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The Breakdown: Brown's Five Thoughts on Steelers Loss

CB Arthur Maulet
CB Arthur Maulet

The Ravens wanted to close the regular season with a victory, but what lies ahead is far more important.

Resting some key players against the archrival Steelers after clinching the No. 1 seed and the AFC North the week before, the Ravens dropped a 17-10 decision in rainy, windy conditions at M&T Bank Stadium. Finishing the season at 13-4, the Ravens look forward to the postseason as the team to beat in the AFC, as the No. 1 seed with a first-round bye.

Here are my five thoughts on a Saturday game that ended a special regular season for Baltimore:

In This Situation, Losing to the Steelers Doesn't Have the Usual Sting

The Ravens never like losing to the Steelers (10-7), especially twice in the same season. However, the Steelers had much more at stake in their battle to make the playoffs and prevailed by the same score that they beat the Ravens by in Week 5.

With all their regular season goals accomplished and the playoffs to look forward to, the Ravens won't dwell on this defeat. The AFC North was a monster this year, and the Ravens won it going away. How good is this division? If the Bengals beat the Browns on Sunday, it would be the first time that all four teams in the same division finish with a winning record since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.

It took a special team to win the AFC North this year, and the Ravens were that team, running through a gauntlet of quality opponents in the second half of the season.

Now they can chase something bigger. They're not thinking about the Steelers. They're thinking about winning the Super Bowl.

"We've written a lot of pages in our book that set us up pretty good right now," Patrick Queen said. "We've got a week to prepare to find out who we're going to play. Nobody's hanging their heads. If we see those guys again, we'll be ready."

John Harbaugh Anticipates No Major Injuries From This Game

In a game with no playoff implications, it was paramount to come out of it healthy.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said he believed none of the injuries suffered in this game would impact anyone's availability for the playoffs. Safety Geno Stone (knee), who leads the AFC with seven interceptions, left the game in the second half, as did Brent Urban (concussion) and Del'Shawn Phillips (shoulder) ,[comma] while Odafe Oweh (ankle) was injured in the first half. However, Harbaugh gave a positive update after the game.

"I think it looks we got through OK," Harbaugh said. "Some of them looked a little tough. It looks like we got through okay health-wise," Harbaugh said. "Right now, it looks like we would have all those guys back for the Divisional Game."

That was great news for the Ravens. The Steelers may not have been as fortunate, after star edge rusher T.J. Watt went down with a knee injury. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Watt may not be available in the Wild Card round if the Steelers make it. Pittsburgh needs a loss Sunday by either the Jaguars or Bills to get in the postseason.

After resting safety Kyle Hamilton (knee), wide receiver Zay Flowers (calf), guard Kevin Zeitler (knee/quad), and Marlon Humphrey (calf), the Ravens should be at or near full strength at the start of the playoffs.

Del'Shawn Phillips, Trenton Simpson Take Advantage

This was an opportunity for backups who worked hard all season to be rewarded with reps. Veteran wide receiver Laquon Treadwell made his first catch of the season. Del'Shawn Phillips led the Ravens in tackles (13), filling in for All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith who didn't play. Rookie linebacker Trenton Simpson (four tackles) shot into the backfield in the third quarter for his first sack of the season and made a couple tackles for loss, including one from the 2-yard line to prevent a touchdown.

The Ravens may have the deepest roster in the NFL and it shows in situations like this, when they can rest starters like Lamar Jackson, Smith, Hamilton, Humphrey, Odell Beckham Jr. and still hang with a team fighting to make the playoffs. Simpson didn't get to play regularly in his rookie season, but he can build off this performance moving forward as a young player.

"Proud of him, couldn't be happier for him," Queen said. "Might be faster than me."

Isaiah Likely Is Blowing Up Heading Into the Postseason

Likely caught his fifth touchdown pass in the last six games, continuing to raise his game after taking over as the starting tight end since Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews' ankle injury.

In the box score, Likely will be given credit for a 27-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Huntley. But in reality, it was Likely's athleticism that made the play. He caught Huntley's pass at about the 10-yard line, and two Steelers still had a chance to tackle him. No problem. Likely ran through an attempted tackle by Steelers cornerback Levi Wallace, then Likely used a stiff arm to shed veteran defensive back Patrick Peterson and dove into the end zone.

Likely could be a key X-factor in the playoffs and his prowess in the red zone has been particularly impressive. Flowers and Beckham will get plenty of attention from any defense the Ravens face, and Likely is feasting on one-on-one coverage and gaining confidence by the week.

"My main thing is to be on the same page with Lamar and just make sure we are together," Likely said.

Likely also had a message for those who are concerned about the Ravens getting rusty during their bye week.

"Turn on (next) Sunday and tell us how rusty we'll be," Likely said.

Extra Points

  • Jadeveon Clowney celebrated and pointed to the crowd after his sack that gave him 9.5 for the season, equaling a career high. Clowney confirmed that the sack earned him a contract bonus, reported to be $750,000, but he also wanted to win. "I had incentives in my contract I was chasing," Clowney said. "It didn't matter to us that we didn't need the game. I wanted to win this one." Some of his teammates seemed as happy about Clowney's sack as he was. "He's been talking about it for two weeks," Michael Pierce said.
  • When Pittsburgh led 17-7 in the fourth quarter, it was the first time the Ravens had trailed by more than seven points at any point this season.
  • Sacks by Clowney, Kyle Van Noy and Simpson gave Baltimore 60 sacks for the season, tying the franchise record set in 2006.
  • Twenty-six of the last 32 Ravens-Steelers games have been decided by one score.
  • Baltimore registered four forced fumbles, its most in a game since 2020. The rain was definitely a factor. Ravens running backs Melvin Gordon III and Gus Edwards also put the ball on the ground. Harbaugh said it serves as a reminder in the importance of ball security in winning games.

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