You can blame coaching and the mistakes early in the game all you want:  this game was STOLEN from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Defense ended this game like champions. The offense made plays to erase the lead and went ahead in Q4 with their 3rd string, rookie UDFA QB. The Special teams cost the team early, but made plays to force field position and tilt the field in the 2nd half.

They overcame the early mistakes and were on their way to finishing Lamar Jackson and the Ravens with a 20-17 win. Except that’s not the story that was written.

On a day featuring some of the most picayune, garbage officiating in a league now known for bullshit officiating, it was only fitting that the game was essentially decided on a horrendous roughing the passer call, made by a 24-year veteran official considered to be one of the most venerable officials in the game.

Shame! SHAME! SHAME! 

The game started with an array of ticky tack penalties and BS calls, including something I have been saying for 3-4 years now is the absolute worst penalty in the league as currently officiated:  the neutral zone infraction farce or the Nazi F, from now on.  Defensive players have THE ABSOLUTE RIGHT to get back onside, unless they have an unabated path to the QB OR they cause the OL to false start.  Note CAUSE the OL to false start. Pointing at the guy is not being caused to FS. You want a penalty? Snap the ball. The Steelers players TWICE were flagged for this. Once, TJ Watt never even entered the neutral zone. If a guy never goes offside, how can it be a neutral zone infraction? Later, the Steelers defender had already gone back onto the defensive side before a Baltimore player pointed at him which, once again, is not ‘being forced to false start’. I’ve been saying it for years, and I’ll say it again:  this rule must change. It’s completely against the spirit of the rules. 

Now, back to the fiasco that was this game…

Just let the KO go into the EZ every time. It’s a sucker bet. MAYBE if you have a sick speedster like Diontae Spencer back there it’s worth it, but so few teams average a starting field position better than the 25 on returned kicks. Throw in penalties and it’s obvious:  Don’t try too hard to block anyone and let the ball go into the EZ. Don’t even try to catch it unless it stops short of the EZ, or unless you can stand on the sideline and touch it for the penalty.

And an occasional look at that fack jet sweep shovel pass or the wildcat is great. Going to the well even one time too many, let alone about 5 times too many was, dare I say? STUPID.

But.

The Steelers coaches did something they are accused of never doing: they adjusted on both sides of the ball after the 10 minutes of debacle to begin the affair. The defense forced Jackson to remain in the pocket and make accurate throws and, more often than not, he didn’t even try, hilding the ball and running into sacks or negligible gains. The defense also took it to the Ravens, with some old-time rivalry hot sauce. Even if the Steelers earn a top 10 pick, I’d still be glad they got Minkah. That dude is the ingredient missing from this team’s D for oh I don’t know how long. And Devin Bush and Vince Williams both made some great plays, when they weren’t on the sideline for that overpaid, jogging waste of a uniform, Mark Barron. They finally have a competent secondary, a pass rush, and some fine ILB play at times… I don’t fault the D for this game.

The offense emerged, suddenly, with throws to the intermediate part of the field, stayed committed to the run, moved the ball pretty well for a team with backups QBs in the game. Both Mason and Duck showed me something––they proved the stage wasn’t too big and they played smart, brave football.

It’s too bad they weren’t on the field when the game was taken from them.  They played their hearts out, I think the coaches did an amazing job with the circumstances, and they all deserved better. We deserved better.

Sure, Jaylen Samuels could have picked up a first down if he catches a routine short pass and certainly JuJu Smith-Schuster trying to catch up to James Conner in Game-losing fumbles was huge… but, c’mon.  Yes, the early scripted playcalling was bad, Jaylen Samuels probably should have thrown it away, James Washington should have looked for the ball off the snap– there were lots of what-ifs.
 
But make no mistake:  this game was STOLEN from Mason, Duck, the Steelers Defense, the crowd, and all of us.