Ravens fail to stamp themselves as legitimate contenders in falling to Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- The Baltimore Ravens can still make the playoffs -- and likely will -- after falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.

What was lost was their opportunity to stamp themselves as serious contenders. The Ravens couldn't match the offensive firepower and were let down by their usually stingy defense in a 39-38 loss to the Steelers.

Just like last Christmas night, the Ravens let a lead slip through their grasp in the final two minutes of a game at Heinz Field. Baltimore's focus this entire offseason was to build a defense that wouldn't fold at the end in Pittsburgh.

But in freeze-frame clarity, Ben Roethlisberger once again picked apart a secondary missing Jimmy Smith and led to Chris Boswell's winning 45-yard field goal with 42 seconds remaining.

"This one hurt when you lose to them in the same way we did last year," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "This one sucks. But we have got to get over it."

The Ravens put up a season-high 413 yards of total offense and scored on six of seven drives to take a 38-29 lead with 6 minutes, 44 seconds left. But Baltimore allowed a franchise-worst 506 yards passing to Roethlisberger, who completed a 34-yard pass to Antonio Brown to set up the winning field goal.

"It's tough to even put it in words, given the game went like that," safety Eric Weddle said. "I'm just frustrated to say the least. Disappointed. If you told me the offense would've put up 38 points against them, I would say 100 percent we would've won."

Baltimore (7-6) still holds the No. 6 and final playoff spot in the AFC over the Buffalo Bills (7-6) because of a better record against common opponents. The Ravens are expected to win out against the Cleveland Browns (0-13), Indianapolis Colts (3-10) and Cincinnati Bengals (5-8) and reach the postseason for the first time since 2014.

But there will be an asterisk on the Ravens because a majority of their wins came against backup quarterbacks (EJ Manuel, Matt Moore, Brett Hundley and Tom Savage) and a rookie (DeShone Kizer). By not finishing off Pittsburgh (11-2), the Ravens fell to 2-14 all-time against 10-win teams in the regular season, including 0-7 against teams with 10-plus wins and two or fewer losses.

The Ravens will kick themselves for too many mistakes, from Joe Flacco's awful interception on the first drive to Terrell Suggs' dropped interception to the inability to tackle Steelers kickoff returner Martavis Bryant for a safety. As a result, Baltimore had to watch its biggest rival celebrate winning the AFC North for the second straight year.

Baltimore came seconds from delivering its statement game of the season. Now, the Ravens will have a question mark hanging over their heads the rest of the way.