True, the Ravens gave the Steelers a nervous final few minutes in Baltimore on Sunday, but Pittsburgh held on to secure a 28-24 win against their AFC North rivals and maintain their unbeaten start to the 2020 season, improving their record to 7-0.
Sunday’s win bodes well for the Steelers’ Super Bowl aspirations. Since 1970, 19 of the 38 teams who started their season 7-0 made it to the Super Bowl. And just over 50% of those 19 teams — 10 of them — then went on to win the Super Bowl.
Reigning Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs also secured their seventh win of the season on Sunday beating the winless New York Jets, but the Steelers remain the only undefeated team left this season.
Despite the Ravens conceding two turnovers in the opening quarter, including quarterback Lamar Jackson throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown on only the third play for the game, they led 17-7 at half time.
The Steelers pushed back in the second half however, with their defense in particular standing strong.
Pittsburgh took the lead with seven minutes to go in the final quarter with a touchdown to rookie phenomenon Chase Claypool, putting the score at 28-24.
They wouldn’t relinquish that lead for the remainder of the game.
Jackson led his team valiantly and, with seconds remaining on the clock, produced a perfect throw to wide receiver Willie Snead in the end zone.
Snead had one of the best games of his career, recording only the fourth game of his career with over 100 receiving yards, and his first since September 2016 when he was playing for the New Orleans Saints.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, as Snead went to make the catch, he was swarmed by two Steelers defenders who hit him before he could get control of the ball.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin thought the turning point came at the half, saying after the game: “There were some things we had to adjust to. I thought we were able to get some things settled down at the half, get back into things.”
Tomlin isn’t resting on his laurels despite the victory, adding: “We lacked detail in some areas, so we’ve got to work to get better and fortify ourselves for the next opponent. It’s good to do that with a win.
“Much respect to Baltimore, they bring out the best in us. This rivalry is what it is. Hopefully it was entertaining to football fans.”
Reigning NFL MVP Jackson threw for more yards than his Steelers counterpart Ben Roethlisberger, but was below his best as he completed less than 50% of his pass attempts and threw two interceptions.
Without the 113 rushing yards from Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins, the game may have been far less close.
Speaking after the game, Jackson took responsibility for the loss, saying: “The turnovers I feel are the reason we lost the game. I put that on me.”
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh agreed with his quarterback in his belief that giving the ball to the Steelers on multiple occasions was what separated the teams.
“He played hard. He made a lot of plays. The turnovers, obviously, were disappointing. … That’s the difference in the game in some ways, obviously,” Harbaugh said. “We’re disappointed with that part of it. We’re very happy with other parts of it. I thought he competed, made a lot of great throws and runs and things like that.
“So, it’s a mixed bag in that sense, but of course we’re not pleased with losing the turnover battle.”
The loss puts the Ravens at 5-2 at the season’s halfway point, hotly pursued in the AFC North by the 5-3 Cleveland Browns.
The Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South also hold a 5-2 record, but Jackson isn’t worried about failing to make the playoffs in the AFC.
“I feel we’re in a great spot,” Jackson said. “We just have to finish. Our defense played great, our offense did good. No turnovers, we win this game.”
The cream of the crop Steelers look well placed to continue their hot streak, with their next two games coming against a Dallas Cowboys team on a downward spiral, followed by a divisional match-up against AFC North bottom-feeders Cincinnati Bengals.
The Ravens will have their chance at revenge on Thanksgiving weekend, later this month on November 27.