The Ravens enter the second half of the season two games behind the Steelers in the AFC North and with more questions surrounding Lamar Jackson and the passing attack.
Jackson committed four critical turnovers — two interceptions and two fumbles — that opened the door for Pittsburgh to escape with a 28-24 victory in Week 8.
While the result was disappointing, there is no reason to hit the panic button. The Ravens are 5-2 and still control their destiny for the postseason.
The main challenge moving forward is compensating for the loss of Pro-Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Pittsburgh. The status of starting right guard Tyre Phillips, who also suffered an ankle injury and had to leave the game, is also unknown.
Overall, Jackson completed 13 of 29 pass attempts for 208 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions (63.6 rating) and was sacked four times. He ran for 65 yards on 16 carries.
“We didn’t play well enough to win the game in the end,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I thought we fought hard [and] competed very well. He played hard. He made a lot of plays. The turnovers, obviously, were disappointing. You don’t … That’s the difference in the game in some ways, obviously. And that’s part of it.
“We’re disappointed with that part of it. We’re very happy with other parts of it. I thought he competed, made a lot of great throws and runs and things like that. So, it’s a mixed bag in that sense, but of course we’re not pleased with losing the turnover battle. That’s something that we always want to win.”
It was a typical hard-fought game between the two rivals.
Jackson was under constant pressure and appeared to hold the ball too long in the pocket, which played right into the Steelers’ strength.
There were several bright spots in the game for the Ravens, who face their toughest stretch of the season over the next four weeks
Rookie running back J.K. Dobbins continues to shine and he earned the first 100-yard game of his pro career. The key for Dobbins is that he continues to fight for yards even when he’s in the grasp of a defender.
Fellow running back Gus Edwards also ran hard and finished with 87 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown. Overall, Baltimore ran for 265 yards on 47 carries, which usually leads to a victory.
But in this case, the Ravens could not overcome Jackson’s mistakes.
The Ravens defense also played well and was victimized by a couple of short fields. Still, they managed two more sacks and held Pittsburgh to just 48 yards rushing. Newly acquitted defensive end Yannick Ngakoue appears that he will be a perfect fit and should be even better once he becomes more comfortable with the playbook.
Linebacker Matt Judon was ejected for touching an official in the second quarter. Judon has also been penalized for late hits on quarterbacks this season and needs to do a better job keeping his emotions in check. Judon is playing under the franchise tag this season and his future in Baltimore remains murky.
The Ravens are trying to move past those types of challenges to move past a pair of one-and-done performances in the playoffs over the past two seasons. They still have some work ahead of them, but the sky is certainly not falling.
“I feel we’re in a great spot. We’ve just got to finish,” Jackson said. “Our defense played great. Our offense did good. I’ve just got to … No turnovers [and] we’re winning the game. I feel we’re not peeking ahead. We’re doing great. We’re just going to get in practice, and we’re going to work hard.”