Lamar Jackson's spotlight woes top storylines after Steelers loss originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Lamar Jackson turned the ball over at four costly moments in Baltimore's 28-24 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday in a marquee game to decide the leader in the AFC North.
The first came with a pick-six on the Ravens' opening drive. The second was a fumble in the red zone. Then another red zone fumble. Though Jackson bounced back with a touchdown on the very next drive after the first interception, he went on to throw another one in the second half.
It was another poor display from Jackson against a top-level opponent, and he put the blame on himself after the game.
“The turnovers I feel is the reason we lost the game,” Jackson said. “I put that on me. Started the game, the first drive, with a pick-six. Then we drive to the red zone, fumble. I’ve got to get the ball out because we know they’re dominant up front. Then the pick off the player from the flat, throwing at the mark. (I) got to clean those up and I feel we won that game.”
And now it's become one of the most talked-about storylines of the NFL season.
ESPN's First Take opened their Monday show agreeing with Jackson's postgame admission, even taking it one step further in so far that another poor performance Jackson against an equally matched, if not better, team was the biggest storyline that came out of Sunday's physical bout with the Steelers.
While Stephen A. Smith was left unsurprised about Jackson's struggles passing and taking care of the football, Max Kellerman thinks there's a bigger issue.
"I think it has a little less to do with him being forced to be a pocket passer and not being able to do it and a little more to do with the chips on the line," Kellerman said. "To be clear doesn’t mean he can’t do it, but so far in his career he hasn’t done it with when the lights shines brightest and to me that is the biggest story."
Kellerman brought up the fact that Jackson is now 0-6 in pressure-filled games in his young career as a big reason for concern. Since taking over as the starting quarterback Week 11 in 2018, Jackson hasn't only lost three times to Kansas City, twice in the first-round of the playoffs as the favorite, and again now to the Steelers, but he's also played poorly in those losses.
"So what is starting to happen is when teams are tightly matched, Lamar Jackson can’t be the difference," ESPN analyst and former Steelers safety Ryan Clark said.
That's a big cause for concern for the Ravens, Clark thinks, because despite being able to roll past lesser opponents with ease, not delivering against the league's elite in clutch moments gives the franchise little confidence come the postseason.
"This is becoming a recurring theme: When it’s the biggest games, when the lights are the brightest, Lamar Jackson doesn’t perform," said Clark. "And it’s not that he doesn’t put up numbers or the offense doesn’t look good, but in those situational football moments, he comes up short."
Clark called his two inteceptions unexplainable, saying he should've seen the progressions much better. He also noted that with 265 rushing yards on offense and holding the Steelers without a touchdown on defense in the first half should've turned into a victory. Instead, costly turnovers and some missed throws from Jackson, who went 13-28 passing with his lowest passer rating of the season with 65.8, proved otherwise.
"And if you do that your team can’t win the Super Bowl," Clark said. "You can’t win a championship and this is what it’s come down to for the Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. You can’t with him playing that way."
Though it may be too far to say Jackson can't win a Super Bowl with this Ravens group this season, it is important to point out how well the Ravens played all over the field. Baltimore's defense held the Steelers to just three 3rd-down conversions and allowed their offense to possess the ball for over 11 more minutes than Ben Rothlisberger's group. At the end of the day, though, those two final drives came short.
The defense delivered plenty of crushing hits that have become a staple of this historic rivalry matchup, but it still wasn't enough.
"When you look at this game from a Pittsburgh Steelers perspective, they got dominated physically," Clark said. "And that’s why it swings to Lamar because if you’re the Baltimore Ravens you go back to your locker room and you say, ‘We were better everywhere than the Pittsburgh Steelers are, but at quarterback’. I think that’s a large issue when you’re talking about a reigning MVP."