Facing a Baltimore Ravens team that endured a tumultuous short work week following a season-opening defeat, Pittsburgh made one mistake after another in a 26-6 loss Thursday night.
The Steelers (1-1) turned the ball over three times, leading to 10 Baltimore points. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger struggled to establish any sustained momentum on offense, and Pittsburgh was penalized nine times for 75 yards.
"I can't accept it. They can't accept it," Tomlin said. "It happened tonight, but we got to make the necessary corrections to move forward and make sure it doesn't happen again. These games are too precious."
Rice was reaching the end of a two-game NFL suspension for domestic violence when a video of him striking his then-fiancee surfaced Monday. By the end of the day, the three-time Pro Bowler had been cut by Baltimore and suspended indefinitely by the league.
But the Ravens proved to be resilient against their AFC North rivals.
Bernard Pierce took over for Rice to gain 96 yards on 22 carries as part of a ground game that finished with 157 yards. Flacco went 21 for 29 for 166 yards and two TD throws to tight end Owen Daniels, and Justin Tucker kicked four field goals.
"We was all about getting the win. We wanted to kind of give that to Ray," rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "We all wish the best for him. Even though he messed up, every man got to go through their mistakes to get better. We wish him the best, but as a team we've just got to keep moving forward."
Pittsburgh finished with only 22 fewer yards than Baltimore, but the turnovers made the difference. One Steelers miscue halted their opening drive, another set up a fourth-quarter field goal by Tucker, and an interception thrown by Roethlisberger with 1:51 remaining ended any hope.
"Obviously, a disappointing effort for us," Tomlin said. "A lot of the self-inflicted wounds are going to prevent you from being in a football game like that. We turned the ball over too often (and) were highly penalized. Those two things are a lethal combination."
It was only the second time in the last 11 regular-season meetings between the teams that the outcome was decided by more than three points.
Roethlisberger completed 22 of 37 passes for 217 yards. It was the first time since Nov. 26, 2006, that Baltimore held Pittsburgh without a touchdown.
"We moved the ball; we just made a mistake here and there," Roethlisberger said.
After Tucker kicked a 23-yard field goal for a 20-6 lead, Steelers tight end Heath Miller fumbled on a hit by Mosley, who took the loose ball to the Pittsburgh 20.
That led to a 22-yarder by Tucker with 11:14 left.
Although the Rice video and the reaction were the talk of Baltimore for much of the week, a few fans showed their loyalty to the banished running back by wearing his No. 27 jersey.
But the crowd of 71,181 was quick to turn its attention to on-field action at the opening kickoff.
Aided by a roughing the passer call against Courtney Upshaw on the third play of the game, Pittsburgh held the ball for more than eight minutes before Justin Brown fumbled and Baltimore recovered at its own 15.
The Ravens then moved 85 yards in 12 plays with the help of two Pittsburgh penalties, the last a 23-yard pass interference call against Cortez Allen that set up a 2-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Daniels.
Pierce and Justin Forsett combined for 32 yards on Baltimore's next series, which ended in a field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Pittsburgh finally broke through with 2:50 left in the half, getting a field goal to end an 11-play, 73-yard march.
It was 10-6 before Flacco connected with Daniels on a 1-yard touchdown pass to cap an 80-yard drive highlighted by Flacco's 24-yard completion to tight end Dennis Pitta.
Notes: Ravens CB Asa Jackson left with a concussion. ... Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown left briefly with a head injury but returned. Steelers NT Steve McLendon left with a shoulder injury. ... Ravens P Sam Koch set the franchise record by playing in his 130th consecutive game.
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