For the Ravens' quarterbacks, Wednesday's assignment was extremely difficult.
Robert Griffin III made just his second NFL start since 2016 after a week that was seriously interrupted by the Ravens' COVID-19 situation. Trace McSorley, who finished the game after Griffin pulled a hamstring, saw his first regular-season action at quarterback against the league's No. 1 defense.
Both Griffin and McSorley had some struggles, but they also had their moments. McSorley will never forget his first NFL touchdown pass that went for 70 yards to Marquise "Hollywood" Brown.
However, the Ravens' bid to defeat their archrivals without Lamar Jackson (Reserve/COVID-19) fell short, as the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers hung on for a 19-14 victory.
Griffin was disappointed that he couldn't deliver a victory during his rare chance to start.
"We felt like we had a chance to come in here and win, shock the world and do something special. I put that on myself," Griffin said. "I felt like I let the team down. I pulled my hamstring in the second quarter. I felt if I hadn't done that, then we would've won this game. I didn't want to quit on my teammates."
Griffin (7-for-12, 33 yards, 68 yards rushing), made his biggest play with his legs on a 39-yard run during the final drive of the first half. It was his longest run since his rookie season with Washington in 2012.
He has always been a dynamic runner, and using Griffin's legs was clearly part of Baltimore's game plan. But three plays after his long run, Griffin pulled his hamstring while escaping the pocket on a 4-yard scramble. He was in obvious pain, but he remained in the game until the fourth quarter when he was relieved by McSorley.
Griffin got off to a rocky start in the first quarter, fumbling a handoff exchange with Gus Edwards, then throwing a pick-six to Joe Haden for Pittsburgh's first touchdown. But Griffin kept his poise and eventually settled down.
"I thought Robert played really hard, really fought, made some plays for us," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He had a hamstring, he was fighting through it the whole game."
Griffin said it was too early to tell about his status for the Ravens' next game scheduled for Dec. 8 against the Dallas Cowboys. If Jackson has to sit out the minimum of 10 days on the COVID-19 list, he would be eligible to return.
"It sucks a lot to have that happen," Griffin said. "My number was called and I was out there doing a decent job. Had some splash plays and then that happened. I don't know if it will linger."
Neither Griffin nor McSorley (2-for 6, 77 yards) got as many practice reps as they wanted this week, with the Ravens' preparation severely interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak. But the best backup quarterbacks keep themselves ready to play under any circumstances, and in perhaps the most unusual situation he will ever face, McSorley was not flustered.
"I thought Trace came in and played well," Harbaugh said. "It was great to see Trace come in and play well and gain some good experience."
McSorley's accurate pass to Brown allowed him to make something happen once he made the catch. The second-year quarterback from Penn State also showed his mobility, moving the chains on a fourth down with a 6-yard run.
McSorley credited Quarterbacks Coach James Urban for keeping the backup quarterbacks ready for emergency situations like Wednesday's. But while McSorley was thrilled to play, he wished he could have celebrated a victory.
"It's been a long few years of just working every day and trying to stay ready," McSorley said. "Coach Urban does a great job with guys like me and 'Snoop' [Tyler Huntley] – we stay active, and we're working all the time. So, he does a really great job of keeping us ready and making sure we're working to the standard that he expects out of the quarterbacks, and really, out of our offense. So, it worked out, and I was happy that it was able to kind of come to fruition.
"Tough situation, but I wish we were able to win the game, and it would have been a great story. We were just handling the ups and downs and being ready for whatever came."