A look at Steelers 31, Ravens 27 via the magic of the DVR:
THE DRIVE:** The Steelers' game-winning, 10-play, 75-yard drive in 1:09 was highlighted by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's ability to get the ball out of the pocket quickly, use the entire field and distribute the ball based on what was available to him.
The Steelers used four wide receivers (always three at a time). Landry Jones (one catch for 6 yards), Demarcus Ayers (1-9), Eli Rogers (1-20) and Antonio Brown (2-12) all saw the ball on the march. Tight end Jesse James also had three receptions for 28 yards.
Roethlisberger didn't throw the ball over the Ravens' heads, but he and his pass-catchers found holes in zones and worked the ball down the field methodically.
The Ravens rushed five on three of the eight snaps on which a pass was thrown (the ball was spiked twice to stop the clock). But the pressure couldn't get there no matter its configuration because Roethlisberger didn't hang onto it for very long.
There were two exceptions:
First-and-10, Steelers' 36-yard line (1:09 left in regulation) _ Running back Le'Veon Bell picked up blitzing safety Eric Weddle. Roethlisberger stepped up out of a three-step drop and released the ball just in front of linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who was chasing from behind, and just before linebacker Terrell Suggs arrived from the front side. Dumervil got Roethlisberger on the ground but the pass found James for a gain of 16.
Second-and-1, Ravens' 39 (:57) _ Roethlisberger stepped up again in response to pressure off both edges from Dumervil and linebacker Matthew Judon. Guard Ramon Foster, center Maurkice Pouncey and guard David DeCastro cut off any interior penetration and afforded Roethlisberger a lane to step up and then to the right and find Rogers for 20.
The 4-yard game-winner to Brown was the final decisive strike.
"'A.B.' popped open so I wanted to get him the ball quick," Roethlisberger confirmed.
SHUTOUT, SHUT DOWN: Suggs entered having sacked Roethlisberger 15 times previously, the most by any NFL defender, but exited having been credited with zero tackles.
Dumervil finished with one tackle (he also had two of the Ravens' three quarterback hits; Baltimore didn't have a sack).
The ability to contain both was particularly noticeable on significant Steelers' gains:
First-and-10, Ravens' 20, first quarter _ Suggs rushed off the left edge, tried to stunt into the middle and was picked up by DeCastro. Roethlisberger hit tight end Xavier Grimble for a 20-yard touchdown (Dumervil wasn't in the game).
Second-and-5, Steelers' 35, third quarter _ Suggs dropped into coverage over the middle. James handled Weddle's blitz, offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert took care of Dumervil and Roethlisberger hit Rogers for 39.
Second-and-2, Ravens' 7, fourth quarter _ James got a block on Suggs that allowed Bell to beat Suggs to the edge and then turn upfield and into the end zone (Dumervil wasn't in the game).
First-and-goal, Ravens' 7, fourth quarter _ Dumervil came off the left edge and was blocked by Gilbert and then chipped by Bell, a hit that knocked Dumervil into Pouncey and onto the ground. Bell eventually wandered out into the flat, caught a short pass and ran it into the end zone (Suggs wasn't on the field).
Second-and-goal, Ravens' 4, fourth quarter _ Suggs' path to the pocket off the right edge was sealed off by Bell and offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva. The alternative for Suggs was a leaping attempt to block Roethlisberger's pass to Brown. It was unsuccessful and Brown caught the game-winning touchdown (with Dumervil watching from the sideline).
Take a look at the best photos from the Week 16 game against the Ravens. The Steelers defeated the Ravens 31-27.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT:** The Ravens only scored two touchdowns but they registered 22 first downs, possessed the ball for 34:37 and rushed for 122 yards.
It was the first time the Steelers had allowed over 100 yards on the ground since Dallas amassed 127 on Nov. 13.
Tackling was a factor.
The issues surfaced on the Ravens' fifth offensive snap, when free safety Mike Mitchell and cornerback Artie Burns missed tackles after a completion to wide receiver Steve Smith on what could have been a 14- or a 16-yard gain that instead went for 44 yards (plus 15 more after Burns was flagged for unnecessary roughness at the end of the play).
They continued through the end of the game, when linebacker Ryan Shazier missed a tackle after a catch by tight end Dennis Pitta on Baltimore's second-to-last offensive snap.
Three runs were indicative of the Steelers' troubles getting ball-carriers on the ground:
Second-and-1, Ravens' 40, second quarter: Cornerback Stephon Tuitt engaged running back Kenneth Dixon at the Ravens' 49 but Dixon kept churning and wasn't stopped until Mitchell knocked him out of bounds, with Cockrell still hanging on, at the Steelers' 43. Gain of 17.
Second-and-4, Steelers' 26, third quarter. Dixon was hit by defensive tackle Vince Williams at the line of scrimmage but shed McCullers and plowed into Cockrell, who was joined by linebacker Ryan Shazier, Mitchell and strong safety Sean Davis. Dixon still fell forward. Gain of 4.
Third-and-1, Steelers' 10, fourth quarter: Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was met in the hole by Mitchell, who was unblocked, but Juszczyk wouldn't go down until he had stumbled into the end zone. Gain of 10 and a 27-24 lead for the Ravens with 1:18 remaining.
NFL Network analyst Doug Flutie assessed the significance of the Ravens' ability to consistently break tackles and fall forward in the third quarter: "These extra 2, 3 yards make a big difference when it's every run."
THEY SAID IT: "I never thought they would do that, throw the ball short, in the field of play. That is so dangerous because that clock certainly could have run out." _ NFL Network analyst Tony Dungy on the Steelers' game-winning touchdown.
"They did run the ball fairly well at times, made some plays in the run game, but when it comes down to it they rely on Ben Roethlisberger to make plays." _ Flutie on the Steelers.
"To believe in yourself and each other. We've been through a lot this year. Those trials, that adversity has shaped us. We're stronger because of it. We have to put that strength on display." _ Head coach Mike Tomlin to NFL Network sideline reporter Heather Cox just prior to kickoff on his pregame message to the Steelers.