Next, the Ravens will host the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 8 at 8:05 p.m. The Cowboys (3-8) have the worst record in the NFC and are coming off their biggest loss of the season, 41-16, to the Washington Football Team.

By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO

Steelers’ defense prevails once again as Ravens lose third straight

The Dec. 2 faceoff between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers was historical, under the rarest circumstances, and was the highlight of a strange week in the NFL this season.

To add to an already challenging year, the contest, originally scheduled for Thanksgiving, was rescheduled three times (from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 to Dec. 2) due to ongoing coronavirus-related issues within the Ravens organization.

According to reports, the organization had 10 straight days of positive coronavirus tests which included at least 14 players, one of whom being star quarterback Lamar Jackson, that brought the team’s injured reserve/COVID-19 list to 16. 

Also, multiple coaches didn’t travel with the team to Pittsburgh and a few support staff were among those who tested positive for the virus, capping off the biggest COVID-19 outbreak in the league this season. Consequently, Baltimore reportedly hasn’t had a full practice in more than a week.

In the midst of all the madness that transpired over the last several days, the Ravens were faced with the arduous task of traveling to Heinz Field to square off against their AFC North rival with a rearranged roster and somewhat short-handed coaching staff.

For the second straight time this season, Pittsburgh’s staggering defense led to a close win. The still-undefeated-Steelers (were able to create a two-possession game that kept Baltimore at bay late in regulation and bled the clock on the final possession on their way to the win.

“I appreciate our players the way they fought through this. It was a challenge, but they fought through this really unique deal,” Coach John Harbaugh said after yet another tough loss, acknowledging his team’s toughness for getting through the past week.

Given the circumstances the Ravens are facing, they managed to make the rivalry showdown competitive from start to finish. Baltimore drops to 6-5 overall with the loss, meaning every game is virtually a must-win for hopes of a playoff spot. 

Additionally, the loss eliminates Baltimore from repeating as AFC North champions. At this point last season, the Ravens were on a roll at 9-2 overall, most of the roster was healthy and the team was in the middle of a winning streak.

With Jackson out until next week, backup quarterback Robert Griffin III made his first start this season. Ironically, the last time Griffin started was in last year’s regular season finale against the Steelers. He was 11-of-21 passing for 96 yards as Baltimore won 28-10. 

This time the outcome was far different as Griffin completed 7 of 12 passes for 33 yards and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. He rushed for a game-high 68 yards on seven carries, but suffered a hamstring injury in the second quarter which affected his performance.

While the Ravens allowed 334 yards of total offense, their running game was effective, totaling 129 rushing yards to Pittsburgh’s 68. Also, the Ravens defense forced three fumbles and didn’t allow a touchdown in the first half.

Pittsburgh’s defensive front prevented Baltimore’s offense from generating much leverage down the stretch as AFC Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt posted two sacks.

Despite notching its first three-game losing streak since 2018, Baltimore is a top-five rushing team in the league; so that may be a major point of emphasis on offense as the season winds down.

With the win, the Steelers now lead the all-time series 30-24 and remain atop the AFC North. The Cleveland Browns (8-3) are second in the division and the Ravens are third. In their last meeting on Nov. 1 at M&T Bank Stadium, the Steelers edged the Ravens 28-24. 

Next, the Ravens will host the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 8 at 8:05 p.m. The Cowboys (3-8) have the worst record in the NFC and are coming off their biggest loss of the season, 41-16, to the Washington Football Team.

When the two last played each other in the 2016 season, the Cowboys prevailed 27-17. This time around, Baltimore is expected to win with relative ease. However, this season has taught the Ravens to approach every team the same, regardless of overall record.