The Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves desperation mode on Sunday night. They were trailing 13-3 in the third quarter against their arch rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, with their playoff lives on life support at M&T Bank Stadium.
But as these matchups between these two teams typically do, this one came down to the wire, tightly contested throughout, dominated by the running game, timely passing, and crucial third down conversions. When all was said and done and the dust had clear, the Steelers walked off the field after a hard-fought 16-13 victory.
It was clear from the beginning that the Steelers had committed to a gameplan, and that was to run the football. Najee Harris had 22 carries and 111 yards, while Jaylen Warren added 12 carries for 76 yards. Kenny Pickett had 168 yards and a touchdown, while evenly distributing the ball to the likes of Pat Freiermuth, Diontae Johnson, and George Pickens. As for Pickens, despite only having 2 catches on the day, he did haul in one of the most crucial first down conversions of the game.
Pittsburgh opened the game with an impressive 17 play drive that lasted nearly 8 minutes. However, as has been the case many times this season, they could not finish the drive with a touchdown. A 21 yard field goal by Chris Boswell did give them an early 3-0 lead.
Baltimore answered with a 16 play drive of their own, resulting in a 30 yard field goal by Justin Tucker. Later in the quarter, a 13 play drive was capped by a 7 yard touchdown pass from Tyler Huntley to Isaiah Likely to make it a 10-3 score at the half.
The Steelers’ stagnant offense struggled through the majority of the third quarter, and the Ravens increased their lead to 10 points with a 51 yard field goal by Tucker to make it 13-3. At this point, with the offense looking like it was, a two-possession game seemed insurmountable for Pittsburgh.
But the Steelers continued run the ball and make plays when they absolutely needed to in crucial situations. The added a field goal, a 51 yarder by Boswell, to cut the lead to 10-6. Then, in the fourth quarter, Boswell nailed another field goal, this one from 33 yards, to get them within a 13-9 score.
On Christmas Eve, Pittsburgh’s offense looked horrible against the Las Vegas Raiders…until the final drive of the game, when Pickett drove them down the field to take the lead. On Sunday night, the Steelers’ quarter did that again. A 12 play, 80 yard drive was capped by a beautiful touchdown pass from Pickett to Harris to give them a 16-13 lead. A Huntley interception on the Ravens’ final attempt sealed the victory for Pittsburgh.
This was obviously a huge victory for the Steelers. Not only does the win keep their hopes for the postseason alive, but it comes against their arch rivals in their stadium. Pittsburgh still has a long way to go before we can call them a good team, but they have come along way this season, including the play of the offensive line, the running game, and yes, the quarterback, who despite his limitations, has come through in the big moments the past couple of weeks.
Pittsburgh still doesn’t have an easy path to the playoffs. They need the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins to lose next week, while also needing to beat a Cleveland Browns team that would love to knock them out of the playoff picture.
Overall Record: 8-8