Harbaugh's faces questions about future after Ravens 23-16 loss to Steelers

Baltimore falls to 4-5 and faces uphill battle to make playoffs

BALTIMORE -- The Pittsburgh Steelers delivered a gut-punch to the playoff hopes of the Baltimore Ravens, prompting questions about the future of coach John Harbaugh.

Ben Roethlisberger threw a pair of touchdown passes and dove for another score, leading Pittsburgh to a 23-16 victory Sunday.

The loss dropped the Ravens to 4-5 entering their bye. Baltimore likely needs to go 6-1 the rest of the way to earn a spot in the postseason.

There are reports the Ravens might consider sweeping changes this week, but Harbaugh did not appear overly concerned about his status.

“I’ve never been somebody that ever worried about keeping a job,” he said. “It’s always been, for me, dealing with a job. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years. No regrets."

The Steelers won their fourth straight and sit atop the AFC North at 5-2-1.

While the loss was devastating to the Ravens, they do play four of their final seven games at home. Pittsburgh still has tough matchups against the Panthers, Chargers, Patriots, Bengals and Saints.

“Obviously, the Ravens were playing with a lot of resolve,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “It’s great to get an AFC North road victory under those circumstances. We weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I just love the spirit and competitiveness of this group.”

Steelers running back James Conner managed just 19 yards in the first meeting against Baltimore. This time, he had a 25-yard run in the first quarter and finished with 107 yards on 24 carries. Conner also caught a 7-yard touchdown pass.

The Ravens were playing without both starting offensive tackles -- Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and James Hurst (back). Jermaine Eluemunor, who was recently promoted from the practice squad, replaced Stanley, the team's 2016 first-round pick. Rookie third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. took over for Hurst.

As a result, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was hit early and often, and was sacked twice. Flacco completed 22 of 36 passes for 209 yards for a 77.2 passer rating.

When asked whether the team has to make a few changes to create a spark, Flacco replied: “No I don’t. We have a lot of confidence in what we can do as a team.”

After Baltimore managed a 23-yard field goal by Justin Tucker, the Steelers responded with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Conner with 1:03 left in the first quarter. Pittsburgh increased the margin to 14-3 on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown with 7:18 left in the half.

“We got to continue to control our own destiny,” said Brown, who finished with five catches for 42 yards. “Take care of business. We continue to get better. We continue to come to work. That’s our commitment to these guys in the locker room.”

The Steelers pulled farther away with a 15-play, 75-yard drive that took 8:14-minute to open the third quarter. Roethlisberger provided the 20-6 lead with a 1-yard plunge. However, Chris Boswell missed the extra point.

Roethlisberger was 28 of 47 for 270 yards. The Steelers converted 10 of 16 on third-down opportunities.

The Ravens showed some life on the ensuing drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Alex Collins.

Roethlisberger was then injured in the fourth quarter when he was tackled from behind by Za'Darius Smith.

Second-year player Joshua Dobbs entered for one play and completed a 22-yard pass from his own goal line. Roethlisberger came back in the game and threw a 51-yard pass to Jesse James to the Ravens 21. That set up a 29-yard field goal by Boswell that gave Pittsburgh a 23-13 lead.

The Raven had to settle for their third field goal of the game on the ensuing drive and ran out of time to put together an effective drive to tie the game.

Baltimore has lost four of its past five. After the game, several Ravens players tried to deflect questions on Harbaugh’s job security.

"I know he's our leader, and he's going to get brunt of it," safety Eric Weddle said. "This team believes in him. We have his back. It would unfortunate if anything happens, whether it's during the season or after. I don't think that's the right way to go."

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