PITTSBURGH – The Ravens we're less than 100 seconds away from living to see another day in the AFC Playoff race, but Ben Roethlisberger led a charge down the field and Antonio Brown scored with under 10 seconds left.
Five observations after watching the Ravens be eliminated from playoff contention with a crushing 31-27 loss to the Steelers:
1. The Ravens have now missed the playoffs two straight years, and three of the last four.
It was a great game. The Ravens fought to the bitter end, and made some inspired plays. But the bottom line is that the Ravens (8-7) are not going to the playoffs, and the Steelers (10-5) are the AFC North champs. The Ravens have a meaningless regular season game left at Cincinnati on Jan. 1, followed by an offseason in which they will have plenty of questions to address.
2. The Steelers’ playmakers made the difference.
The Ravens couldn’t stop quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back LeVeon Bell, and wide receiver Antonio Brown from making game-changing plays when it mattered most. The Ravens wish they had that array of playmakers, but they don’t. And unless the Ravens find a way to become a more explosive team offensively, the Steelers could continue to be the team to beat in the AFC North for the next several years.
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3. Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.’s big time performance wasn’t enough, and he is expected to call it a career.
Smith had a touchdown, a two-point conversion catch, and a huge run-after-catch. He played with the passion that has defined his career. At age 37, with his career expected to end after this season, Smith’s recovery from his Achilles injury last year to play at this level has been truly remarkable. But most people expect him to retire, rather than putting his body through another year.
4. The Ravens’ defense seemed to wilt late in the year.
The defense looked weaker in the second half of games in December, and this game followed that same pattern. When you aren’t getting enough help from your offense, it makes the defense’s job even tougher. But the Ravens’ pass rush and coverage needs to improve to become a playoff team again.
5. The Ravens just weren’t good enough on the road.
The Ravens are 2-5 away from home, and they have lost five straight on the road. Their inability to win on the road was another indication that they were really not playoff worthy.