Steelers 20, Ravens 19
The Baltimore Ravens have found many ways to lose games this season -- inefficient offense, self-destructive behavior -- but this one had to be among the most painful. Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed kicked a 37-yard field goal with 1 minute 36 seconds left and that gave the Steelers a 20-19 win in front of 64,178 at Heinz Field on Monday night. Baltimore (2-5) dropped its seventh straight road game and fell into a tie for last place in the AFC North Division.
"They all stink," Baltimore Coach Brian Billick said when asked if this loss was worse than the others. "There are a lot of ways to lose, but what these guys fought through -- I'm just appreciative of the men I have around me. I've been talking about the character of these guys for quite a while and I think you saw it tonight."
It wasn't so long ago that the Ravens-Steelers rivalry was the one that defined the division, a match-up of physical, swaggering teams. But this game didn't have the same luster, mainly because of Baltimore's struggles. The Ravens entered the game with a 2-4 record and had yet to show that they could run the ball effectively or score points.
To make matters worse, Baltimore was missing five starters, most notably linebacker Ray Lewis (thigh) and safety Ed Reed (ankle), the past two NFL defensive players of the year. The Steelers entered the game with a 4-2 record and were coming off of an emotional victory over Cincinnati, their emerging AFC North Division rival.
Baltimore -- an 11-point underdog -- led 19-17 with 3:21 left after Matt Stover converted a 47-yard field goal, his fourth of the game. The Ravens' defense, however, couldn't stop the Steelers down the stretch. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger drove Pittsburgh 60 yards in eight plays, picking up 37 yards right away on passes to Antwaan Randle El and Quincy Morgan, then handing the ball off to big back Jerome Bettis. That set up the game-winner from Reed.
The Ravens regained the ball with 1:29 to play. Anthony Wright completed three passes to move Baltimore to midfield, but he was sacked on third down and his fourth-down pass to Chester Taylor got through the running back's hands.
There were plenty of missed opportunities for the Ravens. Roethlisberger looked erratic at times; he completed 18 of 30 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had one interception and was sacked twice. Pittsburgh's Ricardo Colclough fumbled a kickoff return late in the second quarter that Roderick Green recovered on the Steelers 29, but the Ravens' offense could gain only four yards. Stover's 43-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright.
The offense also committed two turnovers: a second-quarter fumble by running back Jamal Lewis (61 yards on 17 carries) that set up a 42-yard field goal from Reed, and an interception by Wright (25 for 44 for 252 yards) early in the third quarter that led to an eight-yard touchdown catch by Pittsburgh rookie tight end Heath Miller.
The game certainly didn't start off in Baltimore's favor.
Pittsburgh took the opening kickoff and drove 79 yards in 15 plays, finishing with a four-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Miller. The Steelers were remarkably efficient as they marched down the field; Roethlisberger completed 7 of 8 passes for 55 yards, including 3 of 3 on third down. Pittsburgh's offense also got a boost from the Ravens' weekly unnecessary roughness penalty, when linebacker Bart Scott was whistled for a late hit on wide receiver Hines Ward.
Nearly nine minutes had passed by the time the Baltimore offense touched the ball. The Ravens' response was representative of what was to come -- they matched Pittsburgh's score with one of their own. The Ravens put together one of their best scoring drives of the season. Jamal Lewis looked like his old physical self on his first two carries of the game, picking up five yards, then bursting down the left sideline -- stiff-arming safety Chris Hope along the way -- for a 14-yard gain.
But the big play of the nine-play, 73-yard drive was a 31-yard catch by wide receiver Derrick Mason, which put the Ravens on the Pittsburgh 21. Five plays later, Wright connected with Taylor on the right side; Taylor caught the pass at the 10, darted toward the right side of the end zone and then leaped in from three yards out. Stover's extra point tied the score at 7 with 1:54 left in the first quarter.
Taylor's first touchdown of the season was the Ravens' first touchdown since the first quarter of their win over Cleveland on Oct. 16. It also marked the first time this season that Baltimore scored on its opening drive.
But that was the only time the Ravens made it into the end zone. And their inability to complete drives with touchdowns -- instead of field goals -- wound up costing them.
"We scored that last field goal, and me and [tackle] Jonathan Ogden were kind of saying to ourselves, we need a touchdown," Edwin Mulitalo said. "Sure enough, we got up, our only lead of the game, and that wasn't enough. Of course, that falls on us. We did some good things. Whatever we can grab from this loss, we'll take it and try to get better."
Ravens Note: The start time of the Ravens-Steelers game on Nov. 20 has been moved up to 1 p.m. The game was originally scheduled to begin at 4:15 p.m.