Steel City Underground presents our 2019 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.
Steelers/Ravens games always tend to be a battle of chess rather than the usual game of checkers Pittsburgh plays against other division opponents. Close battles, close calls, and just about everything else keeps the games tight right down to the wire.
Week 5’s battle in the 2019 regular season was just as intense.
Many people forget, but the Baltimore Ravens were still finding themselves entering October of this season. They had blown out a bad Miami Dolphins team, scraped by an Arizona Cardinals squad with a rookie quarterback, lost a shootout to the Kansas City Chiefs, and got embarrassed at home by the Cleveland Browns.
Heading to Heinz Field, the Ravens were a 2-2 team facing a 1-3 Steelers franchise reeling from the loss of their franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Making his third-ever start, Mason Rudolph once again led Pittsburgh, who fell behind early 10-0. Part of the slow start were self-defeating penalties and plays, such as a three-and-out on the first possession of the game.
The Steelers defense held the Ravens in check from the Pittsburgh nine-yard line, resulting in only a Justin Tucker field goal, but the very next offensive play from the Black and Gold was an ill-fated attempt to utilize the previously successful wildcat formation.
Running back Jaylen Samuels lined up in the backfield, taking a direct snap and then rolled out to his right, looking to pass the football.
His duck of a wobbly four-yard throw landed in the arms of Ravens linebacker Josh Bynes, giving Baltimore the ball on the Steelers 15-yard line. The Ravens would score four plays later to go up 10-0 midway through the first quarter.
However, Rudolph showed resolve on the Steelers next series.
Heading into Sunday’s game many were concerned that JuJu Smith-Schuster wouldn’t even suit up to play, as the Steelers wide receiver was battling a toe injury. Furthermore, Smith-Schuster had been largely absent from the Steelers passing game since Big Ben was sidelined.
Old flames were reignited against Baltimore when a 5-play, 75-yard drive was capped off with a 35-yard pass between Rudolph and JuJu. The play looked like the JuJu of old, while the criticisms of not having Rudolph pass “beyond the line of scrimmage” were silenced throughout the game: this play itself traveled 15 yards downfield, while Smith-Schuster added another 20 yards after the catch for the score.
Baltimore answered with their own 75-yard drive, going up 17-7. The Steelers offense would sputter and punt after one first down, but that’s when their defense would take over.
Minkah Fitzpatrick struck again in his third game in a Steelers uniform. He would break up a Lamar Jackson pass which led to a Kameron Kelly interception, and eventually a Chris Boswell field goal, closing the gap to 17-10 in favor of Baltimore.
Most of the second quarter would elapse before Jackson threw another pick, this time to Mike Hilton.
With 33 seconds left before halftime, the Steelers would settle for another field goal and go in at the break down only four points.
That’s when the tumultuous third quarter started.
The Ravens would possess the ball from the start for six and a half minutes, where Jackson nearly lost a fumble, but ended up throwing an interception, picked off by Devin Bush, to turn the tables.
The Steelers would take possession, and face a 3rd-and-11 as Rudolph stood tall in the pocket and completed the pass to long-time teammate James Washington. However, Rudolph was rocked with a hard hit from Ravens safety Earl Thomas, flagged for roughing the passer, and motionless on the field.
After a long delay which included removing the quarterback’s facemask before helping him to the sidelines, Devlin Hodges, better known as “Duck”, would take the reigns of the Steelers offense and lead them to a go-ahead James Conner touchdown to go up 20-17.
The Ravens would tie the game and things would be the usual back-and-forth before a Chris Boswell field goal got the Steelers a three-point advantage with 2:41 left in the fourth quarter.
With 14 seconds remaining, Tucker would convert a 48-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
The chess match continued as Mike Tomlin had made a controversial decision to kick instead of receive in the extra period. The risk paid off, initially, as the Steelers defense forced the Ravens off of the field with another three-and-out.
It would be Pittsburgh’s offense, however, that doomed the team in the end with JuJu Smith-Schuster getting stripped by Marlon Humphrey, setting up a short field for the Ravens.
Tucker would hit his 46-yard field goal, ending the sudden death period with Baltimore winning the game by a finally tally of 26-23. The Steelers would drop to 1-4 on the season while the Ravens would gain a huge advantage at 3-2 in the AFC North.
This game is best remembered for Rudolph's concussion by the hands of Earl Thomas and also JuJu's fumble which cost the Steelers the game in the end, but there are two other plays which truly stand out as costing the Steelers a victory.
The first was a near-safety involving T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward. For whatever reason, Mike Tomlin did not challenge the officials no-call close stop in the endzone. It was incredibly close, and those two points, plus a change in possession, may have been all that was needed for a Steelers victory.
The other play occurred when the Ravens took over for their final possession in the fourth quarter.
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson stepped back to pass and as Steelers LB Ola Adeniyi performs a textbook tackle on the elusive passer, almost seemingly a sack, Jackson got rid of the ball: for no gain to RB Mark Ingram.
Then a flag was thrown.
Sorry Steeler Nation was just tryna make a play. https://t.co/QaTqogMLci
— Olasunkanmi Adeniyi (@Love_Ola_9) October 6, 2019
Most in attendance felt it may have been a hold call as Adeniyi was shoved in the back as he got to Jackson, but instead, the referees called one of (and no this isn’t my bias showing) worst roughing the passer calls in the history of the game.
Rather than force a 3rd-and-8 from the Ravens 27, Baltimore marched up to their 42 with a new set of downs and their drive still alive… ending with a game-tying field goal that sent everyone into an overtime period which shouldn't have happened.