There have been more important losses than the one that the one that the Steelers suffered on Sunday to the Ravens, but none recently that hurt quite as badly as this one.
Not only are the Ravens the team with the most players on injured reserve, their secondary is horrible. Considering that the Steelers’ strength is passing, this should have been a day where Ben Roethlisberger passed for 300 yards and multiple touchdowns. Instead, Ben threw for his lowest first-half total of the season, along with two costly interceptions. For me, this game hurt so badly, because it never should have been close to begin with.
Furthermore, the most frustrating part about this loss was that any number of plays could have changed the entire game.
Imagine if, on the first drive, DeAngelo Williams converts that fourth down.
Likewise, Antonio Brown had a touchdown called back, because it was deemed that he did not have control of the ball. As Mike Pereira pointed out, Brown never lost control with his left hand. Sure, his right hand came off of the ball, but his left hand was firmly in “control” of the ball. Those four points obviously would have made a difference in the game.
— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) December 27, 2015
Speaking of game-changing plays, on Roethlisberger’s first interception, he had Heath Miller open for an easy first down. Better yet, DeAngelo Williams was running across the field for an even easier dump-off pass (that would likely have gone for twenty-five yards). Instead, Ben locked in on Brown and only Brown… a theme for much of the game.
Case in point: late in the game, Roethlisberger took a sack that killed a drive. In his defense, Alejandro Villanueva allowed the Ravens defender to drive past him for the sack. That said, Roethlisberger was locked solely onto Antonio Brown, while Jesse James ran up the sideline completely uncovered; if Ben looks in that direction for even a millisecond, the Steelers not only keep the drive alive, they more than likely score a touchdown on that play, and in turn, they probably win the game.
Ugh, ugh, double-ugh.
The only reason that I can come up with that might explain Big Ben’s horrific game, was the fact that he has a young child, and it is Christmas time. I know that I personally was up until 3:00 on Christmas Eve, and was up again by 5:30 when my kids erupted out of their beds. For two days afterwards, I survived on adrenaline and coffee, but by Sunday morning, the holiday had taken its toll on me, leaving me in a Noel-induced fog.
Alas, my empathy can not quell the sting from this loss.
Additionally, the Jets added salt to the wound by somehow managing to beat the Patriots, and thus leap frogging the Steelers into the playoffs. Part of me thinks that Bill Belichick told his team to “accidentally” defer in overtime, just so that it would screw the Steelers out of a playoff berth. I know, I know: even Belichick is not that Machavellian. Maybe. (Editor’s Note: Yes, he is. Had the same thought)
Regardless, the point is that the Steelers need the Bills to beat the Jets next weekend, in order to have a shot at making the playoffs. Statistically speaking, there is only a slim chance of that happening. Then again, the Ravens just showed that a motivated team can play above their heads… and, considering that the Jets fired Rex Ryan, I am certain that he will have the Bills up to the task of spoiling the Jets’ season. In other words, I hope that come next Sunday, Jets fans feel the same heartache that I feel today.