By: Jeffrey Mansour
The Baltimore Ravens were outdueled by the Pittsburgh Steelers on their home turf the afternoon of Jan. 9, losing 16-13 in a game that officially eliminated them from playoff contention. The loss extended their losing streak to six games to close out the season and resulted in the team’s first losing record since 2015.
Heading into the divisional matchup, an injury-riddled Ravens team needed a win, along with Colts, Dolphins, and Chargers losses, to make the playoffs. Just over a month earlier, Baltimore sat atop the AFC with an 8-3 record; an exorbitant number of injuries, including an ankle sprain to starting quarterback Lamar Jackson, contributed to their late-season implosion.
The matchup with the longtime rival Pittsburgh Steelers, a team Baltimore had not defeated since the 2019 season, was a must-win for the Ravens. Unfortunately, they’d have to play yet another game without Jackson, and backup quarterback Tyler Huntley would fill in for a fifth game.
“I knew it was going to be a 50-50 battle with Huntley under center,” Mt. Hebron junior Zack Chaudhry said. “I feel like he’s not built for this type of pressure.”
The first half of the game was a major defensive struggle with the two teams accumulating three turnovers and nine punts before the intermission. Each offense managed only a field goal as they headed to the locker rooms tied at three points.
“Tied at three my hopes went down,” Mt. Hebron junior and Ravens fan Josh Kadavil recounted. “The Ravens are notorious for keeping it close and then losing.”
But the Baltimore offense came out of the break with a spark, taking just five plays to reach the end zone with a 46-yard touchdown run by running back Latavius Murray. The Steelers answered with a Chris Boswell field goal, and the score stayed at 10-6 until late in the fourth quarter.
Nearing the end of regulation, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needed to get his offense into the end zone after failing to do so through the first three quarters. The veteran stayed cool under pressure, leading a 10-play, 50-yard drive that concluded with a six-yard touchdown pass to wideout Chase Claypool. With Pittsburgh leading 13-10, the pressure shifted to Huntley to keep Baltimore’s playoff hopes alive.
Huntley was able to get Baltimore down to Pittsburgh’s 28-yard line, where kicker Justin Tucker drilled a 46-yard field goal to tie the game at 13. Neither team was able to forge another scoring drive, and the game was sent to overtime.
The Ravens won the coin toss and received the opening kickoff of the extra period, but Huntley failed to take Baltimore across midfield and the team punted after just seven plays. Roethlisberger, in what would likely serve as his last regular-season game before retirement, led a 15-play drive consisting of two third-down conversions and a crucial completion on 4th and 8 to wideout Ray-Ray McCloud. With the ball deep in Baltimore territory, Pittsburgh brought out Boswell, who sealed the game with a 36-yard field goal. A Raiders win later that night would, against all odds, send Pittsburgh to the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
The nailbiter was very much representative of the Ravens’ 2021 season; the campaign consisted of 12 one-score games, four of which went to overtime. In a season that was decimated by injuries from the get-go, it seemed as though the odds were always against Baltimore.
“As a whole, we did much better than expected,” Kadavil mentioned, adding that the Ravens “basically had their whole backup team on the field.”
While a tough loss to their biggest rival capped off a disappointing year for the Ravens, they will look to get healthy and come back strong for the 2022 season.