After the performance the Ravens' defense put together, you can't fault their fans for expecting one more big stop at the end. The team shut down Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger all day, limiting them to two field goals and coming up with big stops when Pittsburgh threatened more.
At the end of the day, as Ravens' linebacker Ray Lewis pointed out, "Whether you gave up the drive in the first or the fourth quarter, you gave up one drive." One drive was all it took on Sunday, as the Ravens fell to the Steelers, 13-9.
Until then, Baltimore's defense held Roethlisberger in check. Finishing 22-of-40 for 246 yards, Roethlisberger seemed unable to come up with the big play all afternoon, coming up short on third down and often leaving the Ravens with good field position.
Nearing the end of the first quarter, with the game still scoreless, Pittsburgh threatened to put up the contest's first points. Starting at their own 33-yard line, the Steelers maneuvered to the Ravens' 41. On third-and-4, when a first-down conversion would likely put them in position for a Jeff Reed field goal, Roethlisberger dropped back to pass.
Unfortunately for him, someone forgot to block Lewis. The superstar middle linebacker darted through a hole in the Steelers' offensive line and tossed Roethlisberger to the turf for a sack and a loss of 8 yards. Pittsburgh was forced to punt, and thanks to a big return from Jim Leonhard, the Ravens were the ones who scored first, getting a 28-yard field goal from Matt Stover.
Lewis and the Ravens recorded three sacks all told on the 6-foot-5, 241-pound Roethlisberger and forced him to throw the ball away several other times.
"It wasn't like he was running out of the grasps of guys," head coach John Harbaugh pointed out. "It was on three-man rushes where he was able to move around and make some plays, and really, there wasn't much of that. I thought we did a nice job of getting him down."
Up by six heading into the fourth quarter, the Ravens were once again faced with the Steelers entering scoring territory. Still in search of the game's first touchdown, Pittsburgh benefited from their own miscue, as Keyaron Fox recovered a muffed punt from Sam Koch to Santonio Holmes and returned it to the Ravens' 33-yard line.
Baltimore's defense brought up third-and-1 from the 24-yard line, and once again the pressure was on Roethlisberger.
This time, it was Terrell Suggs who chased the Steelers' quarterback out of the pocket and wrapped him up as Roethlisberger rolled right. As Suggs dragged him down, Roethlisberger could not keep control as he attempted a last-ditch pass, seeing the ball pop up in the air only to be recovered by Ravens' reserve lineman Brandon McKinney.
Once again, the Ravens were out of trouble thanks to their ability to get to the stout quarterback.
Suggs came with heavy pressure again on the next Steelers' possession, forcing an errant pass on third-and-7 from the Ravens' 12 which forced Pittsburgh to go for a field goal. The score was 9-6, but the Ravens remained in the lead.
In the end, though, the defense came up one drive short, as the Steelers drove down the field and scored on a controversial play with under a minute to go to secure a 13-9 decision and the AFC North Division championship.
Despite the loss, the Ravens remain in position to take a Wild Card spot in the AFC playoffs. With two critical games remaining, Lewis is refusing to let his team lose sight of that fact.
"Keep going, win, lose or draw," Lewis said. "The season still has two games. Right now, our focus is Dallas. It's the same thing I've always told these guys. 'Buckle it up for 60 minutes, offense, defense and special teams. And at the end of the season we'll see where it is.'
"I'm just excited that we came out and played…You take a loss just like you take a win – strap it up, short week, let's go to Dallas."