Ravens' top challenge: Overcome Steelers hangover after painful defeat

PITTSBURGH -- The mood in the Baltimore Ravens' locker room was unlike any other this season after a 39-38 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.

Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs had his face planted in his right hand. Cornerback Brandon Carr sat looked blankly at the floor. Safety Tony Jefferson was so distraught that he paced around as teammates consoled him.

In what was an unusually quiet postgame atmosphere, Suggs delivered the prevailing message.

"This one sucks," Suggs said. "We just can't let it put a damper on our season."

If the Ravens can bounce back, they can reach the postseason for the first time since 2014. Baltimore's last three regular-season opponents -- at Cleveland and home against Indianapolis and Cincinnati -- are a combined 8-31 (.205).

By winning out, the Ravens (7-6) would earn a wild-card berth by edging out the Buffalo Bills (7-6) because of a better record against common opponents and beat out the Los Angeles Chargers (7-6) because of a superior conference mark.

"This is going to sting for a while, especially for the guys on defense because we care so much and we hold ourselves to a high standard," safety Eric Weddle said. "Look, we have three games, two of them at home. If we win, we're going to go to the playoffs with a three-game winning streak and winning six out of seven. Hopefully this will build our character and make us better in the long run."

Why this loss to the Steelers is so crushing is because Baltimore had put its energy and resources into the defense in hopes that a last-minute defeat wouldn't occur again.

Last December, the Steelers clinched the AFC North when Antonio Brown scored a lunging four-yard touchdown with nine seconds remaining. Baltimore spent $56.75 million in guaranteed money on its defense in free agency and used its first four draft picks on defensive players.

Still, Pittsburgh was able to rally from nine points down (38-29) with 6 minutes, 44 seconds remaining on Sunday night. Chris Boswell's 46-yard field goal with 42 seconds left secured the division title against Baltimore this time.

Consider this: Since that Brown touchdown on Christmas, the Ravens hadn't given up a point in the final two minutes for 13 straight games until Sunday night. Dating to that loss last season in Pittsburgh, Baltimore has allowed 40 points in the fourth quarter in two trips to Heinz Field and has given up 51 fourth-quarter points in its other 13 games.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 228 yards in the fourth quarter Sunday, the second-most in his career and most by any quarterback in a game this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"This team is built to finish in the fourth quarter," Suggs said. "We knew it was going to be tough to come here and win. It's just the simple fact that we were leading in the fourth quarter is why it sucks. We just have to start next week with Cleveland."

The Ravens players and coaches have discussed in the past their concern about being depleted emotionally and physically after playing the Steelers. Under coach John Harbaugh, Baltimore is 5-4 after losses to its biggest rival.

After falling at Pittsburgh, the Ravens play a Browns team that has lost 14 straight. Cleveland last won on Dec. 24, a span of 352 days.

"I think we have a pretty short memory around here," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "I think we'll be good at it. We better. We better get over it quickly. We have everything we want in front of us. We got to go get it."