3 Takeaways from Steelers' Week 13 Win
It's difficult to underestimate just how important the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 13 was.
Few NFL rivalries are as heated and as entertaining as the one that exists between the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. It's a rivalry that dates back to when the Ravens were the original Cleveland Browns, and one that has intensified after the move to Baltimore.
Since the AFC North was formed in 2002, either Pittsburgh or Baltimore has won the division 15 of 19 times. Even during a season in which every AFC North squad is at .500 or better, this matchup carries a ton of weight.
On top of beating a hated rival, the Steelers also move back above .500 and back into a tight AFC playoff race. The win puts an end to a 0-2-1 skid and sets up what will be a critical final five weeks.
Here are our three biggest takeaways from Pittsburgh's 20-19 win over Baltimore in Week 13.
Ben Roethlisberger Isn't Done Just Yet
Coming into Sunday, the future of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was one of the biggest storylines surrounding the Steelers. It's been an up-and-down season for the aging star, and it might be his final one.
"Ben Roethlisberger privately has told former teammates and some within the organization that he expects this to be his final season playing quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers," ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote on Saturday.
While the 39-year-old gunslinger may indeed call it quits after the season, he showed on Sunday that he still has a little something left in the tank. Roethlisberger wasn't perfect, but he was effective, especially late, and did enough to stretch out Baltimore's secondary.
Roethlisberger finished 21-of-31 for 236 yards and two touchdowns—both to wideout Diontae Johnson. He also had a few deep passes fall through the hands of his receivers. Big Ben helped orchestrate a thrilling 17-point fourth quarter.
Head coach Mike Tomlin made it clear after the game that Roethlisberger's focus is firmly on the present.
"Ben has been pretty solid in terms of his expressions that he’s singularly focused on what we’re doing now," Tomlin said, per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
While Roethlisberger's future will be a huge topic in the offseason, his play over these final five weeks will be a more relevant one.
Pittsburgh Needs a Better Running Game to Make the Postseason
The Steelers have struggled at times to move the football effectively on the ground. Even with rookie phenom Najee Harris in the fold, the Steelers have averaged a paltry 3.7 yards per carry on the season. Harris, who is averaging 3.6 yards per carry, has often been more effective as a pass-catcher—though he's still on pace for 1,000 rushing yards.
Pittsburgh's ground game came alive late against Baltimore, though. Pittsburgh had just 85 rushing yards on the day but had runs of eight, 13, three, five, eight and minus-two on the final drive. They were mostly interior runs, and mixing in backup Benny Snell helped Pittsburgh pound the Ravens defense up the middle.
That drive accounted for 41 percent 0f Pittsburgh's rushing total.
If the Steelers hope to finish the season strong, they need to see more of what they had on that drive in the ground game. That's easier said than done, of course, as opponents seem to be daring Roethlisberger to beat them through the air. However, it isn't impossible.
The Ravens, it's worth noting, rank second in run defense and sixth in yards per carry allowed. If the Steelers can gash them on the ground with the game on the line, they can find ways to create more running room moving forward.
The Steelers Are Lucky to Walk Away with a Win
A win is a win, and the Steelers shouldn't feel bad about getting one on Sunday. They cannot overlook the fact that they were fortunate, though.
On Pittsburgh's final drive, Roethlisberger threw an interception that was negated by a pass interference call on cornerback Anthony Averett. The Steelers then allowed the Ravens to mount a touchdown drive in under two minutes. Baltimore scored with just 12 seconds remaining but decided to go for two points and the win instead of kicking for overtime.
"It was an opportunity to try to win the game right there," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, per Ryan Mink of the team's official website.
T.J. Watt rushed Lamar Jackson enough that his pass was just a bit too long for tight end Mark Andrews. It was a well-designed play, though, and one that would have beaten Pittsburgh with a more accurate throw.
While Watt deserves credit for rushing the pass, and the Steelers deserve credit for getting the win, this one came by the narrowest of margins. Had one more play gone Baltimore's way, the entire narrative surrounding the Steelers entering Week 14 would be different.
We've become accustomed to seeing close games between the Ravens and the Steelers, and so this one doesn't feel that unusual. Pittsburgh just needs to ensure it isn't relying on a last-second stop next week against the Minnesota Vikings.