PITTSBURGH — The Ravens traded haymakers with the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers despite missing numerous key players because of COVID-19.
Baltimore was missing 16 players because of COVID-19 issues, including quarterback and reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews, wide receiver Willie Snead, centers Matt Skura and Par Mekari, outside linebackers Matthew Judon and Pernell McPhee, and defensive linemen Calais Campbell.
Nonetheless, the Ravens fell just short in the 19-14 loss to the Steelers, who allowed 129 hard-fought yards rushing.
"A lot of guys played their butts off today. I'm proud of these guys," left guard Bradley Bozeman said.
Third-string quarterback Trace McSorley entered in the final quarter and threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Brown that pulled the Ravens to within one score with 2:58 remaining. It was the first career touchdown pass for McSorley, who showed poise and also ran for 16 yards on three carries.
“There are no moral victories – we lost the game, and at the end of the day, that’s what counts," McSorley said. "We’ve got to be better, but the fight we have in our team and how we were able to come together throughout this whole week – losing guys, not knowing what was going on – we stuck together, and we kept fighting.
"So, I think that’s just the core of what we have here. We’ve got to eliminate mistakes so that we can win games, that’s the big deal.”
Brown has been inconsistent for most of the season, but he displayed exceptional speed with his long touchdown reception. He caught four of eight targets for 85 yards.
"It showed resilience and heart," Brown said about the team's effort.
There were plenty of other bright spots.
- Undrafted rookie Trystan Colon-Castillo saw his first NFL action and played well at center.
- Long snapper Nick Moore had the daunting task of replacing the veteran Morgan Cox and had no issues with the ball.
- Davontae Harris forced a fumble on Steelers return Ray-Ray McCloud that was recovered by Anthony Levine on the 16. That set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Gus Edwards.
“[I’m] feeling really blessed just to be in this opportunity," Colon-Castillo said. "Obviously, there was a lot of emotion earlier in the week. A lot of unknowns, and we didn’t really understand what was going on, but we knew the game was going to happen at some point, so not just me, but my teammates, were helping me prepare and get ready."
And then there was the defense.
The Ravens front seven played well the entire game and held the Steelers to just 68 yards rushing.
Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser continued his stellar play and managed an interception that swayed the momentum.
Defensive end Derek Wolfe has emerged as a key leader for the defense and finished with four tackles.
Overall, it was an encouraging performance.
The Ravens could be at full strength for the next game against Dallas. Their playoff hopes can be much alive if they play with the same effort moving forward.
“Honestly, we’re disappointed that we didn’t win this game, but we fought," special teams ace Anthony Levine said. "That’s a good football team over there, and we respect them, but they respect us, too. We fought, and we gave them everything that we had. It came down to a couple of plays here and there, but at the end of the day, we fought like Ravens do. We can walk out of here with our heads held high.”