By Teresa Varley
The Steelers struggled in the first half, but came back strong in the second half to pull out a 23-20 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field to improve their record to 3-1 thanks to a Jeff Reed field goal.
Down 13-3 at the half the Steelers battled back in the third quarter. Ben Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes for a 38-yard touchdown and LaMarr Woodley recovered a fumble and returned it seven yards for a touchdown to take a 17-13 lead. Reed hit a 19-yard field to extend the lead to 20-13, but the Ravens came back with a two-yard touchdown run by LeRon McClain to tie the score at 20-20 and send it to overtime.
It was then up to Reed who had no problem hitting a 46-yard field goal to give the Steelers the win.
"What a tough, hard-fought battle tonight, one that we were fortunate to come out on top of," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "We had a lot of guys put forth outstanding effort and this team hung together. We are not perfect, but we are together. It culminated in a win for us. In all three phases guys stepped up and made plays; when one phase was struggling another phase stepped up. That was how the game unfolded. We were lucky enough to get a win."
It was a rough night for the black and gold on the injury front. Rashard Mendenhall, who started for the injured Willie Parker, had his night cut short when he left the field in the third quarter with a fractured shoulder and is out for the season. Mendenhall finished the night with just nine carries for 30 yards and one reception for six yards.
Carey Davis took over for Mendenhall, but he too went to the locker room late in the game with an ankle injury. Guard Kendall Simmons also is out for the season after suffering an Achilles injury.
"That is football; what we will do is put some men out there and the standard of expectation will not change," said Tomlin. "We have to go to Jacksonville and we have a short week; such is life in the National Football League."
While injuries created disappointment after the game, the atmosphere at Heinz Field pre-game was perfect as an array of Steelers alumni were on hand to get the crowd going and Terrible Towels turned Heinz Field into a sea of gold.
Lawrence Timmons came out and made a monster hit on Yamon Figurs on the opening kickoff, but the crowd was silenced when fellow linebacker Andre Frazier suffered a spine injury on the play and had to be taken off the field on a cart.
After a long stop in the action a fired up defense got to work. Joe Flacco faced immediate pressure and fumbled on the first play but recovered for no gain. Willis McGahee was stopped for a one-yard loss and it was three-and-out when Flacco's pass to Derrick Mason was short.
Mendenhall was stopped up the middle for no gain on the Steelers first offensive play. Roethlisberger dumped it off to Heath Miller for a two-yard gain, setting up a tough third-and-eight. Roethlisberger came through when he hit Santonio Holmes for a key 19-yard gain.
Things continued to roll for the offense with Mendenhall going up the middle for an eight-yard gain and Roethlisberger finding Nate Washington for a 12-yard completion. Mendenhall added a 12-yard carry off left guard and chipped in another five-yard carry. The momentum came to a halt when Roethlisberger was sacked for a six-yard loss at the Ravens 31-yard line. The reliable Jeff Reed came through with a 49-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 3-0 lead.
Special teams continued to have an impact when rookie Patrick Bailey hit Figurs at the 12-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. A swarming Steelers defense came at the Ravens and forced another three-and-out after James Harrison sacked Flacco for a six-yard loss.
But the tide soon turned. Roethlisberger threw an errant pass and it cost the Steelers as nose tackle Haloti Ngata picked it off to give the Ravens the ball at the Steelers 48-yard line.
MaGahee was knocked for a one-yard loss and a holding call pushed it back even further for the Ravens. On second-and-21 Flacco completed his first pass of the game, an 18-yarder to Mason. The Ravens were able to convert on third down when Flacco hit Demetrius Williams for a six-yard gain. Flacco then found Mason for a 14-yard gain to the 17-yard line, but the two couldn't connect in the corner of the end zone. Flacco stayed with Mason, but his third down pass was broken-up by a diving Timmons. Matt Stover tied the game at 3-3 with a 33-yard field goal.
There was nowhere for the offense to go on the ensuing drive. Mendenhall managed a two-yard gain, but Roethlisberger had to throw it away under pressure. Roethlisberger went over the middle to Miller on third down, but Chris McAlister broke-up the pass to force a punt.
An unnecessary roughness call on the punt against Brendan Ayanbadejo pushed the Ravens back to their own 18-yard line to start the drive, but it didn't take them long to get out of the jam. On third-and-nine Flacco aired it out for MaGahee for a 15-yard gain to the 34-yard line. Flacco looked deep again, but Troy Polamalu came out of nowhere to break up a pass to a wide-open Mason. The defense tightened things up and knocked MaGahee for a one-yard loss and pressured Flacco on the next play, forcing an incompletion to Williams and a punt.
The Steelers took over deep in their own territory at the eight-yard line and were never able to get out of the hole. Mendenhall had two carries that netted only two yards and then Roethlisberger somehow avoided the pressure for a completion to Holmes, but it came up short of the first down.
With great field position at the 50-yard line the Ravens went to work. MaGahee rattled off four carries for 26 yards and added a five-yard reception. Mason added a six-yard reception and McGahee came back for a six-yard carry, setting up Stover for his second field goal of the game to give the Ravens a 6-3 lead.
Things got rough for the Steelers on the next drive. Roethlisberger was sacked for a seven-yard loss by Suggs on first down and on third down Bart Scott sacked him for a 10-yard loss, forcing a fumble that Willie Colon recovered.
A short 35-yard punt by Mitch Berger gave the Ravens a golden opportunity at the Steelers 44-yard line. Flacco completed a 13-yarder to Mason and MaGahee had a one-yard run, but was injured on the play and taken to the locker room. Flacco hit McClain who broke through the defense for a 25-yard gain to the three-yard line. An illegal formation call on the Ravens backed the ball up to eight-yard line, where Flacco threw incomplete to Mark Clayton. LaMarr Woodley and Marshal Yanda were called for offsetting unnecessary roughness calls, and then Woodley was hit with a neutral zone infraction, giving the Ravens the ball at the four-yard line. Flacco found Daniel Wilcox in the corner of the end zone for a four-yard touchdown, sending the Ravens into halftime up 13-3.
The Steelers got the ball to start the second half and the offense continued to struggle. Mendenhall had a three-yard gain, followed by a six-yard completion to Miller. On third-and-one Roethlisberger completed a short pass to Davis, who fumbled the ball out of bounds, for a one-yard loss and ending the drive.
The defense bent on the next drive when a slew of defenders could not bring down Mason after a short completion and he was able to reverse direction and eventually ran out of bounds after a 26-yard completion. But they didn't break as they held off the Ravens and forced a punt.
An injury-depleted offense went to work without Mendenhall and it looked like things might get going. Roethlisberger hit Ward for an eight-yard gain and then Davis rattled off an eight-yard carry. But it would stall fast. Davis was knocked for a one-yard loss and then stopped for no gain. On third down Roethlisberger was able to avoid the pressure, but threw incomplete to Holmes and another drive came to a quick end.
A strong stand by the defense put the ball right back in the Steelers hands and this time they would not be denied. Washington went around left end for eight yards and a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty against Jarret Johnson gave them a first down at the Ravens 44-yard line. Roethlisberger aired it out to Holmes, who walked into the end zone for the 38-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 13-10.
The momentum continued to swing in the Steelers favor when Harrison sacked Flacco and forced a fumble, which Woodley recovered and got up and ran it into the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown to put the Steelers up 17-13.
A revitalized defense continued to bring the heat, shutting down another Ravens drive when Woodley sacked Flacco for a 15-yard loss.
The Steelers worked their way down toward the goal line when Roethlisberger hit a wide open Ward for a 49-yard gain to the 10-yard line. Davis had a two-yard carry, but came out of the game and was taken into the locker room with a left ankle injury. The Steelers were unable to punch it in the end zone, but extended Reed extended the lead to 20-13 with a 19-yard field goal.
It didn't take long for the lead to evaporate. The Ravens moved down the field and Flacco put them in scoring position with a 35-yard completion to Mason at the five-yard line. McClain took it in from the two-yard line to tie the game at 20-20 and eventually send it into overtime.