By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger became the first Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback to surpass 300 passing yards in three straight games, as he threw for 330 against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday at Heinz Field.
But it was Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco who stole the show with an amazing 13-play, 92-yard touchdown drive in 2:16 to lead Baltimore to a touchdown with eight seconds remaining for a 23-20 victory and regular-season sweep against the Steelers.
The Ravens (6-2) now control their own destiny with the tie-breaker on the Steelers (6-3) in the AFC North. The Steelers visit Cincinnati Sunday at 1 p.m. before an open date Nov. 20.
“They beat us last year at home with like 20 seconds left in the first game against us, so they beat us like that before and we still wound up going to the Super Bowl,” Steelers wideout Mike Wallace said. “There’s a lot of football left to be played.
“We’ve got seven games left, and that’s seven games to get better. That’s how I look at it. We’ve got seven games to get tuned up for where we’re trying to get to. We’re a good football team, and they’re a good football team, so we might see them again.”
>From player to player in the Steelers locker room,
they all said they wouldn’t trade that situation for anything with the defense on the field and the Ravens needing to drive 92 yards to win the game. It wouldn’t have been like that if Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had attempted a 47-yard field goal. Instead, the Steelers got a delay of game penalty and had to punt.
“I accept responsibility for that,” Tomlin said. “There was some hesitation on my part. I was concerned about that distance. We had some changes in personnel with a new holder (new punter Jeremy Kapinos). Under the circumstances, I didn’t want to give them the ball on that short of a field. (So), I sent the group out a little late, and we got the delay of game penalty.”
Tomlin said forcing the Ravens to drive 92 yards was the best option for the Steelers, but that point is really moot now. Flacco completed seven big passes in the drive, including the final one to Smith — the team’s second-round pick this year — to win the game from 26 yards out. Smith made a nice catch over cornerback William Gay, who appeared to get pushed. Safety Ryan Clark was supposed to supply help, but he never got there in time.
“I should have gone over the top a little more, and I wasn’t in the right place,” Clark said. “I was a little bit behind the guy, but I should have been over the top a little better. But it was a good throw by Joe and a great catch by Torrey. And that’s it. They made the plays there, and we didn’t when we needed to.
“For us, it wasn’t about third down, it was the yardage we gave them on first and second down. We gave them manageable third downs. They had a lot of third-and-two and third-and-three situations, and … Joe was very efficient with the ball. They played a very good game offensively.
“Joe threw some very good passes, some that were dropped, but they made the plays that they needed to make and we didn’t,” Clark added. “Period. Point blank. We didn’t cover guys at the back end. I thought the rush was good, got Joe moving around back there, but we just didn’t cover the guys well enough.”
The Steelers sacked Flacco three times, and all three were by the amazing James Harrison, back this week after four weeks off due to surgery to repair a fracture orbital bone. Harrison also had six quarterback hurries, eight solo tackles and a forced fumble. He was the Steelers’ best defensive player by far.
“We made some plays there, and Harrison did a great job putting pressure on Flacco,” Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “But we needed to make more plays, especially in that final drive. The next game is the most important thing for us right now, and we need James to keep it up.
“James is an MVP-type player. He’s huge, and he gives us a lot of energy on defense. You saw that tonight. He played really well, but we expect that from him. I guess we weren’t sure if he’d be on top of his game after missing four games, but he played really well from start to finish tonight.”
But that didn’t get it done for the Steelers, who must bounce back on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals in another division game.
“We usually don’t get too high or too low, but we went through the range of emotions in those final seconds,” Roethlisberger said. “The ultimate high to the ultimate low.”
The Steelers have no time to be down on themselves, because the Bengals are 6-2 and are tied with Baltimore for the AFC North lead.