By Teresa Varley
The Steelers lost their third consecutive game, falling to the Baltimore Ravens 20-17 in overtime at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Steelers were down 14-7 at halftime, but battled back to take a 17-14 lead late in the game. The Ravens tied it, and then won with a field goal in overtime.
"We didn't get the job done, we came up short," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "We accept responsibility for that. We will not go gently. We are going to unleash hell here in December because we have to. We will not go into a shell. We are going to go into attack mode because that is what is required.
"We came up short tonight in a tough environment versus a good football team. They made the plays necessary to win and we came up just short."
Dennis Dixon got his first career start and turned in a strong performance, playing for Ben Roethlisberger who was sidelined because of a concussion suffered against the Chiefs. Dixon threw the first touchdown pass of his career and also ran for one.
"I was proud of him," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "He stood all the way to the end. He played his tail off. He should walk around with his head held high. He gave us his best. Hats off to Dennis. He is going to continue to grow and be a great one."
The Steelers came out of the blocks running the ball with Rashard Mendenhall going off right guard for six yards. But that would be it for the opening drive. Mendenhall was hit in the backfield on the next play for a one-yard loss, setting up third-and-four. Dixon's first pass of the game was tipped by Dwan Edwards, falling incomplete and forcing a punt.
The defense keyed in on Ray Rice right off the bat, with Casey Hampton stopping him for just a one-yard gain and Lawrence Timmons bringing him down after a two-yard reception. But on third-and-seven Flacco hit Kelley Washington for a 15-yard gain to the Ravens' 45-yard line to move the chains. Flacco continued with his hot hand, finding Mark Clayton for a 20-yard gain and going right back to him for 12 yards to the Steelers 23-yard line. Rice broke off left guard for a 19-yard gain to the four-yard line, setting up first-and-goal. William Gay stopped Rice for just a one-yard gain and Ryan Clark hit Willis McGahee at the two-yard line. But on third-and-goal the Ravens struck first with McGahee going up the middle for the two-yard touchdown, for a 7-0 lead.
Dixon got his first completion of the night with a six-yard pass to Hines Ward and Mendenhall added a five-yard gain for the first down. It was Mendenhall again for a five-yard gain, and another two-yard run setting up third-and-three. Dixon scrambled up the middle, avoiding the pressure, for a 31-yard gain to the Ravens' 24-yard line, but it was called back for holding on Justin Hartwig. Mewelde Moore tried to go up the middle on the draw, but the Ravens were right there, knocking him for a two-yard loss.
The Steelers defense responded with a strong stand. Rice was knocked for a one-yard loss, but Flacco came back with a nine-yard completion to Le'Ron McClain. Flacco was pressured on third down, forcing him to overthrow L.J. Smith for a three-and-out.
Things got clicking on offense on the Steelers next drive. Willie Parker came in to give Mendenhall a spell and took it on three straight carries, converting a third-and-one with a two-yard gain. Dixon showed what he can do in the air with an eight-yard completion to Santonio Holmes and a 19-yard completion to Ward to the Ravens' 33-yard line. Dixon tied the game at 7-7 with his first career touchdown pass, hitting Holmes for a 33-yard scoring strike.
After another defensive stop Dixon and the offense went back to work. Mendenhall returned to the backfield, rattling off a seven-yard run and then bursting free for 15 yards. Mendenhall added two short gains and Dixon went to the air for an eight-yard completion to Holmes for the first down. The offense was quickly faced with another third down, but they benefitted from a defensive holding call on Haloti Ngata for the automatic first down. An incompletion and offensive holding call, forced a second-and-20. Dixon hit Mendenhall for a short two-yard gain and on third-and-18 Holmes made a beautiful sideline catch for the first down, only to have it called back by a holding call. Dixon went back to Holmes, but the 12-yard reception was well short of the first down.
Flacco got the Ravens rolling on their next drive when he hit Derrick Mason for 11 yards, and McClain went up the middle for five and Rice off guard for eight yards. A 54-yard completion to Clayton to the Steelers 16-yard put the Ravens in scoring position and they capitalized. Flacco hit Mason for a 10-yard touchdown, going into halftime with a 14-7 lead.
The Ravens got the ball to start the second half, but wouldn't have it for long. After Rice opened the drive with a 16-yard run, the defense came up with a turnover. William Gay hit Clayton after a nine-yard gain, forcing a fumble that Tyrone Carter came up with. Unfortunately the Steelers weren't able to take advantage. Mendenhall was only able to get a yard on two straight carries and Dixon couldn't connect with Heath Miller.
The defense continued to come up with big plays with Rice stopped for no gain and Travis Kirschke sacking Flacco for a five-yard loss to the Ravens' nine-yard line. On third down Kirschke stopped Rice after a six-yard gain, forcing a punt.
Stefan Logan gave the Steelers good field position at midfield after a 14-yard punt return. Mendenhall shook free for a 20-yard gain and Dixon went deep for Mike Wallace in the end zone but they weren't able to connect. Mendenhall added a four-yard gain, but on third down Dixon's pass to Ward was incomplete. Jeff Reed hit a 44-yard field, closing the gap to 14-10.
A fired-up defense came at the Ravens from every angle, bringing their drive to a crashing halt after consecutive sacks by Timmons and Woodley. The back-and-forth continued, though, when Dixon and the offense weren't able to go anywhere on their drive.
After exchanging possessions again the Ravens got the ball, but the defense came up with another key play. Flacco was sacked by Timmons, forcing a fumble, and Brett Keisel jumped on the ball for the recovery at the Steelers' 46-yard line.
This time, the offense took advantage. Mendenhall had three carries for a combined 11 yards and Dixon hit Holmes for 14 yards. Dixon capped it by taking it himself, going down the sideline for a 25-yard touchdown run to take a 17-14 lead.
The Ravens came firing back. Flacco hit Mason for 11 yards and Clayton for another 20 yards. After a one-yard completion to Mason and three-yard loss on a completion to Rice, Flacco hit Mason for 17 yards, but came up short of the first down. They went for it on fourth-and-five, with Flacco connecting with Rice for 44 yards to the 10-yard line. The defense held, keeping the Ravens out of the end zone, and forcing a Billy Cundiff 24-yard field goal to tie the game at 17-17.
The Steelers took over with just 1:45 remaining in the game, but went three-and-out, giving the ball right back to the Ravens.
Flacco hit Rice and Heap each for six yards and a defensive pass interference call gave them the ball on the Steelers 35-yard line. The Ravens were pushed back to the 45-yard line after an offensive pass interference call. Flacco got that back with an 11-yard completion to Clayton, but James Farrior sacked Flacco, forcing a fumble that the Ravens recovered. With no timeouts remaining the Ravens were forced to lineup for a quick field goal and Cundiff's 56-yard attempt came up a few yards short, sending the game into overtime.
The Steelers won the toss in overtime, but weren't able to go anywhere on their first drive. The defense stopped the Ravens on their first drive, forcing a three-and-out.
Defense continued to be the name of the game in overtime when the Ravens Paul Kruger intercepted Dixon, returning it 26 yards to the Steelers 28-yard line.
The Ravens moved the ball to the 11-yard line, where Cundiff hit a 29-yard field goal for the 20-17 win.