By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com The Steelers playoff hopes remain alive after they defeated the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 at Heinz Field. The win improves the team's record to 8-7 and keeps them in the hunt in the battle for a wild card playoff spot.
"Still got a pulse in this thing and we'll continue to control the things we can control, playing winning football, preparing, doing the best we can," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "They did today and made enough plays to win, so we move on to next week and we're hopeful that we'll get the necessary help, but again, we make no excuses or have no explanations. We put ourselves into this position, but I like the way they're dealing with it."
The Steelers got out to an early lead thanks to one of Jeff Reed's three field goals on the day, and secured the win with a Reed fourth quarter field goal.
Santonio Holmes scored on a 24-yard touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall added a four-yard touchdown run.
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley led the defensive charge with 10 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass defensed.
"He's been that kind of guy since he's been here," said Tomlin about Woodley. "His rookie year, he came on late in the year, last year late in the year, playoffs he was playing good football. He's a guy that's on the rise at the appropriate time and that's what makes him a good player."
The Steelers opened up on offense with Roethlisberger hitting Hines Ward for 13 yards and Mendenhall adding carries of three and eight yards to quickly get the Steelers in Ravens territory at the 48-yard line. Roethlisberger went back to Ward for an 11-yard gain to the 37-yard line. Things stalled there, though. Mendenhall was hit for a one-yard loss, and Roethlisberger couldn't connect with Mendenhall and Mike Wallace on consecutive passes, forcing a punt.
The defense came up huge on the next series. Ray Rice was stopped by Woodley for a one-yard gain to the 14-yard line and Joe Flacco couldn't connect with Derrick Mason on second down. On third down Woodley hit Flacco, forcing an errant pass that James Farrior intercepted and returned 18-yards to the eight-yard line.
Mendenhall was stopped for no gain and wasn't able to pull in a pass in the end zone. On third down Roethlisberger's pass to Holmes was incomplete, bringing on Reed for a 26-yard field goal and 3-0 lead.
Ray Rice got the Ravens going with a 16-yard carry to the 43-yard line. James Harrison brought pressure, getting to Flacco and forcing him to throw it away. Rice was stopped for a two-yard gain, but Flacco was able to hit Mason for 11 yards to move the chains. Flacco went deep, hitting Kelley Washington for a 27-yard gain to the 17-yard line. Rice was stopped for a one-yard gain, but went up the middle for seven yards. Flacco wasn't able to hit Demetrius Williams, and Billy Cundiff came on for a 27-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3.
Stefan Logan gave the Steelers great field position with a 49-yard kickoff return to the Ravens 47-yard line. Roethlisberger was sacked for no loss by Kelly Gregg but under pressure on the next play let it fly and Wallace magically pulled in the 12-yard reception. Willie Parker broke free for a 13-yard gain to the 22-yard line. After a two-yard gain by Mendenhall, Roethlisberger was sacked by Haloti Ngata for an eight-yard loss back to the 28-yard line. On third down, Heath Miller hauled in a seven-yard reception, but it wasn't enough for a first down. Reed's 39-yard field goal put the Steelers back on top, leading 6-3.
The defense held strong on the next series, forcing the Ravens to go three-and-out. Sam Hoch's punt went just 21 yards, going out of bounds at the Ravens' 43-yard line.
Roethlisberger got the Steelers in gear when he hit Holmes for 13-yards before he was pushed out of bounds. Mendenhall took it for five yards, but was hit by Ngata after a two-yard gain. Roethlisberger's deep pass to Ward was incomplete, but Chris Carr was called for pass interference, giving the Steelers a first down at the five-yard line. Mendenhall took it in from the four-yard line for the touchdown, extending the Steelers lead to 13-3.
The Ravens came right back. Flacco hit Williams for nine yards and Le'Ron McClain went up the middle for three yards. Rice added four and five yard carries, and on third down rattled off a 10-yard run. Flacco went deep for Todd Heap, hitting him for a 30-yard touchdown to close the gap to 13-10.
Baltimore got the ball back when Mendenhall fumbled and Ray Lewis recovered, but they didn't hold on to hit for long. James Harrison forced a Rice fumble and Ike Taylor recovered giving the Steelers the ball back.
Mendenhall pulled in a four-yard pass and Holmes added another four-yard reception. Wallace made another spectacular catch, reeling in a 26-yard reception to the 39-yard line. Parker went off left end for four yards, but Miller wasn't able to hang on over the middle. On third down Roethlisberger was sacked for a six-yard loss, forcing the Steelers to punt.
The defense responded again, shutting the door on the Ravens next drive when Taylor sacked Flacco for an eight-yard loss.
The Steelers got the ball back at their own six-yard line with two minutes on the clock. Terrell Suggs battled down Roethlisberger's pass and Mewelde Moore was hit for two-yard loss. Roethlisberger then aired it out, hitting Wallace for a 45-yard gain to the 49-yard line. Roethlisberger went to Miller over the middle for a 19-yard gain and hit Ward on the sideline for eight yards. Roethlisberger hit Holmes, who got free and took it in for a 24-yard touchdown for a 20-10 lead.
Jalen Parmele gave the Ravens good field position to start the second half when he returned the kickoff 29 yards to the 36-yard line. Flacco hit Mason for nine yards and McClain got a first down with a two-yard carry. Rice went off left tackle for 15 yards, and added a six and three-yard carry. On third-and-one Rice took it for three yards and a first down. Flacco stayed with Rice, hitting him for a 14-yard reception before being run out of bounds. Rice got them down to the nine-yard line and Flacco hit Heap in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 20-17.
The Ravens got the ball right back when Roethlisberger's pass intended for Santonio Holmes was intercepted by Domonique Foxworth at the Steelers 46-yard line. Foxworth took it back for a touchdown, but Suggs was called for an illegal block in the back, negating the score and bringing the ball back to the 37-yard line. After a four-yard gain by Rice, Flacco hit Mason for nine yards. Rice was held for consecutive one-yard carries and on third down Heap was not able to pull in the touchdown. Cundiff tied the game at 20-20 with a 35-yard field goal.
The offense wasn't able to go anywhere on their next drive with Mendenhall stopped for no gain and Roethlisberger sacked for a seven-yard loss. Roethlisberger hit Miller for nine yards, but it was short of the first down, forcing the punt.
Flacco was sacked by Nick Eason for a 10-yard loss, but a penalty negated the sack. Flacco hit Mason for 15-yards and Rice had a nine-yard carry to the 32-yard line. Willis McGahee went around left end for a touchdown, but a holding call brought it back to the 27-yard line. Flacco went deep for Mason, who was wide open in the end zone but couldn't hold on to the ball. Flacco overthrew Washington in the end zone and a personal foul on the Ravens backed them up to the 36-yard line. Under pressure, Flacco was forced to throw it away on third down to end the drive.
After two incomplete passes to start the drive, Roethlisberger hit Holmes for a 21-yard gain to the 33-yard line. An illegal contact penalty gave the Steelers a first down, but after a short gain by Mendenhall, two incomplete passes brought the drive to an end.
The defense came up with another big stop, putting the Steelers offense back in control. Mendenhall rattled off a nine-yard run and Tyler Grisham made his first career reception with a 14-yard grab. Roethlisberger went to Holmes for 24 yards down the left sideline to the 19-yard line. A penalty pushed them back to the 24-yard line, and they didn't go any further, bringing on Reed for a 38-yard field goal to go up 23-20.
A 48-yard kickoff return by Parmele gave the Ravens the ball at the Steelers 49-yard line. Rice took it for three yards and Flacco hit Mason for eight yards to the 38-yard line. McClain had a one-yard gain and Rice a two-yard run before Flacco was sacked by Woodley for a three-yard loss. The Ravens went for it on fourth down and the defense stepped up with Woodley sacking Flacco and forcing a fumble, which Hood recovered to secure the win.
Notes: For the first time in team history the Steelers have a 4,000-yard passer (Ben Roethlisberger), a 1,000-yard rusher (Rashard Mendenhall) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes). It is also the first time in team history the Steelers have a 4,000-yard passer (Roethlisberger).