Ravens suffer deflating loss to Steelers

PITTSBURGH - The Ravens felt like they made significant progress as an offense Sunday.
They scored points on four of their seven possessions. The offensive line that had been such a problem through the first six games was noticeably better. And quarterback Joe Flacco was efficient throughout, and he led a clutch game-tying scoring drive in a hostile environment with time winding down in the fourth quarter.
But in the end, Baltimore's special teams allowed a long return at the most inopportune of times. Its defense allowed the Steelers to get into range for a game-winning field goal. And despite whatever progress the Ravens may have made, Baltimore left Heinz Field with a frustrating 19-16 loss that dropped its record to 3-4 heading into its bye week.
"It was a hard fought game obviously," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Disappointed in the outcome, but we've got to find a way to win those games."
But Baltimore couldn't get one last stop in regulation to force overtime and potentially give its offense a chance at a game-winning scoring drive.
Flacco led the game-tying drive, which spanned 73 yards in 16 plays and ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Clark with one minute, 58 seconds remaining.
But Pittsburgh's Emmanuel Sanders exploited a breakdown on the Ravens' kick coverage team on the ensuing kickoff to set the Steelers' offense up with favorable field position at their own 37-yard line.
Sanders fielded the kick deep in Pittsburgh's end zone, but he was able to get outside and nearly returned the kick for a touchdown but stepped out of bounds after picking up 44 yards.
"Your L2, your L3 and your L1 have to be there," Harbaugh said. "Our contain guy, that's just unforgivable to let the ball get outside of you right there. There's absolutely no reason for that. ... That should have never happened."
But it did, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers picked up 39 yards in seven plays to set Shaun Suisham up with a 42-yard field goal attempt that he drilled right down the middle as time expired to lift Pittsburgh to the win.
Roethlisberger completed three passes on the drive. The first was a 7-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery, the second was a 13-yard pass to Antonio Brown that put Pittsburgh on Baltimore's 38-yard line, and the third was an 11-yarder to Brown two plays later that moved the ball to the Ravens' 24.
"We got outplayed on [the defensive] side of the ball," Baltimore defensive tackle Arthur Jones said.
Even before the game-winning drive, the Steelers controlled the ball and the clock with a running game that had been one of the worst in the league entering Sunday.
Pittsburgh was averaging just 61 rushing yards per game entering Sunday, the second-fewest in the league, but the Steelers had 61 yards by the early part of the second quarter and finished with 141 yards. They averaged 4.9 yards per carry for the game.
Steelers rookie running back Le'Veon Bell rushed for 93 yards, including 68 yards in the first half.
"They did some new things that we hadn't seen from them, not just all year but, like, ever," Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "Pittsburgh never came out and ran the 'Wildcat' on us, ain't never come out with extra linemen, but you've got to be able to adjust on the fly."
That success on the ground allowed the Steelers to control time of possession, especially during the first half, and also to limit the number of possessions the Ravens' offense got with the ball.
To put the Ravens' paltry total of seven possessions into perspective, Baltimore had 13 possessions last week against the Packers and 15 the week before versus the Dolphins.
"When you get a game like that where you have so few possessions, you have to make them all count," Flacco said. "We weren't able to get in the end zone enough."
The Ravens did move the ball into Pittsburgh territory on six of their seven possessions, but managed just one touchdown, the game-tying one late in the fourth quarter.
The other five drives that extended into Steelers territory produced just nine points.
"This was a step forward [for the offense]," Ravens tight end Ed Dickson said. "But with that said, we'd much rather have the victory."
And what makes the loss more frustrating for Baltimore is that the Bengals beat the Lions Sunday, which, combined with the Ravens' loss, gives Cincinnati (5-3) a two-game lead over Baltimore for first place in the AFC North.
The Ravens are also the first defending Super Bowl champion since 2006 to have a losing record after seven games.
"I'm very concerned," Suggs said. "It's been very rare in this franchise that we've been under .500. ... But [the bye week] has happened at the perfect time for us to address everything, everything. We can't kid ourselves anymore. We have a tremendous amount of work to do."