Steelers beat Ravens in the rain, now hope to get help they need for playoff spot

The Pittsburgh Steelers did their part. Then they immediately turned into fans of the Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans or ties.

The Steelers didn't need a win to stay alive in the AFC playoff wild-card race — there were low-percentage scenarios in which they could make it even with a loss — but the victory helped a lot. Against a Baltimore Ravens team that had the No. 1 seed wrapped up and was sitting Lamar Jackson and other starters, Pittsburgh got an ugly 17-10 win in the rain.

Pittsburgh hit the one big play to turn the game when Mason Rudolph found Diontae Johnson over the middle and Johnson ran for a 71-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to break a 7-7 tie. It was a costly win as superstar outside linebacker T.J. Watt left in the third quarter with a knee injury. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Watt is believed to have suffered a Grade 3 MCL sprain, a “multi-week injury.”

The Steelers finished the win, then started to hope to get the help they needed for a postseason berth.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson celebrates after scoring on 71-yard touchdown catch against the Ravens. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson celebrates after scoring on a 71-yard touchdown catch against the Ravens. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

With the win, the Steelers need a Buffalo Bills loss to the Dolphins on Sunday night, or a Jacksonville Jaguars loss or tie to the Titans on Sunday, to make the playoffs as a wild-card team.

Whether or not the Steelers get the help they need, they could feel proud to post a 10-7 record and completely turning their season back around after it looked entirely dead a few weeks ago. They also could lament that a couple of horrible home losses kept them from clinching on a wet night in Baltimore.

Steelers and Ravens play in the rain

The Steelers had two inexcusable home losses on back-to-back weeks against the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots, two of the NFL's worst teams, and then a wholly uncompetitive loss at the Colts. Their season looked done at that point. It was OK to have some questions over whether Steelers ownership would have a conversation about head coach Mike Tomlin's future.

A quarterback change turned everything around, leading to a three-game winning streak to end the regular season.

Mason Rudolph wasn't great for the Steelers, but he was much better than Kenny Pickett or Mitchell Trubisky. Rudolph wasn't scared to push the ball downfield and that opened up the Steelers' offense. Though that skill really didn't matter for most of Saturday's game.

Neither team could pass effectively in a rainstorm. Both teams had trouble holding onto the wet ball. Melvin Gordon fumbled for Baltimore to start the second quarter, then Jaylen Warren gave it right back. It was hard to blame either back; conditions were miserable for ball security. There were eight fumbles in the game.

In the pouring rain, Pittsburgh had to turn to an old-school offensive approach. On the Steelers' first touchdown drive, they got 69 of their 75 yards rushing the football. Najee Harris capped that drive with a 6-yard TD run.

The Ravens answered Harris' touchdown with a 27-yard touchdown catch by Isaiah Likely. The score remained 7-7 until the fourth quarter.

Then the Steelers hit the biggest play of the game.

Steelers take the lead

Rudolph threw a nice pass to Diontae Johnson on the first play of the fourth quarter. Johnson beat cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and safety Marcus Williams was slow to react, opening up a lane that Johnson ran right through. He took it all the way to the end zone for a 71-yard score. Pittsburgh's longest pass play in the game before that was 13 yards.

Pittsburgh's defense, without Watt, came through with a huge play with 7:14 left. Steelers safety Eric Rowe forced a fumble by Ravens running back Gus Edwards and Pittsburgh recovered at Baltimore's 32-yard line. It was the eighth fumble of the game. For most of the game defenders from both sides punched at the ball whenever they could, and Rowe nailed his punch at the exact right moment for Pittsburgh. The Steelers were able to pick up some first downs, grind down the clock and kick a field goal. A 10-point lead in the rain, with Huntley and backups playing for the Ravens' offense, was practically insurmountable. The Ravens drove for a field goal with 16 seconds left but couldn't recover an onside kick.

The Steelers will have conflicted emotions heading home. There will be worry over the Watt injury. There will be nervousness over the help they need to make the playoffs. But there should also be plenty of pride to reach 10 wins after their season seemed over, and to be alive in the playoff race all the way to the end.

The Steelers showed plenty of mettle in a big win. Now, they wait.