The Ravens were shorthanded at the start of Sunday's game because Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain wasn't healthy enough to play. And when tight end Todd Heap, an underrated blocker, injured a hamstring while trying to make a catch on the team's first offensive play, the Ravens were put in a serious pinch.
"I thought he was going to be all right," rookie tight end Ed Dickson said of Heap. "He's like Superman."
Coach John Harbaugh said Heap's injury "took us out of one package, so it wasn't a killer" in terms of the game plan, but the Ravens rushed for just 43 yards on 20 carries. Take away Joe Flacco's 14-yard scamper and a 12-yard gain by Ray Rice, and the Ravens averaged about one yard per carry against the Steelers.
Explaining the decision to scratch fullback Jason McKie, signed as injury insurance last week, Harbaugh said, "We worked on the three-tight end stuff all week, and we felt like the packages were very similar. What I didn't want to do is put ourselves in a position to run packages we hadn't practiced. Plus, the two-tight end stuff and the three-tight end stuff that we had was pretty good against their outside pass rush."
The Steelers sacked Flacco four times, hit him eight times and forced a game-changing fumble in the fourth quarter when safety Troy Polamalu hammered Flacco as cocked back to launch a pass. "It was an all-out blitz," Flacco said Sunday. "They really brought everybody, and I took three steps and raised my arm and just got hit. I was pretty shocked to see it myself, but that guy's made [that] play in his career."
You can't help but wonder if that play -- and Sunday night's game in general -- would have unfolded differently had Heap and McClain (or McKie) been healthy and available in the fourth quarter.
Update: Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference that he expects McClain to play next Monday against the Texans. Heap's status is to be determined, but Harbaugh doesn't think his injury is season-ending.