John Harbaugh: It's never over against the Steelers
Final score: Ravens 22, Steelers 20
Game recap: Getting to .500 for the first time since September, the Ravens (6-6) won a crucial game that clearly kept them in the playoff picture. The Ravens never trailed, building a 13-0 lead early in the third quarter and holding off a Steelers’ rally. The loss severely damages the playoff hopes of the Steelers (5-7).
Joe Flacco had a strong performance (24 of 35, 251 yards, one TD, no interceptions) and got his wish with play-calling as well. The Ravens never used the Wildcat formation, which Flacco complained about leading up to the game. Instead, they rode Flacco, who set up the game’s first score by connecting with Torrey Smith for a 54-yard gain on Baltimore’s first possession. That set up the Ravens’ only touchdown – a seven-yard pass from Flacco to Smith.
Justin Tucker handled the rest of Baltimore’s scoring, kicking five field goals to extend his streak to 27 straight makes. However, Ben Roethlisberger was brilliant in the second half, hitting Emmanuel Sanders with a seven-yard touchdown pass after a scramble midway through the third quarter to make the score 13-7.
Controversial play: With the Ravens leading, 13-7, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin got a little too close to the action on Jacoby Jones’ 73-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. As Jones streaked down the sideline, he ran past Tomlin, who was standing on the sideline and hopped out of the way. But as Tomlin jumped to his left, his right foot was clearly on the field of play. It was hard to tell for certain if Tomlin was trying to move out of the way, or subtly trying to impede Jones, or force him to change direction. Jones cut back toward the middle of the field and was tackled from behind by Cortez Allen to save a touchdown.
“I don’t know if he (Tomlin) knew I was there or what,” Jones told NBC after the game. “I was like, “Is he going to move?’ As I got up on him I kind of weaved a little bit…I still shouldn’t have got caught. That’s the first time I ever got caught in my life.”
Jones and Tomlin never made contact, but Tomlin was fortunate not to be penalized. He also got in the way of one of the officials running down the sideline, and he clearly should have moved back before he did. The big screens at M & T Bank Stadium repeatedly showed replays of Jones’ return, and Tomlin jumping away. Each time, Ravens fans booed. When Tomlin finally looked up and saw the replay, he smiled, and his reaction was shown on the jumbo screen. Ravens fans booed louder.
[MORE: Mike Tomlin on the field?]
It was another twist to the Ravens-Steelers rivalry that will surely be discussed heavily. Expect Tomlin to be asked about it after the game.
Deciding play: A one-yard TD pass from Roethlisberger to Jerricho Cotchery pulled the Steelers to within 22-20 with 1:03 left. That capped a superb 79-yard drive. But on the attempted two-point conversion, Roethlisberger’s pass went in-and-out of the arms of Emmanuel Sanders, who was being covered by Chykie Brown. So instead of playing their third overtime game this season, the Ravens escaped with a victory.
Steelers – Running back Le’Veon Bell may have suffered a concussion after being involved in a violent collision with Jimmy Smith and Courtney Upshaw near the goal line late in the game. Defensive end Brett Kiesel (foot) left the game early.
Ravens – Wide receiver Brandon Stokley (knee) left the game in the first half. Smith got up slowly after his collision with Bell, and Smith’s status was not immediately updated.