With the nation watching, with home field advantage in the playoffs and first place in the AFC North on the line, despite Ben Roethlisberger’s broken foot and a depleted Steelers team, despite Jameel McClain’s uncalled personal foul and Haloti Ngata breaking Roethlisberger’s nose, despite playing at home in front of a crowd of 71,418, the Ravens failed to step up and win their biggest game of the season. Prior to kick off at 8:20 last night, Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth discussed the Ravens rank among elite teams in the National Football League. Collinsworth noted that the Ravens have always been just below New England, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, but that a win tonight in a league that has failed to show a defined power house team, that may put Baltimore among the ranks of the elites.
You can point fingers in every direction for this loss and in many cases that is what will happen on forums and sports talk radio over the next week. Was it Cam Cameron’s play calling that killed the Ravens, was it just a good play by Troy Polamalu, was it the defense’s fault for allowing Pittsburgh to score or John Harbaugh’s for electing to go for it on 4th and 2 instead of attempting a 48 yard field goal? We will never know and there is no definite answer.
We have discussed all season that the Ravens have not clearly shown that they are ready to beat the elites and perform up to their potential, that despite their weapons, their numerous Pro Bowlers, their leadership and coaching, they have under performed. You can point to Joe Flacco’s quarterback rating all you want, but when the game was on the line he threw a ball at Ed Dickson’s feet to turn the ball over on downs. No one tipped the pass, it just didn’t make it to the open receiver.
This team is consistent though. They put together good drives, show you power on offense and then hit auto-pilot for a quarter or two. Joe Flacco was patient in the pocket when he waited for Anquan Boldin to get open in the end zone for their first touchdown and he hit Donte Stallworth in stride for a 63 yard pass, but then the Ravens decided to milk a 4 point lead, which led to the Steelers victory. We have seen this mentality from the Ravens all season. In addition to a poor second half game plan on offense the Ravens wasted two timeouts in the second half, one on defense and the other to avoid a delay of game penalty. They also had four false starts on their own home turf.
The Ravens had not convincingly defeated their opponents going into the Pittsburgh game and they leave it showing that they are not ready to make a Super Bowl run. Elite teams find ways to win, even when they are three point underdogs on the road, even when their quarterback is suspended for the first quarter of the season and even when they are down by seven going into halftime. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Steelers did last night.