2022 Steelers Season Recall: First Ravens matchup is last defeat of 2022

Steel City Underground presents our 2022 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.

If fans of the NFL looked at the final score, they might have thought the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens really put together a good battle in a Week 14 AFC North rivalry game. Battle would be correct; it was a physical game. The score was close, and many games between these division rivals are. This was a game a final score could not define, though. Filled with cringe-worthy moments, the Steelers’ implosion was palpably disappointing.

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Things certainly could have gone much differently. The game likely would have remained close, but disaster struck early.

On the Steelers’ first offensive series, quarterback Kenny Pickett was run out of the pocket. After eluding the first defender on the third-and-four play, he was grabbed by Roquan Smith, spun, and slammed to the turf.

The review certainly made it appear that Smith had a hold of Pickett’s helmet during the hit, but the play was not penalized. Pickett reentered the game only to be pulled out and Mitchell Trubisky sent in.

It was the beginning of the end, or at least it appeared to be.

After the Ravens scored on a short drive made partially possible by a completely muffed 17-yard punt by Pressley Harvin, Trubisky came in and used just five plays – including a nice toss and catch deep that George Pickens handled well – to get Najee Harris a one-yard leap over the pile with the ball outstretched to get the score, 10-7, Baltimore up by a field goal.

Insert audible sigh of relief from Steelers Nation. Between these landmark events, the joy of PlayAmo – a gaming joyride for many – provided fans with entertainment off the field, drawing them into a different kind of competition, but with the same fervor as football.

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That was where the solace ended, however. On back-to-back offensive possessions, Trubisky got the offense moving only to throw the ball right into the hands of Ravens defenders.

The first came after Pittsburgh went run-heavy only to have the quarterback give the ball away because he didn’t see a linebacker settled into coverage. The second pick came after Trubisky, again, found Pickens for a nice gain. On the following play, Trubisky threw the ball in the middle of the field and the turnover ended the half.

Trubisky would throw his third interception in the third quarter on a “What is he doing?” type of play that was near the goal line. That made trips into the red zone completely irrelevant.

As a veteran quarterback with over 50 starts in the NFL, Mitch’s performance was below the line. He was incapable of making the same plays as Pickett had, and committed the first Steelers turnovers since the bye week. Thus, three scoring opportunities were wasted.

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Pressley Harvin also booted a 48-yard punt when 47 or less was needed. It was an absolute killer for the Steelers defense, ceding precious field position in inopportune times. Calais Campbell was able to knock down a Chris Boswell field goal attempt which would’ve closed the game to a one-score gap.

A word thrown around in postgame pressers was that Campbell “got skinny” but one has to wonder how that happens with a 6-8, 300-plus-pound defensive lineman who has to squeeze through similarly sized men on the other side – and again, this guy wasn’t a priority?

Shame on special teams coordinator Danny Smith and the rest of the coaching staff for this blunder.

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The Steelers defense held the Ravens to just 16 points. That sounds like a great statistic until you look at the stats sheet and see how Baltimore earned those points.

Entering this game, there was little-to-no doubt that Baltimore was going to run the ball. Their receivers were essentially invisible this season with Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Things weren’t going to be any different with backup QB Tyler Huntley in Jackson’s place.

Despite the preparation and knowledge, Pittsburgh’s defense allowed Baltimore to grab 215 rushing yard on 42 carries.

Fans were quick to call defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on the carpet, but the players themselves were much of the blame. Steelers defenders were out-blocked, unable to adjust, didn’t remain on their assignment or gap, and let six different players run the ball at will, even when Huntley left the game injured and yet another Ravens backup, Anthony Brown, entered the game at quarterback.

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The nail in the coffin, so to speak, was when the Steelers, down by just two points after a Pat Freiermuth touchdown catch. But they couldn’t stop Baltimore’s run game, which is all they had when they were down to not only their backup quarterback, but a practice squad call up who had to fill in too. In the game’s most critical moment, they were unable to force a fourth down on a third-and-three, allowing Gus Edwards to essentially run amok before the Ravens just knelt down three plays in a row to run the clock.

The Steelers didn’t give up in this game, they just imploded in a situation where they had decent odds to win – until they didn’t. Pittsburgh would lose their eighth game of the season by a margin of 16-14, dropping to 5-8 and appearing to head towards their first losing season under head coach Mike Tomlin.

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