The Pittsburgh Steelers closed out the 2021 NFL regular season with a 16-13 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
Chris Boswell split the uprights with a 36-yard field goal for the game's decisive score in a defensive struggle.
Justin Tucker connected on a 24-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the first half, and Latavius Murray opened the second with a 46-yard touchdown run to give Baltimore a 10-3 lead.
A Boswell field goal cut Pittsburgh's deficit to four points before Ben Roethlisberger hit Chase Claypool on a six-yard pass to put the Steelers ahead 13-10 with 2:56 remaining in the fourth.
Steelers take the lead with 2:54 to go! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HereWeGo?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HereWeGo</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PITvsBAL?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PITvsBAL</a> on CBS<br>📱: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/BQDAkMu5wi">pic.twitter.com/BQDAkMu5wi</a>
Tucker tied things again from 46 yards, leaving 1:13 on the clock for Roethlisberger to engineer a game-winning drive in what could be his last NFL appearance. The Steelers and Ravens both had an opportunity to register the go-ahead score and neither could in regulation.
Entering Week 18, the Steelers still had a path into the playoffs but needed a loss from the Indianapolis Colts and anything other than a tie in Sunday night's contest between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers.
The Colts held up their end of the bargain as they fell 26-11 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Tyler Huntley, QB, Ravens: 16-of-31, 141 yards, two interceptions; 12 carries, 72 yards
Latavius Murray, RB, Ravens: 16 carries, 150 yards, one touchdown
Mark Andrews, TE, Ravens: eight receptions, 85 yards
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: 30-of-44, 244 yards, one touchdown, one interception
Najee Harris, RB, Steelers: 11 carries, 28 yards; four receptions, 27 yards
Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers: five receptions, 37 yards, one touchdown; three carries, 33 yards
Watt Puts Himself in Good Company
More than following the playoff implications for Baltimore and Pittsburgh, most fans were keeping tabs on this contest to see whether T.J. Watt would break Michael Strahan's single-season sack record. With 21.5 sacks, Watt needed 1.5 to set the new mark.
It looked like the four-time Pro Bowler tied Strahan in the first quarter when he got to Tyler Huntley and forced a fumble.
But he was only credited with a tackle since Huntley appeared to be tucking the ball to run.
There wasn't any doubt when Watt smothered Huntley with 23 seconds left in the first half to get to 22.5.
T.J. Watt ties <a href="https://twitter.com/michaelstrahan?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@michaelstrahan</a>’s single-season sack record! (22.5) <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HereWeGo?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HereWeGo</a><br><br>📺: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PITvsBAL?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PITvsBAL</a> on CBS<br>📱: NFL app <a href="https://t.co/fqMJWJrFAV">pic.twitter.com/fqMJWJrFAV</a>
Thirty minutes and then an overtime period seemed to be more than enough for him to surpass Strahan for good. Instead, getting the record-setting sack proved to be elusive.
While Watt and the Steelers defense was getting the job done, the same couldn't be said of the offense.
Najee Harris suffered an elbow injury early on and didn't return until the 5:34 mark of the third quarter. With more of the onus on Roethlisberger, the results were predictable.
The 39-year-old is a franchise legend and likely a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Steelers' problems extend beyond the quarterback position as well, so heaping all of the team's misfortune on Big Ben would be misguided.
But it was apparent in 2021 that Roethlisberger was no longer making Pittsburgh better. The team could find itself on stronger footing in 2022 with a quarterback change.
Murray Rolls Back the Years
Lamar Jackson missed his fourth straight game because of an ankle injury, which left Huntley as Baltimore's starting quarterback.
Huntley has played reasonably well while spelling Jackson this year, but he couldn't cope with the wet conditions Sunday. He had two interceptions and a fumble.
With the passing game failing to fire, Murray picked a great time to have his first 100-yard outing as a member of the Ravens. He looked like the player who earned a 2015 Pro Bowl trip as a member of the Oakland Raiders.
Next Gen Stats @NextGenStats
Latavius Murray (46-yd rush TD)<br><br>🔹Top Speed: 20.09 MPH<br>🔹Expected Rushing Yards: 5<br>🔹Rushing Yards Over Expected: +41*<br><br>» Most RYOE for a Ravens player this season<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PITvsBAL?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PITvsBAL</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RavensFlock?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RavensFlock</a> <a href="https://t.co/Jst1hYUAYg">pic.twitter.com/Jst1hYUAYg</a>
Huntley was also dangerous on the ground, adding to a solid rushing attack in the season finale. His three turnovers proved costly, though.
The offense also went 3-of-14 on third downs, which underscores how the unit's work on first and second down was making it difficult to keep moving the chains.
A spate of injuries in September set the tone for the Ravens' 2021 campaign. Things didn't get any easier from there, especially on defense. The team would've been in trouble even if Jackson had replicated his 2019 MVP form.
Head coach John Harbaugh and his staff might be looking forward to turning the page to 2022.
The Steelers will be watching Sunday night's game between Las Vegas and Los Angeles to see whether its season will continue.