Instant analysis after the Ravens' critical loss to the Steelers
By The Baltimore Sun
Dec 25, 2016 | 6:32 PM
Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston talks about the Ravens 31-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Jeff Zrebiec, Ravens reporter: In this season, in which the Ravens defense has carried them for much of the way, the group collapsed at the absolute worst time. Aside from settling for field goals on a couple of occasions, the Ravens offense did what it needed to do. But a playoff-caliber defense absolutely cannot surrender three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Edward Lee, Ravens reporter: Not surprisingly, the outcome was decided by less than one score. What was surprising was that the Ravens could not prevent the Steelers from scoring the game-winning touchdown. The defense has proven many times that it is strong enough to cement wins for the team, but the Pittsburgh offense was too much. And the offense is just as culpable. Too often the unit settled for field goals instead of touchdowns, and in the end, that burned the Ravens.
Peter Schmuck, columnist: What an absolutely devastating defeat for a team that fought hard to build a two-score lead and then could not keep Ben Roethlisberger from engineering three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. There are probably a dozen moments that could have made a difference, since this game was decided by nine seconds, but the same problems that have handicapped the Ravens all year cropped up at just the wrong times and they missed a huge opportunity. Simple as that.
Childs Walker, reporter:Obviously, that's a gut-ripping way to say farewell to your playoff chances. But that was a classic Ravens-Steelers game, regardless of the result. The Ravens had a chance to seize control of the game early in the fourth quarter, but a dropped ball by tight end Darren Waller followed by a bad pass interference penalty from cornerback Tavon Young pulled the Steelers right back into it. Mistakes like that will eat at the Ravens, but at the same time, they proved their mettle with the way they responded to the Steelers' best shots. Joe Flacco demonstrated impressive poise despite some poor plays by his receivers, and the team's running backs showed remarkable fight on a number of second-half runs. At the end of the day, Le'Veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are really good. What else can you say?
Mark Selig, Ravens editor: The Ravens had an effective game plan and a big hunger to win. What they didn't have is anyone as dynamic as Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown. Too often fans get enamored with teams that have big-name fantasy studs and overlook the fact that it's a team game often won or lost by lesser-known players. But those shiny superstars can flip a game when all seems lost, and that's what they did. Even when the Ravens clogged running lanes, Bell used his speed and shiftiness to get around them. Later, Brown willed himself into the end zone to win the game. This is nothing to nitpick, but you have to wonder if the Ravens would have been better off if Kyle Juszczyk fell a yard shy of the end zone, and allowed them to take more time off the clock before giving the ball back to what -- in the fourth quarter -- seemed like an unstoppable Steelers offense.
Ron Fritz, sports editor: The lack of a Ravens pass rush was never more evident than tonight. Field goals instead of touchdowns on offense, lack of killer instinct on defense and even special teams miscues again doomed the Ravens. This team seemed so close so many times this season and ended up losing in the second half. Remember the Giants and Jets games, to name a couple? This was the biggest missed opportunity in a season of missed opportunities. What a disappointment.