Ravens showed plenty of guts and grit in narrow 19-14 loss to Steelers
Week 12 of the 2020 NFL season officially came to a close on Wednesday afternoon/night when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens finally faced off in a game that had to be rescheduled three times to lingering health concerns an outbreak of COVID-19 within the Ravens’ organization.
Many media pundits and even some Pittsburgh players assumed that the Steelers would steamroll their way to 11-0 over their severely shorthanded archrivals who were without several starters, key players, and Pro Bowlers on both sides of the ball including starting quarterback and reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson.
Steelers defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt, who was out for the game because he contracted COVID, even had the audacity to take to Twitter and completely dismiss any notion that his team would be in for what ended up being a hard-fought and tightly contested affair that went down to the wire.
“Good luck to the boys today. Pad the stats – should be an easy one,” Tuitt tweeted out hours before the game.
In classic Ravens-Steelers fashion, the game was a defensive battle that featured struggling and sputtering offense for the most part and ended with Pittsburgh completing the regular-season series sweep win a narrow 19-14.
“Obviously, we wanted to win the game,” said quarterback Robert Griffin III. “But the way the game was going was a direct reflection of how we felt about the game. We felt that we had a chance to come in here and win, shock the world, and do something special. We didn’t do that.”
Even though the Ravens came up short and were a few controversial calls and non-calls away from pulling off the upset, they proved Tuitt dead wrong because it was far from easy for the Steelers to come out on top of a severely undermanned and understaffed Baltimore team.
“I just want to commend all the guys for how hard they fought today and to put on a display like we did against an undefeated team,” Griffin III said. “There are no moral victories at all in this league, but I’m proud to be a Raven.”
While there are no moral victories in football or any sport at any level, the amount of fight and resiliency that the Ravens showed as a team and coaching staff on Wednesday with a roster mostly made up of reserves and backups who hardly practiced in the face of so much adversity was truly inspiring and made Head Coach John Harbaugh very proud.
“Whatever happened, they didn’t blink. That was our goal, not to blink because we’re not going to be pushed around by something that we can’t control,” Harbaugh said.
“I think that’s the type of adversity that great things are built on. That’s what I’m proud of these guys for, and the way they handled that, and the way they … Just one day, kept getting hit with these gut punches, and they just kept coming to the next day, the next day [and] the next day; I’m proud of them for that. That’s really the success that really matters.”
Despite having 17 players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, including nine starters, seven Pro Bowlers, and one MVP quarterback, having to call up 10 players from the practice squad just to field a gameday roster, and nothing more than a couple distanced walk-through practices, the Ravens were on the verge of spoiling the Steelers, chances at being just the third team in league history to complete a perfect regular season.
Baltimore’s defense bent at times but were lights out in the red zone, holding the Steelers out of the end zone on three of their four trips inside the 20 including one that ended in an interception, forced a turnover on downs, and would’ve had another had the officials not blown a call late in the fourth quarter.
On offense, without the most electrifying player in the entire league, the Ravens turned to Griffin III at quarterback. He responded well after a rough start to the game that featured turnovers on back to back drives in the first quarter and was actually playing well for spurts before a pulled hamstring cut his day short and forced second-year pro Trace McSorley into action with the game on the line.
The 2019 sixth-round pick out of Penn State wasn’t fazed by the nationally televised stage or the high stakes. He only completed two of his six pass attempts but made the most of his second by connecting with speedy second-year wide receiver Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown on a 70-yard catch and run touchdown that made it a one-score game with just over three minutes left on the clock.
Griffin and McSorley weren’t the only backups and less heralded players to step up and make plays in a game where nobody was giving them a shot and Vegas had them as double-digit underdogs.
The Ravens got tremendous contributions from players on both sides of the ball from defenders like outside linebacker Tyus Bowser and cornerback Davontae Harris who came up with clutch turnovers on defense and special teams respectively to offensive players like undrafted rookie center Tristan Colon-Castillo who suited up for his first game, made his first career start and held his own against one of the fiercest defensive fronts in the league.
Final box score aside, this game said more and revealed more about the character and quality of depth of the 6-5 Ravens and further reinforced the narrative that the Steelers aren’t the dominant team that their unblemished 11-0 record suggests they are.
“A lot of guys showed their true character today. They went out there, they played their butts off,” left guard Bradley Bozeman said. “We had a chance to win at the end and just couldn’t pull it all the way through.”
Baltimore has now lost three games in a row and four of their last five since coming off their bye week. However, their remaining schedule is a lot less arduous than the stretch they are coming off of.
Fortunately, they will face just one team with a winning record in their final five games and that lone team is the Cleveland Browns who they obliterated 38-6 in their season opener and despite being 8-3, only have one win over a team with a winning record.
Once they have their players back off the reserve list and have others recover from their minor ailments, this team could run the table and be red-hot and healthy heading into the postseason.
“We’re down a lot of guys right now,” said Bozeman. “We’re going to get healthy, though, in the next couple weeks. So, we’re excited about that. We’re going to come back this week, we’re going to bust our butt, we’re going to get rolling”