By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Quarterback Joe Flacco led the Baltimore Ravens on a 13-play, 92-yard drive in 2:16 to lead the Baltimore Ravens to a 23-20 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night at Heinz Field.
The Ravens responded in spectacular fashion after the Steelers had taken a 20-16 advantage with 4:59 remaining. Flacco connected with Anquan Boldin for several big passes, but he hit rookie Torrey Smith from 26 yards out to win the game. The touchdown came with eight seconds remaining.
The Steelers go-ahead score actually began on defense.
The Ravens drove from their 20 to the Steelers’ 36 and had a third-and-eight, but James Harrison — who now has 54 career sacks to pass Greg Lloyd into fourth place all-time — sacked Flacco and forced a fumble. William Gay recovered, and the Steelers had the ball on their 42 for their go-ahead touchdown drive.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for 15 yards to change field position, and Jerricho Cotchery caught a 13-yarder two plays later after it was tipped. After a five-yard run by Rashard Mendenhall and an incomplete pass, Roethlisberger fired one to Mike Wallace on a crossing pass in the end zone from 25 yards out. The extra point by Shaun Suisham pushed the lead to four.
It looked like the Steelers would drive for a touchdown to open the second half, but despite three long pass plays to get to get a first down at the Ravens’ 14 offensive coordinator Bruce Arians inexplicably called for a sideways pass that was picked off by Terrell Suggs.
The Ravens took that break and thanks to some big throws by Flacco, along with a couple questionable calls by the referees, drove 71 yards in 12 plays and 6:09 to take a 16-6 advantage with 4:27 left in the third quarter. A key for the Ravens throughout the game was their third-down completion rate, which improved to 10-for-14 during this possession.
The refs called a completed pass to Ed Dickson, despite a challenge from the Steelers, and they called pass-interference by cornerback Ike Taylor that gave the Ravens the ball at the 4. This should have been a no call with both players hand-fighting along the way. Two plays later, Rice scored the touchdown.
The Steelers answered with an 11-play, 80-yard drive in 4:55 that was capped by a Mendenhall touchdown run. Roethlisberger hit Brown for 21, Heath Miller for 30 and 12 to the 14-yard line. On third-and five from the 9, Roethlisberger bolted toward the end zone. He dove in, but his knee was ruled down at the 1. Mendenhall ran it in to cut the Ravens’ lead to 16-13.
The Steelers rallied for a 30-yard Suisham field goal with 1:05 remaining before halftime to tie the Ravens at 6-6, but Billy Cundiff’s third field goal with no time remaining gave the Ravens a 9-6 lead at halftime Sunday night at Heinz Field.
The Ravens benefitted from a 15-yard personal foul on safety Ryan Clark for hit a defenseless receiver, and quarterback Joe Flacco passed for 14 yards to Ray Rice to get to the 33 and set up a 51-yard Cundiff field goal with a second left.
The Steelers got to the 4 on some sharp Ben Roethlisberger passes. He found backup tight end David Johnson for 25 yards and hit Cotchery for 17 to the 7. A lateral pass to Cotchery netted three more yards, but an incomplete pass and sack pushed the ball back to the 12 to force the tying field goal.
The Ravens got a 76-yard touchdown run by Rice on the opening play, eerily similar to the start in the rout against the Steelers in the season-opener, but it was called back on holding by rookie wideout Torrey Smith. The Ravens still drove 75 yards in 14 plays and 6:50, but were stopped three straight times at the 1-yard line and had to settle for Cundiff’s 18-yard field goal.
The Steelers battled back to tie the score at 3-3 about a minute into the second quarter despite two questionable referee calls. After a 15-yard connection with Miller, Roethlisberger found Brown open for 32 yards to the 21. But the Steelers couldn’t get much closer.
On a pass into the end zone, the referees appeared to miss a pass-interference call against Brown. On a pass to Hines Ward ruled a reception, the Ravens challenged and it was overturned. However, Ward dropped the ball after a helmet-to-helmet hit by Ray Lewis. Suisham kicked a 36-yard field goal to tie the score at 3-3 just 55 seconds into the second quarter.
Cundiff also missed from 40 yards into the open end zone and hit a 43-yarder with 9:28 remaining until halftime to take a 6-3 lead. But the Ravens are just missing at the end. They were 7-for-10 on third down to keep the Steelers defense huffing and puffing during double-digit snaps on nearly every series.
The Steelers lost Ward to a stinger and special teams ace Arnaz Battle to a hamstring injury during the first half.
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