Steelers fall 2 games behind



Steelers' record: 6-4
One year ago: 7-3
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 21-15

In the 10 seasons since the AFC North was formed for the 2002 season, either the Steelers or the Ravens have won the division title eight times. In each of the last two seasons, the Steelers and Ravens have finished with identical 12-4 records, with the games against each other determining playoff seeding, which allowed the Steelers to play their postseason at home in 2010 and sent them on the road in 2011. This season is shaping up the same way.

The early portion of the game was decidedly in the Steelers' favor, but then came a 51-yard punt by Drew Butler that was turned into a 63-yard return for a touchdown by Jacoby Jones, his third return for a touchdown so far this season. It gave the Ravens a 10-7 lead with 3:10 left in the first quarter and turned the game into a typical nip-and-tuck affair.

* First play of the game: Byron Leftwich goes deep down the sideline to Mike Wallace, who was covered man-to-man by Cary Williams. A 42-yard pass interference penalty later, the Steelers had the ball at the Baltimore 38-yard line.

  • Third play of the game: Leftwich, operating out of an empty set, dropped back to pass and finding nobody open immediately drifted to his right. He picked up a good block, turned the corner, broke an arm tackle by Bernard Pollard around the 20-yard line and finished a 31-yard run for a touchdown that gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead less than one minute into the first quarter.
  • First offensive play for the Ravens – when Joe Flacco attempts to go deep, Brett Keisel beats his man and delivers a hard, clean blindside hit on the quarterback. Two plays later, the Ravens punt.
  • After the Wallace fumble, the Steelers defense rose up. Casey Hampton dumped Ray Rice for a 2-yard loss on first down, and then on third down, Larry Foote tackled Rice after a short completion that was short of the sticks. The Ravens settled for a 26-yard field goal to make it 7-3 midway through the first quarter.
  • Justin Tucker missed his second field goal of the season – from 41 yards out – to preserve the 10-7 score early in the second quarter.
  • On the 80-yard drive that ended with a Shaun Suisham field goal that cut the Ravens lead to 13-10, the Steelers rushed six times for 37 yards, with Jonathan Dwyer getting the bulk of the carries.
  • Mike Tomlin risked the Steelers' last timeout of the second half with a challenge on the spot of the ball after a dump-off pass to Jonathan Dwyer early in the fourth quarter. The challenge was successful, and the Steelers got a first down.

* On a 10-yard run for a first down out to the 28-yard line by Jonathan Dwyer, Willie Colon was flagged for holding, and it turned into a 19-yard penalty when the Steelers ended up with the ball at their own 9-yard line.

  • Byron Leftwich completed a 15-yard slant pass to Mike Wallace for an apparent first down, but the ball was stripped out by CB Chris Johnson and recovered by Ed Reed. After Reed's 17-yard return, the Ravens started their second offensive possession at the Steelers 12-yard line.
  • On a third-and-10 from the Ravens' 45-yard line, Ravens OLB Paul Kruger beat RT Mike Adams to the outside to sack Byron Leftwich and force the Steelers to punt.
  • It was a 51-yard punt by Drew Butler, and it turned into a 63-yard return for a touchdown by Jacoby Jones. The only Steelers player who appeared to have a shot at making a tackle was Baron Batch, but he was unable to prevent Jones' third return for a touchdown this season. The Ravens took a 10-7 lead with 3:10 left in the first quarter.
  • Penalties, penalties, penalties. With 11:30 left in the second quarter, the Steelers already had been penalized four times – a holding, a false start, and an illegal block in the back on the offense; and an offside on the defense.
  • The Steelers did not convert any of their first six third-down situations, which meant the game was 25 minutes old and they had yet to convert. They ended the first half 1-for-8 on third downs.
  • The second turnover came with just under 10 minutes left in the third quarter. After converting one third down with a deep ball to Emmanuel Sanders, Byron Leftwich went looking for him again. But this time Sanders was bracketed by the Ravens coverage, and the ball was intercepted by CB Corey Graham.
  • More penalties. On the Ravens' final possession, Larry Foote was flagged for a phantom tripping penalty that got the Ravens out of a hole in their own territory, and then on a third-and-7 an offside call on Brett Keisel nullified a sack by James Harrison.

It was a meaningless game on the final weekend of the 2003 regular season. The Ravens already had clinched the division title, their playoff seeding determined, and the Steelers were on a certain path to a sub-.500 record at either 7-9 or 6-10.

But the Ravens, then coached by Brian Billick, hated the Steelers too much not to go all out in the Baltimore leg of the home-and-home series.

The Ravens wanted to get the single-season NFL rushing record for Jamal Lewis in this game, and Billick wanted to better what at the time was a 3-7 record against the Steelers.

Lewis ended up with 114 yards rushing in that game against the Steelers, but his 2,066 yards on the season was still 40 short of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105, but Billick walked off the field that night with a 4-7 record against the Steelers following a 13-10 overtime win.

Not only did the game needlessly beat up the Ravens in advance of the playoffs – they would lose to Tennessee, 20-17 in the Wild Card Round – but the defeat left the Steelers with a 6-10 record and the 11th overall selection in the 2004 NFL Draft.

Had the Steelers finished with a win over the Ravens and a 7-9 record, their draft position would have been behind Buffalo, which ended up picking 12th overall, and Bills Team President Tom Donahoe definitely would have selected Roethlisberger if given the opportunity.

Since coming into the NFL, Roethlisberger has a 9-4 record as a starter against the Ravens, including 2-0 in the playoffs.

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