In the final minute of an already wild first quarter between the Ravens and Steelers, quarterback Lamar Jackson stepped up in the pocket and was met by Pittsburgh defensive lineman Casey Heyward, who wrapped him up and took him to the ground.
As Jackson fell, outside linebacker T.J. Watt looked to put another hit on Jackson and came over-the-top for another piece. As Watt rolled over Jackson, he landed squarely on the left ankle of Ravens All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley.
Down in a heap, Stanley punched the painted midfield logo at M&T Bank Stadium in pain. The cart immediately came out for him as an air cast was put on his left ankle. The entire Ravens team came out to send him off, as the Ravens lost more than a football game in a 28-24 loss to the Steelers.
“That’s our brother,” Jackson said. “We wanted to win this game for him. It was all about him at that point when we saw him go down. He means a lot to our offense. We know we don’t want to see our brother go down at all – no matter what position he plays. But I hope he’s doing good. Just sorry we couldn’t get the victory for him.”
Coach John Harbaugh confirmed after the game Stanley would miss the rest of the season with a “severe” ankle injury.
Stanley, who just signed a five-year contract extension on Friday, was named to a Pro Bowl and was selected as an All-Pro a season ago. The 2016 first-round choice was one of the stalwarts of the Ravens’ offensive line, which now is down two All-Pro talents from a season ago.
Without Stanley, and rookie right guard Tyre Philips who left with an ankle injury as well, the Ravens had to shift their offensive line around.
Brown went to left tackle, Bradley Bozeman and Matt Skura stayed at left guard and center, Patrick Mekari took over at right guard and D.J. Fluker entered the game at right tackle. The new Ravens offensive line allowed four sacks and nine quarterback hits.
No replacement on the roster, though, is ready to fill the shoes of the team’s franchise left tackle.
“That’s somebody who’s helped me throughout my career,” Brown said of Stanley. “Someone that did what he needed to do to put himself and his family up for the rest of their lives. And losing someone like that, a leader like that to this team and this offensive line, it’s hard to put into words the effect that takes on you a little bit as (far as) morale. But it’s the NFL, and unfortunately, the mentality is next man up.”
Off the field, the Ravens are losing a bit more than one of the game’s best left tackles, too.
“Ronnie is one of those guys in our locker room who everybody looks up to and everybody has a good relationship with,” wideout Willie Snead said. “We were all happy for him this week, because he got a huge deal. And I know he was ready to play in this game, because of the rivalry and everything that it means. Just to see him go down like that, it hurts everybody, and we just wanted to go out there and play all out for him.”
Now, they’ll have to figure out what the next step will be in replacing the man they just extended until the 2025 season concludes. On the ground, though, the first returns were promising.
Baltimore rushed for 265 yards and out-gained the Steelers 457-221 through the game. Rookie running back J.K. Dobbins rushed for 113 yards on 15 carries, Gus Edwards ran for 87 yards on 16 carries and Jackson ran for 65 yards on 16 carries as well.
Moving forward next week against the Colts, the Ravens might have to replace two starters along the offensive line. For now, that hasn’t kept them from being optimistic.
“We have some guys that really want it and really want to win, and they’re hard fighters,” Brown said. “D.J. Fluker is a hard fighter. He’s been through a lot in his life and career. Same thing with Patrick Mekari being an undrafted free agent. Matt Skura, Bradley Bozeman, man, just a bunch of great men. And (offensive line) coach ‘D,’ (Joe D’Alessandris) everything that he instills in us. Man, I have a lot of optimism for us going forward”