BALTIMORE — The Steelers and Baltimore Ravens staged a Thanksgiving classic befitting their many close, brutal and meaningful confrontations in this century.
This one went to Baltimore, 22-20, when a 2-point conversion attempt by the Steelers to tie it with 1:03 failed.
Steelers Report: Ravens 22, Steelers 20
Steelers beat writers Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac talk about the Steelers' loss to the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Stadium in Baltimore (Video by Matt Hafley; 11/28/2013)
As have many others, this one will long be remembered by the Steelers as opportunity lost. They scored three touchdowns, including one with 1:03 left, to just one for the Ravens. But they also botched a field-goal try earlier that could have been the difference, and Baltimore’s Justin Tucker kicked five field goals to provide the difference.
The setback dropped the Steelers to 5-7 and severely wounded their playoff hopes. They would need to win their final four games to finish with a 9-7 record and get plenty of help along the way.
Baltimore, the reigning Super Bowl champ, improved its record to 6-6 and also its position as a playoff contender.
The Steelers trailed, 19-7 in the fourth quarter and scored twice around a Tucker field goal to climb within two. Ben Roethlisberger’s quick pass for a 2-point conversion to tie it, however, was dropped by Emmanuel Sanders on what would have been a tough catch.
He was shielded on the play by cornerback Chykie Brown, who had just come into the game for an injured Jimmy Smith.
“I couldn’t see it but, hey, big-time players make big-time plays and I didn’t make the necessary play for my teammates,” Sanders said. “Got a little adversity, I just have to handle it.”
Twice the Steelers scored touchdowns that were overturned by replay before Roethlisberger hammered a 1-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery on fourth down to bring them within 22-20.
The same play was called for the 2-point conversion, but this time Roethlisberger went to his left rather than look right, where Cotchery and Antonio Brown were running routes.
“There’s no time to read anything,” Roethlisberger said of that quick play. “The ball has to come out right now. You have to pick a side. We threw it the first time to Jay-Cho. You know they’re probably going to double AB or Jay-Cho, so I went to the backside.
“I have lot of faith and trust in Emmanuel. He had a corner on him who just came in the game. I just have to make a better throw for him.”
Roethlisberger guided his team to three second-half touchdowns after Baltimore jumped to a 13-0 lead midway through the third quarter. Sanders caught the first for 8 yards and Le’Veon Bell scored the second on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.
But it was a botched field-goal try in the second quarter that might have made the difference. Trailing, 7-0, after Torrey Smith caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco on Baltimore’s first series, the Steelers lined up for a 50-yard field-goal try.
The snap was good, but Shaun Suisham’s approach began too early, and he was unable to kick it. Holder Mat McBriar then flipped the ball to Suisham, who lost 12 yards.
The Ravens took over on their 44 and moved 31 yards to a 43-yard field goal by Tucker.
That six-point swing was a big one in a 2-point game.
“Our timing was really off,” Suisham said.
So, too, was the Steelers’ kickoff coverage team when Jacoby Jones returned a third-quarter kickoff 73 yards that set up yet another Tucker field goal.
“Special teams was a huge factor in this game,” Suisham said. “They had a huge advantage in that area.”
The Steelers mounted their fourth-quarter comeback when Bell capped a 60-yard drive by running 1 yard for a touchdown with 9:32 left to make it 19-14 Baltimore.
That touchdown drive stayed afloat when, on third-and-10 at the 27, Roethlisberger completed a 19-yard pass to Brown.
Baltimore made it 22-14 on the next series when Tucker kicked his fifth field goal of the game from 48 yards. It was his 27th in a row without a miss.
That came with 5:37 to go, and it meant the Steelers needed a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie.
They scored that touchdown twice — but both were overturned on replay. Heath Miller caught a pass that was at first ruled a 20-yard touchdown before a replay review put the ball at the 1. Bell then ran 1 yard for a touchdown, but Baltimore cornerback Jimmy Smith lowered his helmet into Bell’s helmet, and it came flying off. Both players left the game, and Bell was diagnosed with a concussion. His run was ruled down at the 1 because his helmet came off there.
There wasn’t a turnover in the game for either team, and Roethlisberger was not sacked for the second game in a row.
Roethlisberger completed 28 of 44 passes for 257 yards after a slow start in which the Steelers did not use much no-huddle offense in the first half.
Roethlisberger cited crowd noise as one reason, but, after successfully using the no-huddle in the second half, said:
“We did it late, maybe we should have done it earlier. Maybe I should have voiced that more. I will take that on myself as well.”
Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published November 28, 2013 9:13 PM