The Steelers suffered a regular season sweep to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night at Heinz Field as quarterback Joe Flacco hit wide receiver Torrey Smith in the deep right corner of the endzone for a game winning 26-yard touchdown with 8 seconds left in the game to give the Ravens a 23-20 win. Smith got behind cornerback William Gay for the touchdown and Ryan Clark was late getting over to provide help.
The Steelers took a 20-16 lead with just under 5 minutes left in the game as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger scrambled and hit Mike Wallace for a 25-yard touchdown on 3rd down. The Steelers defense held the Ravens on their following possession, but the Steelers offense could not grind out the clock after taking over on their own 46-yard line following the Ravens punt.
The Steelers converted one first down on that drive and were then faced with a 3rd down and 5 from the Ravens 29 yard-line with 2:37 left in the game. Roethlisberger threw incomplete to the short left to Mewelde Moore and the Steelers were faced with the decision to let kicker Shaun Suisham attempt a 46 yard field goal, but indecision led to the Steelers being flagged for a delay of game and a punt by Jeremy Kapinos followed. The Steelers were sitting on 2 remaining time-outs when flagged.
Kapinos pinned the Ravens down at their 8 yard-line on the punt and that is where Flacco and the Ravens offense began their 13 play, game-winning drive with 2:24 left in regulation and one time-out to go along with the two-minute warning. Flacco completed 7 of 13 passes on the drive and a key 4th and 1 with 1:06 left in the game.
A few plays earlier, Flacco missed Smith for the go ahead touchdown with: 42 seconds left in the game as Smith got behind cornerback Ike Taylor in the left corner of the endzone, but failed to make the easy catch. On the night Flacco was 28 for 47 passing for 300 yards and the lone game winning touchdown pass. The Ravens also converted 14 of 21 3rd downs on the night as the Steelers defense just could not get off the field at times.
Roethlisberger had yet another 300 yard game passing as he was 20 of 37 passing for 330 yards with the lone touchdown pass to Wallace. He did however have an interception deep in Ravens territory on the opening drive of the second half as Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs jumped up as he dropped into coverage and snagged a pass intended for Wallace. The turnover killed a 9 play drive that featured the Steelers offense running the no-huddle.
The Ravens turned the interception into 7 points as they drove 71 yards on 12 plays. Running back Ray Rice capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run on the second play following a pass interference penalty on Taylor while covering Anquan Boldin. The score put the Ravens up 16-6, but the Steelers offense answered with an 11 play, 80 yard drive of their own that was capped with a Rashard Mendenhall 1 yard touchdown run. Mendenhall finished the night with 52 yards on 13 carries and the Steelers offense finished with 70 total yards rushing.
Linebacker James Harrison made his return to the Steelers defense after missing the last 4 games with his eye injury and he did not disappoint. Harrison sacked Flacco 3 times and recorded 8 total tackles. He also forced a Flacco fumble that was recovered by Gay. The Steelers defense played well against the run this time around as Rice was held to just 43 yards rushing on 18 carries. Rice did however chip in 5 catches out of the backfield for 43 yards.
Steelers second year receiver Antonio Brown led all receivers with 109 yards receiving as Roethlisberger completed passes to 7 different players. Veteran wide receiver Hines Ward was not one of those 7 as he dropped the only pass intended for him following a helmet-to-helmet hit by Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. It was first ruled a catch but was overturned after Ravens head coach John Harbaugh challenged the play. Ward needed to be helped off the field after the hit and did not return to the game. The injury was reported as a stinger, but it was obvious he was suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Lewis was not flagged for the hit on Ward, but will likely be fined next week for it.
The Steelers were already short-handed at the receiver position as Emmanuel Sanders did not play after missing all week due to the death of his mother. Jerricho Cotchery saw extended action after Ward left and caught 3 passes for 44 yards, 2 of which were tipped balls.
Ward was not the only receiver injured during the game as special teams ace Arnaz Battle also left the game with a hamstring injury and did not return.
With the loss, the Steelers fall to 6-3 now on the season and are a full 2 games back of the Ravens in the AFC North as the Ravens now own the head-to-head tie breakers with the sweep. They also are a half game behind the Bengals in the division and play them next week in Cincinnati.
Linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior headlined the Steelers inactives tonight as both were sidelined with injuries. Woodley is nursing a hamstring injury suffered last week against the Patriots, while Farrior is still trying to recover from the calf injury suffered two week ago against the Cardinals.
I will have more in depth game observations up per my usual after I go through the game again.