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The NFL finally put a bow on Week 12 as the Pittsburgh Steelers remained undefeated by fending off the short-handed Ravens on Wednesday afternoon at Heinz Field. Initially scheduled for Thanksgiving night, this divisional clash was postponed three times amidst a Covid-19 outbreak inside the Ravens’ facility. At first, the game was pushed until Sunday, then moved to Tuesday, and finally, as a last resort, moved to Wednesday. The afternoon time slot was allocated to accommodate NBC's primetime coverage of the lighting of the Rockefeller Tree in New York City.
Pittsburgh entered the matchup as heavy favorites on their home field, going off at many sportsbooks as 10.5-point chalk. The Steelers were missing running back James Conner and center Maurkice Pouncey, with both being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but that paled in comparison to Baltimore’s inactive list.
Missing in Action
More than 20 Ravens missed the game with COVID-19 designations, including Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Mark Andrews, Willie Snead, and Matthew Judon. In the end, Pittsburgh held off an upset bid of improbable proportions to win, but not cover, 19-14. They remain the only unbeaten team in the NFL, holding a one-game edge on the Chiefs for the top seed in the AFC and the lone bye in the playoffs, but head coach Mike Tomlin was less than thrilled with his team’s performance.
"It was really junior varsity, to be quite honest with you," Tomlin said after the game. "It was in all three phases. We couldn't run the ball effectively when we needed to. We dropped too many significant passes, very catchable, makeable passes. We didn't make significant plays in the special-teams game. Our kickoff coverage unit wasn't good enough. We turned the ball over. We gave up big plays in critical moments on defense. Can't have it."
Steelers’ wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, who scored Pittsburgh’s only offensive touchdown, agreed with his coach.
"We played like the JV," Smith-Schuster said. "You know, we played down to their level. They came out with a JV squad, and we were playing JV, and we didn't come out and execute and play the way we wanted to play. And as you could see, it was a close game, which shouldn't have happened."
A for Effort
Without the reigning NFL MVP under center, the Ravens turned to Robert Griffin III at quarterback. The former Heisman Trophy winner and second overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft was shaky before being removed in the fourth quarter due to injury. It looked like the game would be a disaster early on as the Ravens went three and out on their first possession, fumbled on the first play of their second, and Griffin threw a pick six on the third.
To their credit, they kept fighting, but didn’t have enough in the end, facing more adversity than any other team this year.
"I just feel like the league did their best. We did our best," Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh said. "We didn't bat 1.000. Nobody did. The league didn't. Nobody did. You can't bat 1.000 against this thing. But I think our response, in terms of our effort, was a perfect effort."