Twelve Ravens thoughts following Week 18 loss to Pittsburgh

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With the Ravens falling a sixth straight time in a 16-13 overtime defeat to Pittsburgh to conclude their 2021 season on Sunday, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. That all-too-familiar sinking feeling arrived with Tyler Huntley’s end-zone interception to open the fourth quarter. Not only was it a poor decision when Rashod Bateman appeared open, but Mark Andrews admitted needing to come back to the ball. Baltimore’s inability to make the critical play down the stretch was maddening. 

2. The defense held Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers to six points and 1-for-9 on third down through the first three quarters, but Wink Martindale’s unit again failed to finish, one of this team’s fatal flaws. On the two touchdown drives, Pittsburgh converted on third-and-9, third-and-6, third-and-7, third-and-9, and fourth-and-8.

3. Roethlisberger and Huntley were both underwhelming through three quarters before one reminded everyone he’s a Hall of Famer and the other looked in over his head in his fourth career start. Huntley’s limitations became apparent the more he played, but he did all you could expect from a still-developing backup.

4. With the Ravens’ playoff hopes on the line, the 33-year-old Jimmy Smith, rookie safety Brandon Stephens, and September practice-squad addition Kevon Seymour were playing corner after Tavon Young and Chris Westry were injured. Even with Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters returning, using a meaningful draft pick at corner is warranted.

5. Latavius Murray’s 150 rushing yards marked Baltimore’s season high with his 49-yard touchdown being the Ravens’ longest run of the season. He and Devonta Freeman did a respectable job at 4.27 yards per carry, but the upside of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards was missed even more than anticipated.

6. Despite becoming the second wide receiver drafted by the Ravens to record a 1,000-yard season, Marquise Brown dropped a touchdown late in the second quarter and couldn’t hold a 21-yard completion broken up by Minkah Fitzpatrick at the end of regulation. Difficult plays, but ones a No. 1 receiver makes.

7. As if the Ravens needed another health concern going into the offseason, Tyus Bowser’s reported Achilles injury left the likes of Pernell McPhee and Jaylon Ferguson to drop into pass coverage, which hurt on a couple occasions. Bowser’s versatility is so valuable at the second level of the defense.

8. I endorse being aggressive on fourth-and-short inside the 50, but the second-quarter fake punt was too predictable and poorly executed. The special teams also let down on Ray-Ray McCloud’s 23-yard punt return to midfield with just over eight minutes to play in regulation. It wasn’t Sam Koch’s best day.

9. You’d never dismiss the joy from beating Pittsburgh, but the Ravens would have seen their playoff hopes dashed anyway with Miami winning. Even if New England won, an Indianapolis loss and Baltimore win would have clinched a berth for Las Vegas, allowing the Raiders to rest starters against the Chargers.

10. Maybe I’ve devoted too much of my life to a baseball club with five postseason appearances since 1983, but averaging a playoff berth every other year for a quarter century shouldn’t be taken for granted. Frustration is warranted, but the Ravens rival anyone not named the Patriots in this millennium.

11. Though it was great seeing Terrell Suggs back at the stadium with the Bane mask and all, Baltimore could have used a younger version of the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year disrupting Roethlisberger. Odafe Oweh definitely flashed promise as a rookie, but the pass rush remains a concern.   

12. The Ravens won’t miss even the diminished Roethlisberger with Pittsburgh winning the last four straight meetings — its longest streak since winning five straight from 2001-03 — but he had flattering things to say about the organization and its fans. The rivalry will continue, but the old Ravens-Steelers guard won’t be matched.

— Ben Roethlisberger after Pittsburgh’s 16-13 overtime win on Sunday