(Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Steelers hit a major speed bump on Sunday with a crucial loss that pushed them from contender to outside of the playoff picture.
The Steelers and their high octane offense entered the game with three successive wins and were becoming a sneaky pick to challenge in the AFC, but a 20-17 loss to Baltimore dimmed their outlook.
Pittsburgh (9-6) fell one game behind the conference’s playoff spot and will need to win their season finale next week against Cleveland, and get a loss from one of the teams they are chasing, to make the post-season.
“We didn’t handle business in our stadium today so we’re left to look around at other stadiums,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters.
“We’re capable of beating anyone, but we’re also capable of losing to anyone. It’s a painful lesson we learned today.”
With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rounding into form during a campaign that has seen him battle through injuries, the Steelers were flying high.
Antonio Brown, the NFL’s leading receiver, has combined with deep threat Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton to create th emost dangerous pass-catching trio in the league.
The combination had allowed Pittsburgh to score at least 30 points in six successive games as they were becoming the team no one would want to face in a potential playoff matchup.
But that all changed with an upset win by the Ravens (5-10), who kept the Steelers off the field and put their post-season plans on hold.
“It’s our own fault, my fault,” Roethlisberger said of his team’s precarious position.
“We’ll just have to watch and hope.”
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury