LOS ANGELES: The Pittsburgh Steelers moved to 11-0 with a jumbled 19-14 victory over a severely-depleted Baltimore squad in a NFL contest that was postponed three times because of a coronavirus outbreak on the Ravens. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 266 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown as the Steelers cobbled together a win over a semblance of the Baltimore roster. The Ravens were missing 17 players who were on their Covid-19 injury list, including reigning NFL MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, both centers and all their tight ends.
Baltimore ended up having to promote 10 players from their practice squad for Wednesday’s game at Heinz Field. The contest was close until Roethlisberger connected with receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Steelers a 19-7 lead.
Roethlisberger said they would take the win but was obviously upset they didn’t win by more than five points and allowed the Ravens challenge late in the final quarter. “I am happy with the win but not happy with the way we played,” said Roethlisberger. “We didn’t play good enough. The hardest thing about this week was the mental aspect. No knowing when the game is and moving it around.”
With a victory, the Steelers effectively eliminated Baltimore from the division race as they fell to 6-5. The game was supposed to be held on US Thanksgiving but was then moved to Sunday. The Ravens’ outbreak worsened prompting another move to Tuesday and then to Wednesday with many questioning why the league was insisting on it being played at all.
Commissioner Roger Goodell defended the decision on Wednesday to hold the game, saying there was no danger of the virus spreading any further. “In the Baltimore case we were concerned with number of positives over last 10 days. By having the delays it allowed us to understand where virus was coming from and that it was in the last stage. We were comfortable the game could be played safely,” Goodell said.
Goodell also said despite the rash of coronavirus outbreaks among the teams that there is no reason to think they can’t finish the pandemic-disrupted season. “We think it is safe to go forward,” he said. “We believe the protocols are working. We continue to see what improvements we can make. Our objective is to finish 256 games safely.”
The game is the first NFL contest played on a Wednesday since the 2012 season opener. The schedule changes means the Ravens game Thursday against Dallas has been moved to next Tuesday. Backup quarterback Robert Griffin started for Jackson against the Steelers and completed seven of 12 passes for 33 yards. Roethlisberger was 36 of 51 with an interception. – AFP