Ravens-Steelers: What we learned

Benjamin Standig, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

BALTIMORE -- History suggested the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers would play another nail-biter on Thanksgiving night.
The fierce AFC North rivals followed the script.
Justin Tucker kicked five field goals, and the Ravens held on for a 22-20 win when the Steelers missed a potential game-tying two-point conversion with 1:06 remaining.
Quarterback Joe Flacco completed 24 of 35 passes for 251 yards and one touchdown, leading the Ravens (6-6) to their second win in a row. Baltimore moved within 1 1/2 games of AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals.
The Steelers (5-7) saw their three-game winning streak end.
Ten of the past 12 meetings between Baltimore and Pittsburgh were decided by three points or fewer.
"It's not over when we play the Steelers, it's never over when they play the Ravens," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. "That's why these games are so great."
Leading 10-0 at halftime, the Ravens opened the second half with three consecutive scoring drives. Each ended with a field goal from Tucker, who extended his streak to 27 straight, including nine the past two weeks.
After Tucker's 48-yard field goal extended Baltimore's lead to eight points with 5:37 remaining, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drove the Steelers 79 yards for a score. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger on fourth down.
On the two-point attempt, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was unable to haul in Roethlisberger's pass on the left side of the end zone.
Now the Steelers likely must win their remaining four regular-season games to capture one of the AFC's wild-card playoff berths.
"We'll assess it tomorrow," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said when asked about his team's postseason chances. "Tonight we'll accept responsibility for not doing enough.
Roethlisberger finished 28 of 44 for 257 yards and two touchdowns.
"Joe (Flacco) and I talked about it out there at the end," Roethlisberger said of the close-game frequency between the teams. "Neither one of us can seem to put it away when we play. It's a great rivalry."
Each teams converted over half of its third-down plays.
"We had drives, we extended drives," Harbaugh said after his team finished 10 of 17 on third down. "We didn't always finish them like we wanted to with (touchdowns), but we got points. That was probably the difference in the game."
That and the right-footed accuracy of Tucker, who earlier in the day was selected the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month.
"What more can you say," Harbaugh said. "He's gotten every accolade, and it's been well deserved."

What the Ravens said
"You're hoping that it doesn't catch up to you, that you keep kicking field goals. But, in the back of your mind, you're thinking that it probably (will prove costly) at some point, and it did -- or it almost did." -- Quarterback Joe Flacco, on Baltimore settling for five field goals.

What the Steelers said
"The official said twice it was confirmed and then they had to go back and check because the helmet came off. It's definitely a whirlwind kind of emotion of what plays to call next. It was a lot of running back and forth to the sideline." -- Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, after an apparent Le'Veon Bell touchdown was reversed because the running back's helmet flew off before the ball crossed the goal line in the final minutes.

What we learned about the Ravens
1. Don't look now, but the defending Super Bowl champions are finding their stride. After losing four of five games, Baltimore now has two consecutive wins, putting itself back into AFC North and wild-card chase.
"It just means that we're in the hunt," said wide receiver Torrey Smith, who scored the Ravens' lone touchdown on a 7-yard catch in the first quarter. "Obviously, if we had lost, we would have been out of it and playing a bunch of meaningless games. But now it's just like the playoffs. We win and continue to give ourselves a chance."
Deep passes played a pivotal role in both victories. After catching a 60-yard pass in last week's 19-7 win over the New York Jets, Smith set up his own touchdown by hauling in a 54-yard bomb on Baltimore's opening possession against the Ravens.
2. One constant with Baltimore offense: It is rarely a thing of beauty. That was the case against the Steelers, as the Ravens scored only one touchdown, settling for five Justin Tucker field goals. However, scoring drives are scoring drives, and Baltimore had six against a formidable defense. The key was converting on third down, which Baltimore did on 10 of 17 opportunities, often via the pass.
"I thought our quarterback made some incredible plays," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Joe Flacco, who proved nimble against Pittsburgh's pass rush. "Joe, of late, has been really moving around and making some incredible plays outside of the pocket."

What we learned about the Steelers
1. Keeping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger upright remains a quintessential goal, and Pittsburgh accomplished it against a defense that recorded at least one sack in each of its previous 22 games. Baltimore's streak ended Thursday, as the Ravens never could put down Roethlisberger, who helped his own cause with deft footwork, including on his touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders. The Pittsburgh offensive line allowed 37 sacks through the first 10 games, but none the past two games.
2. If Le'Veon Bell, the lone Pittsburgh running back to provide production this season, does not return from a head injury next week, the Steelers' ground game might not either. Bell produced one touchdown and 136 total yards Thursday, 73 on 16 carries and 63 on six receptions. It appeared the rookie scored for a second time inside the final two minutes, but his helmet flew off violently before he crossed the goal line. Upon further review, the officials reversed the call.
Replays showed the back of Bell's helmetless head whack against the turf. He left the game for concussion tests.
"I knew right away," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of Bell's injury. "You could tell the arms went into a locked position. You start instantly praying and thinking about him."

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