Instant analysis: With 23-16 home loss to Steelers, Ravens enter bye week in a tailspin

Hindered by a slow start, stymied in their final drive and unable to stop the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dynamic offense for most of Sunday, the Ravens lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium, 23-16, their third straight loss in a season that has entered a tailspin.

The Ravens’ three-game losing streak is their first since October 2016. After a bye week, they return to M&T Bank Stadium in Week 11 for a Nov. 18 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. They haven’t made the playoffs under coach John Harbaugh after starting the season with four wins or fewer in their first nine games.

Quarterback Joe Flacco finished a solid 23-for-37 for 216 yards and no touchdowns, but two first-half misfires loomed larger. He did not look for a wide-open Lamar Jackson in the end zone on a drive that ended with a field goal, and wide receiver Michael Crabtree could not bring in a would-be touchdown pass that Flacco led him too far on.

Two Steelers stars, meanwhile, bounced back from underwhelming games in the teams’ first meeting. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finished 28-for-47 for 270 yards and two touchdowns, and running back James Conner had 163 all-purpose yards.

In Pittsburgh’s 26-14 home loss in Week 4, the Steelers didn’t make it past midfield in the second half. But after a field goal by Justin Tucker drew the Ravens (4-5) to within a touchdown, Pittsburgh (5-2-1) methodically moved downfield, not punting until 57 seconds remained.

That wasn’t enough time for the Ravens, who watched time tick away before a fast-exiting crowd.

Jonas Shaffer, reporter: Is this the kind of loss, or the kind of losing streak, that gets someone fired?

That will be the question in Baltimore this week as the Ravens head into their bye week looking nothing like the team many had pegged as one of the NFL’s most complete.

The offense isn’t sharp. The defense has regressed to average. The coaching staff has left itself open to questions.

Childs Walker, reporter: The Ravens are likely out of the AFC North race as they go into their bye week 4-5. Their defense has been thoroughly ordinary over the past nine quarters and their offensive line is a mess.

John Harbaugh will face questions about his job security, but even if those prove unfounded for the time being, the Ravens face a steep uphill climb to contention. They’re not outstanding in any phase of the game right now.

Jen Badie, editor: After the Ravens started out the season so strongly, including soundly beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh, it didn’t seem likely that they would enter their bye week in third place in the AFC North with a losing record.

It felt as if the Ravens were out of this game when the offense didn’t get the ball back after halftime until the under-7 mark in the third quarter, down 14-3. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers controlled the game throughout; Pittsburgh had possession for 36:29 compared with the Ravens’ 23:31.

The Ravens were beaten badly on both sides of the ball. The defense gave up 107 rushing yards to James Conner and some big passing plays (in the fourth quarter alone, backup Joshua Dobbs came in for a temporarily injured Roethlisberger and threw a 22-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster, followed two plays later by Roethlisberger hitting Jesse James for a 55-yard pass).

And the Ravens couldn’t convert in the red zone, settling for field goals.

Mike Preston, columnist: Ravens have no strengths right now. They don't have one thing they can really point to that can carry this team. If they have playoff aspirations, they’d better hope they start winning and Pittsburgh and Cincinnati go on a losing streak. Ten wins now is a dream.

jshaffer@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jonas_shaffer

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