Monday, February 26, 2024

Steelers Grind Out Gritty Win Over Ravens to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

HomeSports NewsSteelers Grind Out Gritty Win Over Ravens to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

PITTSBURGH – On a frigid, rain-soaked Saturday afternoon in Baltimore, the Pittsburgh Steelers relied on brute force and determination to out-muscle the arch-rival Ravens 17-10. The hard-fought victory exemplified the Black and Gold’s fighting spirit while keeping their postseason dreams alive entering Sunday’s decisive slate of games.

Under leaden skies, the AFC North foes battled for gridiron supremacy, conjuring images of past classics between these smashmouth franchises. While the Ravens had already clinched playoff seeding, they were not about to roll over, particularly on their home turf. But the Steelers flashed championship mettle and a workmanlike mentality to secure a season sweep.

This is Steelers and Ravens football,” remarked Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin. “If you’re faint of heart, this game isn’t for you. We knew it would be a street fight today. Baltimore brought their lunch pails and we brought ours.”

Behind a persistent rushing attack and stifling defense, Pittsburgh improved to 10-7 and now awaits help around the league. The team’s postseason fate rests in the hands of the Titans, Dolphins and even – in a true longshot scenario – the lowly Texans. But by handling their own business, the Steelers at least gave themselves a fighter’s chance.

“We just had to worry about what we could control,” said quarterback Mason Rudolph. “Win this game, do our job, and then see what happens. We left it all out there today.”

That blue-collar approach characterized Pittsburgh’s performance. While the statistics may not dazzle, the Steelers’ collective grit and fearless play certainly impressed. On a day when the conditions dictated conservatism, field position and ball security reigned supreme.

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Fortune also smiled on the Black and Gold at critical moments. When a battered Ravens team mounted late threats, the Steelers defense rose to the occasion. A fourth-quarter Diontae Johnson touchdown catch provided the winning margin, while Chris Boswell’s field goal provided precious insurance.

As the clock wound down, M&T Bank Stadium sat soaked and sullen. Chants of “Here We Go Steelers” echoed from the hardy traveling fans reveling in another vintage matchup. The visitors’ sideline erupted at the final gun, knowing they had done all possible to keep their Super Bowl dreams alive.

Game Recap: Harris Powers Rushing Attack

In the early going, both defensive units flexed their muscles. Following an exchange of punts, running back Najee Harris settled into a groove. Showcasing tackle-breaking ability and nimble footwork in the slop, Harris gashed the Ravens revamped front seven. His determined 6-yard touchdown plunge capped off a 12-play, 76-yard march to give Pittsburgh a 7-0 edge.

“We wanted to pound it today,” Harris remarked after churning out 112 yards. “The O-line was moving people off the ball even when the Ravens knew we were running.”

But the Ravens promptly responded with a 10-play scoring drive. Quarterback Tyler Huntley, filling in for rested star Lamar Jackson, displayed poise in repeatedly connecting with tight end Isaiah Likely. Their 28-yard hookup on a seam route leveled the score at 7-7.

For much of the first half, the teams traded body blows while struggling for traction on the muddy terrain. Miscues also abounded, as backs from both squads coughed up fumbles. The Steelers nearly grabbed momentum before halftime, but a strip-sack of Rudolph scrapped that bid. Players trudged to the locker room deadlocked in a 7-7 tie knowing the margin for error remained razor-thin.

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“We left some points out there in the first half,” Rudolph acknowledged. “But we knew it would be that type of game. Protecting the ball was critical.”

Stalemate Persists After Halftime

Following intermission, the standoff continued. As rainfall intensified, each team’s play-calling grew increasingly conservative. Exchanges of punts delivered a staring match defined by field position. Neither defense budged as tackles grew more ferocious in the deteriorating conditions.

“It was a war of attrition out there,” said Steelers’ defensive end Cam Heyward. “We knew big stops would be the key. We wanted to keep putting our offense in good position.”

Late in the third quarter, fortune flashed Pittsburgh’s way. Facing 3rd and 4 near midfield, Rudolph opted against checking down short of the sticks. Sensing single coverage on speedster Diontae Johnson, the quarterback let loose while absorbing a hit. His spiraling dart hit Johnson in stride, and the electric wideout did the rest. Outracing the Ravens’ secondary, Johnson took it 71 yards untouched, sending the hardy Steelers fans into a frenzy.

“That’s Diontae – he’s a playmaker,” Rudolph said with a smile. “I saw the coverage and realized we could take a shot.”

The perfectly executed deep strike supplied the game-changing points. In an affair ruled by defenses, one precision play had thrust Pittsburgh ahead 14-7 early in the final frame.

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Steel Curtain Slams Door Shut

Clutch defensive plays cemented the gritty road win. The Steelers lost superstar T.J. Watt to a knee injury, but refused to fold. Gang tackling and tight coverage neutralized Baltimore’s attempted rallies.

When Huntley finally drove into scoring range, it was too little too late. Chris Boswell’s field goal provided security before Justin Tucker’s late kick made it a one-score game with just 16 seconds left. Pittsburgh then barricaded the end zone on Baltimore’s desperation lateral play as time expired, sparking jubilation.

“I told the defense this was going to be on them,” said linebacker Myles Jack. “T.J. going down was a huge loss, but we rallied together. Everyone did their assignments and we got the job done.”

On a day tailored for plow horses, Pittsburgh’s workmanlike performance barely edged a battered Ravens squad. But securing any road victory in the AFC North signals success. And the Steelers still have playoff life as a result.

“It was an old school type of game today,” remarked Tomlin in closing. “We knew coming in here what it would take in terms of physicality and ball security. I tip my cap to our guys for answering that call.”

With snow in the forecast, Pittsburgh now awaits Sunday’s results while resting and recuperating. Whether their season continues remains out of their hands. But the Steelers left everything on the M&T Bank Stadium turf against Baltimore. This blue-collar franchise expects no less.

Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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