Steelers rally to beat Ravens, 31-24
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Saturday, January 15, 2011 07:58 PM
Written by Bob Smizik
In a game that had every bit of the ferocity expected from it -- but little of the artistry -- the Steelers rallied from a two-touchdown halftime deficit at Heinz Field today to defeat the Baltimore Ravens, 31-24.
The Steelers advance to the AFC title game where they will play the winner of the matchup tomorrow between New England and the New York Jets. If favored New England wins, the Steelers will go on the road. If the Jets win, the game will be at Heinz Field.
The game was billed as a matchup of teams with similar styles and that might have been true. But the Steelers had the clear edge in the two most important areas:
Defense and quarterback.
The Steelers defense was magnificent, allowing the Ravens an astonishingly low 126 yards. The Ravens got two first-half touchdowns, when they took a 21-7 lead, on Steelers turnovers. They scored only three points in the second half.
At quarterback Ben Roethlisberger again showed why he ranks among the elite of the NFL. Joe Flacco showed why he's still not in that category.
Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a game-winning drive in the final minutes, which was highlighted by a 58-yard pass to Antonio Brown on a third and 19. Rashard Mendenhall eventually scored from the 2 with 93 seconds remaining.
It was the kind of big play Steelers fans have come to expect from Roethlisberger and a superb job by Brown, who got open behind a Ravens' defense that had eight players in pass coverage.
It was the kind of play Flacco could not replicate. With enough time to produce a game-tying touchdown, he threw three incompletions and was sacked to effectively end the game.
Roethlisberger completed 19 of 32 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and a 101.8 passer rating. Flacco completed 16 of 30 for 125 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 61.1 rating.
The second-half comeback allows the Steelers to forget the major mistakes of the first half, which could have cost them the game.
First, there was the ``the fumble that nobody wanted.''
On third and 10, late in the first quarter of a 7-7 game, Roethlisberger, under heavy pressure, threw what just about every player on the field thought was an incomplete pass.
But as the ball lay on the field, at the 13-yard line and at the feet of Steelers guard Ramon Foster, the Ravens Corey Redding scooped it up and ran uncontested into the end zone as most of the players just stood around.
Replays clearly showed that the play was a fumble and not a forward pass.
Dan Dierdorf, the Hall of Fame lineman who was color analyst for CBS on the game, said he was ``mystified'' by the failure of players on both teams to go after the ball.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin challenged the play but was overruled.
The Steelers were not done trying to give the game to the Ravens. Early in the second quarter, Rashard Mendenhall fumbled and the Ravens recovered on the Steelers' 16. Shortly thereafter, the Ravens had a 21-7 lead.
When the Shaun Suisham missed a 43-yard field goal attempt late in the half, the game had the feel of a Steelers defeat.
But Ray Rice fumbled inside the Ravens' 20 early in the second half. The Steelers scored in two plays, the crowd came alive, momentum switched and the Steelers slowly took charge of the game.
If the Steelers have to go to Foxborough to play the Patriots on Sunday, it will be a difficult assisgnment. But they gained momentum from this victory and a knowledge that even the worst of plays can be overcome.