STEELERS 31, RAVENS 24
Steelers' record: 13-4
One year ago: Did not qualify for playoffs
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 21-11
Terrell Suggs referred to this matchup as World War III, as Armageddon, and he then declared that the winner of the game "probably" would go on to win Super Bowl XLV. The general sentiment among the national media seemed to be that the Ravens were due to defeat the Steelers, especially in light of the way they had handled the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Wild Card Round.
At halftime, the Steelers trailed by 21-7, and as Coach Mike Tomlin said, "We had kicked our own butts enough." A 14-point lead in a game between these teams is unheard-of, but the Ravens came out in the second half playing as though they were trailing by two touchdowns instead of leading by two touchdowns. James Harrison sacked Joe Flacco on the first play of each of the Ravens' first two offensive series in the second half, and then Ryan Clark first forced a fumble that LaMarr Woodley recovered and then intercepted a pass to set up the offense at the Baltimore 25-yard line. Because of the play of the Steelers defense, the offense had to put together touchdown drives of only 23 and 25 yards to forge a tie before the end of the third quarter.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT I
The Ravens finished with only 126 total net yards of offense, the second-lowest total allowed by the Steelers in the playoffs after the 123 Minnesota managed in Super Bowl IX. The Ravens had 28 yards of offense in the second half.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT II
Jeff Triplette's crew worked the game, and so it should come as no surprise that there were 167 yards in penalties assessed to the two teams. His crew finished tied for the most personal fouls (7) and unsportsmanlike conduct (5) penalties called during the 2010 season. This group averaged the fourth-most penalty yards per game (114.9). There were two personal fouls called in the game, both against the Steelers.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* After the Steelers won the toss and elected to defer, Shaun Suisham's kickoff traveled 73 yards only to be returned by Lardarius Webb for 38 yards to the Ravens 35-yard line. At that point, Suisham tackled Webb, but no whistles blew, and Webb got up and ran for another 14 yards. Coach Mike Tomlin was forced to use a challenge, and the call on the field was reversed and the ball returned to the 35-yard line.
- A post-whistle personal foul on Hines Ward had set up a third-and-12 at the Pittsburgh 18-yard line, but Ben Roethlisberger threw a beautiful deep sideline route to Mike Wallace, over cornerback Chris Carr, for 20 yards. The Steelers went on to complete a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive capped by Rashard Mendenhall's 1-yard run.
- A dump-off pass to Ray Rice turned into an opportunity for the Steelers. Ryan Clark forced the fumble that LaMarr Woodley recovered at the Ravens 23-yard line. Two plays later, a 9-yard Roethlisberger pass to Heath Miller cut the Ravens lead to 21-14 with 9:11 left in the third quarter.
- Clark set up another Steelers touchdown, the one that tied the game at 21-21, with an interception that he returned to the Ravens 25-yard line. On third-and-6 from the 8-yard line, Roethlisberger fired a strike to Hines Ward for the tying touchdown with 1:21 left in the third quarter.
- The turnover parade continued for the Ravens on their very next possession. Joe Flacco fumbled the snap on a second-and-10 from the Baltimore 23-yard line, and Brett Keisel emerged from the pile with the football. That led to the field goal that gave the Steelers a 24-21 lead.
- It was a tie game with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the Steelers were facing a third-and-19 from their own 38-yard line. "In third-and-20 there is no such thing as a primary guy," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "Hopefully somebody down the field was open and he was." The "he" was Antonio Brown, and he caught the ball over CB Lardarius Webb for 58 yards to the Ravens 4-yard line.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* On the Ravens second offensive possession – late in the first quarter – CB Bryant McFadden left the game with a hip injury, which moved Anthony Madison into the role of nickel back. On a third-and-15, Madison was flagged for pass interference, a 33-yard penalty. Ray Rice's 14-yard run on a draw tied the game, 7-7, with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
- On a second-and-10 from their own 10-yard line, Terrell Suggs looped around and was able to record a sack/strip of Ben Roethlisberger, and after the ball laid on the turf for several seconds, Cory Redding picked it up and ran 13 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 Ravens lead with 53 seconds left in the first quarter.
- When Mike Tomlin challenged the Redding touchdown, and it was unsuccessful, that meant the Steelers were out of challenges before the end of the first quarter.
- The Steelers sabotaged their offense with penalties on each of the Ravens first two punts. On the first, Keyaron Fox's holding penalty forced the offense to start at its 10-yard line – a possession that ended with Redding's fumble recovery for a touchdown – and on the second Keenan Lewis' illegal block in the back penalty put the offense at the 4-yard line.
- The poor field position preceded a second Steelers turnover, this one a lost fumble by Mendenhall, and after the Ravens converted a third-and-7 with an 8-yard catch-and-run by Ray Rice to the Pittsburgh 5-yard line, a touchdown pass to Todd Heap made the deficit 21-7 with 5:43 left in the first half.
- The capper to a miserable first half came with 21 seconds left in the second quarter when Shaun Suisham missed a 43-yard field goal, wide to the left.
- When Flozell Adams didn't come out of the locker room for the start of the second half because of an illness, and then when Jonathan Scott was forced out of the game with an injury, the Steelers were left with an offensive line that had Trai Essex at left tackle, Chris Kemoeatu at left guard, Maurkice Pouncey at center, Doug Legursky at right guard and Ramon Foster at right tackle. Scott was able to return midway through the fourth quarter.