Ravens knocked out of playoff hunt by Christmas Day collapse

Jon Howard
December 26, 2016

Brown caught the ball short of the goal line. As if the game was over.

It's a luxury Pittsburgh can afford only after coming alive over the final 15 minutes. If they are unable to hold the lead, Pittsburgh can win the division with a victory today. But of course it would be.

Perhaps the one player who showed the greatest home/road split in his performance had been quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but he showed plenty of road woes in this one, choosing the worst possible time of the season to play in Heinz Field the way that he has in certain other stadiums around the league this year. He had just led the Steelers to three fourth-quarter touchdown drives.

Tight end Dennis Pitta (75 yards, eight catches) almost pulled in a diving catch from Flacco at the goal line, wideout Breshad Perriman couldn't quite reach a high pass in the end zone and Orr dropped a sure interception near midfield, a mistake for which he would atone later.

"I kind of dug ourselves a hole", Roethlisberger said after the game.

As big of favorites as they are now, they would likely be even bigger favorites if Pittsburgh didn't stage their fourth quarter comeback to beat the Baltimore Ravens. Then, the 'burgh's Killer B's took over.

This season, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell has been nearly supernaturally good. He's incredibly strong - and his brawny run game helps him break tackles and get extra yards after first contact. A Kyle Juszczyk 10-yard touchdown - in which he ran over safety Mike Mitchell - put Baltimore ahead 27-24 with 1:19 left.

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It was a lightning quick drive, taking 1:21 off the clock. Luckily for him and the Steelers, no one was injured.

No Ladarius Green. But that's when things went downhill for Baltimore's defense, as it allowed three straight touchdown drives. Instead, Brown took a hit from Weddle, then a shot from Mosley. Don't be surprised if the Steelers once again get Bell involved heavily as a receiver. If you take one of those things away, they cannot only still function but thrive in the other one.

After finishing 5-11 last season and missing the playoffs for the second time in three years, the Ravens improved enough to challenge for a playoff position this season, but not enough to be serious contenders.

The Texans will host a Wild Card Playoff game against either Kansas City, Oakland or Miami at NRG Stadium, and the victor of that contest would be at the top seeded AFC club the following weekend. When he wasn't leading a season-saving comeback, he was spending his Christmas "praying on the sideline", he said.

But all those concerns-Brown's inconsistent involvement, Roethlisberger's misfires and an offense that sputters for a while before igniting-can melt away because of one constant: Bell.

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