for a 1-yard TD, extending their lead to 19-7.

But the Ravens (6-5) showed they still were not out of it as 3rd string QB Trace McSorley came in for Griffin (Hamstring) and found WR Maurkise Brown for a 70-yard TD that completely baffled the Steelers defense.

But on the final drive, the Steelers would slam the door on the Ravens as Roethlisberger would find WR James Washington for a key 3rd down pass while he was covered by 2 Raven defenders and Snell (16 carries, 60 yards) would get 2 key first downs as they killed the clock.

It was not an easy victory, but a victory nonetheless as the Steelers are only the 11th NFL team to start a season 11-0.

Despite giving up the late TD, the Steelers defense were truly the stars in this game as they sacked Griffin 3 times (2 by LB TJ Watt, 1 by DT Cameron Heyward), held him to only 33 yards passing recovered a fumble and the Haden interception. A potential loss of Dupree will truly hurt the team as he was in the midst of another spectacular season that included 8 sacks. 3rd Round pick Alex Highsmith would fill Dupree’s spot in the defense.

 

So now the Steelers will prepare to face the Washington Football team (4-7) at Heinz Field next Monday with hopes of getting closer to clinching a playoff berth. They also hope to learn from their struggles in this game and remain in the win column.

“We’re fortunate tonight. It’s good to proceed with the victory.” Said Tomlin “I acknowledge that. But not a lot happened tonight to be proud of or to be excited about other than that. Bud Dupree got hurt. He’s being evaluated. I’m sure I’ll have an update for you tomorrow or whatever when we get an opportunity to meet. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s not some transformational thing that needs to transpire. We got to coach better and play better when we get inside the bowl. I expect our group to do that Monday night, Monday evening, whenever it is that we play.”

 

Notes: C Maurkise Pouncey, RB James Conner and DE Stephon Tuitt were among the Steelers who missed the game due to Covid-19 protocol. The Ravens were also missing rookie RB JK Dobbs. The last time the Steelers played on a Wednesday was in 1933, their inaugural season when they were known as the Pirates.

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