PITTSBURGH - There was plenty of blame to go around in the Steelers' lockerroom. Again.
After all, this wasn't the first time Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco had burned the Black & Gold in their own back yard.
Two seasons running, Flacco had authored last-minute touchdown passes for Baltimore victories at Heinz Field.
PITTSBURGH tight end Heath Miller turns up field after making a reception during Sunday’s game at Heinz Field.
Sunday night's performance was close to extraordinary, considering the circumstances.
"We're (secondary) all to blame. But Flacco had something to do with it, too, I'd say," offered safety Ryan Clark. "He's (Flacco) trying to move up there in the company of elite quarterbacks."
The Steelers are certainly aiding and abetting Flacco's ascension. They yielded what many would have thought an unheard-of 92-yard, two-minute drive, not totally unlike Ben Roethlisberger's that beat Arizona to win Super Bowl XLIII.
It's not out of the question, one more sack of Flacco may have been enough to save the Steelers and place them firmly in control of their AFC destiny.
But the 6 ft. 6, 245-pound, 26-year-old who played collegiately at the University of Delaware, was brilliant, directing the game-winning 13-play drive.
Steelers' coach Mike Tomlin offered to take responsibility following some costly indecision which led to the punt that returned possession to Baltimore with 2:24 remaining.
It seemed apparent Tomlin had little faith in his placekicker Shaun Suisham who would have attempted a 46-yard field goal for a potential seven-point lead.
Clark, who charted seven tackles and a pass deflection, was having none of that.
"When I saw (they) were starting from their eight yard line, I was pumped," he said. "At that point, we (defense) controlled our own destiny. No way should we give up that kind of drive...especially not on our home field."
Steelers' center Maurkice Pouncey put his own spin on the proceedings. "We (offense) get one more first down, we're taking a knee and we're (out of here)," he grimaced. "Losses are a two-way street. You can't put the blame on any one area. Normally it's a lot of little things."
Roethlisberger agreed. "There were a bunch of 'what-ifs' in this game," he said. "I thought a big key was they (Ravens) put themselves in good position (to move the sticks). If you look back, most of their third downs were manageable and they converted."
The now 6-3 Steelers spoke confidently a third battle with Baltimore remains realistic. "Hopefully, that's the case. We'd like to play them again," said safety Troy Polamalu.
Ravens' linebacker Terrell Suggs whose third quarter interception of Roethlisberger's short toss intended for Mike Wallace led to another long-distance scoring drive by Flacco, fully expects another rematch in January.
"Yeah, I expect to see them again. Only, they'll be coming back to our house," Suggs smiled.
Half-a-season remains before that possibility, starting Sunday when Pittsburgh suddenly finds itself in a near must-win situation at 6-2 Cincinnati.
"We won't dwell on this loss," Clark stressed. "We need to stay sharp, practice hard, and get ready for another division opponent. That's all the incentive we really need."
THE Steelers aren't back at Heinz Field for a month. Following this Sunday's game at Cincinnati, they have a bye week (Nov. 20) before playing another Sunday night game Thanksgiving weekend at Kansas City.
In early December, Pittsburgh hosts the Bengals (Dec. 4) followed four days later by an NFL Network Thursday night (Dec. 8) matchup with Cleveland....
Gibson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org