There was two lessons that Steeler Nation learned on Sunday afternoon: Never underestimate the power of a wounded rival and do not assume that the playoffs are a given. The Baltimore Ravens behind Ryan Mallett who has been on the team for two weeks after he was cast aside from the Houston Texans a couple of months ago for unprofessional behavior pull of a stunning upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-17 at M & T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon to sweep the season series from Pittsburgh for the first time since 2011 and have beaten the Steelers for the 3rd time this calendar year if you count last season’s 30-17 Wild Card matchup at Heinz Field.
Mallett went 28 for 41 for 274 yards and one touchdown and most importantly no interceptions. Mallet outplayed Ben Roethlisberger went 24 for 34 for 215 yards and two interceptions. The interceptions were by Daryl Smith and by Jimmy Smith who had another interception for a touchdown nullified by a natural zone infraction by Courtney Upshaw.
Roethlisberger seemed flat and out of sync all day by the Raven defense being sacked three times and being hurried and pressured all day long and never got the big play that could have shifted momentum for the Steelers. I also thought that they did not go to DeAngelo Williams enough, especially in the first half. Williams had 80 yards rushing on seven carries in the first two drives but he had only 20 yard on 10 carries for the rest of the game. Williams did score both of the touchdowns for the Steelers (9-6) in the second half. The first was a 1 yard run which was set up by two pass interference penalties and the second was a 2 yard run to cut the lead to 20-17 in the 4th quarter. Javarious Allen had 18 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown for the Ravens (5-10).
The turning point of the game came in the first quarter came when the Steelers on their opening drive marched the ball down the field on a seven play 55 yard drive that came down to a 4th and 1 at the Baltimore 25 and Coach Tomlin elected to go for the first down instead of attempting a 43 yard field goal and they did not convert. Baltimore turned around and went on a 15 play 75 yard drive that culminated in a 8 yard pass from Mallet to Chris Matthews who was one of the stars of Super Bowl XLIX last February.
As for how this game effected the Steelers. The New York Jets defeated the New England Patriots which puts them in sole possession of the 6th and final playoff spot in the AFC. Which means if they beat the Buffalo Bills on the road next Sunday afternoon they will get into the playoffs no matter what the Steelers do in Cleveland next Sunday. It’s amazing what three hours on a Sunday afternoon can do in the NFL, it can turn a potential top Super Bowl contender into a team that needs help to get into the playoffs. All because a team didn’t handle business the way they should have.
PIT: @CLE 1:00 Sun 1/3 1:00 pm CBS
BAL:@CIN 1:00 Sun 1/3 1:00 pm CBS