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Ravens Insider: Ravens fall to Steelers, 17-10, in sloppy regular-season finale without QB Lamar Jackson, other key starters


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In the words of Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen, Baltimore had “written a lot of pages in our book” this season that led to being in the enviable and advantageous position of which it is in.

The Ravens are the top seed in the AFC going into the postseason and have the coveted first-round bye and home-field advantage through the conference championship game. The goal, as quarterback Lamar Jackson has said all season, is to deliver the first Super Bowl title of his career and the first for the organization since the 2012 season.

But before beginning that pursuit in earnest in two weeks, there was the matter of finishing off the regular season against a bitter AFC North rival.

With the rain starting before noon and never stopping, it was a bad night to be an oblong-shaped leather ball Saturday night at M&T Bank Stadium. It was a worse one to be a quarterback trying to throw it, or a fan hoping to see an offensive shootout between the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers in raw, soaking wet conditions with nothing on the line for the home team.

The Steelers fumbled six times, losing two of them, and the Ravens twice, losing both.

Still, Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph, a third-stringer at the start of the season behind Kenny Pickett and Mitchell Trubisky, has come up big since taking over three weeks ago and did so again, this time against Baltimore.

With both offenses struggling to move the ball and the game tied at 7 on a third-and-4 from his own 29-yard line at the start of the fourth quarter, Rudolph threw a strike to slanting wide receiver Diontae Johnson over the middle and he took it to the house for a 71-yard touchdown. Then, after Pittsburgh recovered a fumble by running back Gus Edwards at the Ravens’ 32-yard line, Chris Boswell added a 25-yard field goal with 3:17 remaining to seal the 17-10 victory.

Though the Steelers (10-7) could’ve made the playoffs with a win or loss, the former makes the path simpler. With a Tennessee Titans victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, or a Miami Dolphins win over the Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh is in.

The Ravens (13-4), of course, had already wrapped up all they needed to and were simply playing for pride and hoping to escape any serious injuries.

  • Baltimore Ravens head football coach John Harbaugh watches the game...

    Baltimore Ravens head football coach John Harbaugh watches the game clock during the fourth quarter of an NFL showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers as the Steelers battle for an AFC North division playoff spot in Baltimore. Pittsburgh won, 17-10...(Karl Merton Ferron/Staff Photo)

  • Baltimore Ravens fans cheer as defensive end/defensive tackle Broderick Washington...

    Baltimore Ravens fans cheer as defensive end/defensive tackle Broderick Washington holds the football after recovering a Pittsburgh Steelers fumble during the second quarter of an NFL showdown as the Steelers battle for an AFC North division playoff spot in Baltimore...(Karl Merton Ferron/Staff Photo)

  • Baltimore Ravens defensive end/defensive tackle Broderick Washington turns with a...

    Baltimore Ravens defensive end/defensive tackle Broderick Washington turns with a fumble recovery as Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth watches during the second quarter of an NFL showdown as the Steelers battle for an AFC North division playoff spot in Baltimore...(Karl Merton Ferron/Staff Photo)

  • Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley scrambles past Pittsburgh Steelers defensive...

    Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley scrambles past Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi for seven yards during the second quarter of an NFL showdown as the Steelers battle for an AFC North division playoff spot in Baltimore...(Karl Merton Ferron/Staff Photo)

  • Baltimore Ravens cornerback Arthur Maulet, left gets congratulated by defensive...

    Baltimore Ravens cornerback Arthur Maulet, left gets congratulated by defensive back Brandon Stephens after recovering a fumble against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter of an NFL showdown as the Steelers battle for an AFC North division playoff spot in Baltimore...(Karl Merton Ferron/Staff Photo)

  • Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris, left dives past Baltimore...

    Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris, left dives past Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy for the game's first touchdown during the first quarter of an NFL showdown as the Steelers battle for an AFC North division playoff spot in Baltimore...(Karl Merton Ferron/Staff Photo)

  • Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill loses the handle on...

    Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill loses the handle on a pass while Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joey Porter Jr., behind, during the first quarter of an NFL showdown as the Steelers battle for an AFC North division playoff spot in Baltimore...(Karl Merton Ferron/Staff Photo)

  • Baltimore Ravens fans cheer while watching the game against the...

    Baltimore Ravens fans cheer while watching the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter of an NFL showdown as the Steelers battle for an AFC North division playoff spot in Baltimore...(Karl Merton Ferron/Staff Photo)

  • Baltimore Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely dives into the end...

    Baltimore Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely dives into the end zone, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers with a touchdown during the second quarter of an NFL showdown as the Steelers battle for an AFC North division playoff spot in Baltimore...(Karl Merton Ferron/Staff Photo)

  • Baltimore Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely, 80, powers past Pittsburgh...

    Baltimore Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely, 80, powers past Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson, tying the game during the second quarter of an NFL showdown as the Steelers battle for an AFC North division playoff spot in Baltimore. (Karl Merton Ferron/Staff Photo)

  • Ravensxe2x80x99 Gus Edwards, right, cuts away from Steelersxe2x80x99 Patrick Peterson...

    Ravensxe2x80x99 Gus Edwards, right, cuts away from Steelersxe2x80x99 Patrick Peterson to run for 29 yards in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium.. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff photo)

  • Ravens\xe2\x80\x99 Arthur Maulet celebrates after recovering a Steelers fumble in...

    Ravens\xe2\x80\x99 Arthur Maulet celebrates after recovering a Steelers fumble in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium.. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff photo)

  • Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely dives into the end zone...

    Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely dives into the end zone for a touchdown against the Steelers in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium.. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff photo)

  • Ravens QB autographs Baltimore graphic artist Brian Bomster-Jabs\xe2\x80\x99 jersey. The...

    Ravens QB autographs Baltimore graphic artist Brian Bomster-Jabs\xe2\x80\x99 jersey. The artist gives an original digital painting depicting career highlights of Lamar Jackson to the Ravens quarterback before Steelers game at M&T Bank Stadium.. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff photo)

  • Baltimore graphic artist Brian Bomster-Jabs, left, gives an original digital...

    Baltimore graphic artist Brian Bomster-Jabs, left, gives an original digital painting depicting career highlights of Lamar Jackson to the Ravens quarterback before Steelers game at M&T Bank Stadium..(Kenneth K. Lam/Staff photo)

  • Baltimore graphic artist Brian Bomster-Jabs, second left, gives an original...

    Baltimore graphic artist Brian Bomster-Jabs, second left, gives an original digital painting depicting career highlights of Lamar Jackson to the Ravens quarterback before Steelers game at M&T Bank Stadium. On right is Mike White, father of Bomster-Jabs\xe2\x80\x99 girl friend. (Kenneth K. Lam/Staff photo)

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Which is why Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t play his most important starters, particularly Jackson, whose last two seasons were cut short by injuries. A half-dozen others were also inactive, either because they are dealing with an injury or simply trying to avoid one: wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (rest) and Zay Flowers (calf); safety Kyle Hamilton (knee); cornerback Marlon Humphrey (calf); guard Kevin Zeitler (knee/quad/coach’s decision); outside linebacker Malik Harrison (groin); and Daryl Worley (shoulder/ankle).

But the Ravens were also trying to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Steelers for the second time in the past three seasons and a seventh loss in their past eight meetings.

With Jackson sitting, it provided an opportunity as well for Ravens backup quarterback Tyler Huntley, an unrestricted free agent after this season. It was a struggle, to say the least.

Huntley completed 15 of 28 passes for just 146 yards and a touchdown to tight end Isaiah Likely late in the second quarter after Najee Harris (26 carries, 112 yards) squirted up the middle for a 6-yard touchdown on the Steelers’ second possession of the game.

“I thought we played really hard, thought we played tough,” Harbaugh said. “We didn’t play great by any stretch. We can certainly stop the run better. We gave up the big pass play.

“Offensively, I thought [Huntley] played hard. I thought he made some really good throws.”

Added Huntley: “It [was] slippery out there, throwing to catching. The ball’s wet. You got a lot of elements to work through just to complete passes out there.”

Rudolph, meanwhile, connected on 18 of 20 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown.

But it was Pittsburgh’s ground game that chewed up the Ravens’ defense and the clock. The Steelers had 156 yards rushing, with 69 of them coming on their first-quarter touchdown drive that also ate up 7:32 of clock.

The Ravens, on the other hand, extended their streak of 100-yard rushing games to 34 with 106 yards on the ground but struggled to find any rhythm, and at times to even hold onto the ball with running back Melvin Gordon also coughing it up early in the second quarter.

“When you turn the ball over … we gave them opportunities to score points,” Harbaugh said. “I think we take that into the playoffs, we already know that and understand how to win. But it’s a nice little reminder that you gotta protect the football to win games.”

The regular season is over. The playoffs await. Baltimore will find out who it plays after next weekend’s wild-card games, with a return visit from the Steelers one of many possibilities.

“We’ve got a week to prepare, then find out who we gotta play,” Queen said. “Nobody’s hanging their head or anything. We see those guys again, we’ll be ready.”


AFC divisional round

TBD at Ravens

Jan. 20-21, TBA

TV: TBA

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

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