Steelers need overtime to fend off Ravens
By Scott Brown
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
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It may be a stretch to say the Steelers saved their season Monday night, since they've played only four games.
They would have found themselves in an early hole if not for a second-half comeback against the Baltimore Ravens in front of 64,038 fans and a national TV audience. Even more important for the Steelers is what overcoming a 10-point deficit at Heinz Field might do for their confidence.
The Steelers appeared to be teetering on the brink of disaster before a couple of big plays produced touchdowns that loomed large in a 23-20 overtime win over their AFC North rival.
The Steelers (3-1) scored 17 consecutive points in storming back to beat the Ravens (2-1) and reclaim first place in the division. The Ravens scored a late touchdown to tie the score, but a 24-yard catch and run by Mewelde Moore led to Jeff Reed's game-winning, 46-yard field goal in overtime.
It doesn't get any easier for the Steelers. They visit the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday night.
Jacksonville has always given the Steelers a physical game, and the latter team was pretty beat up after they topped the Ravens for the 10th time in 14 games in Pittsburgh.
Guard Kendall Simmons, running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Carey Davis, and linebackers Keyaron Fox and Andre Frazier all left the game with injuries. Numerous others, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, were limping at some point.
The Ravens appeared to be in control before linebacker Jarrett Johnson was called for unnecessary roughness late in the third quarter. That penalty seemed to energize the crowd and appeared to get the Steelers going as well.
Shortly thereafter, Roethlisberger made perhaps the pivotal play of the game by tossing a 38-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes.
That cut what had been a 13-3 halftime deficit to three points.
On the Ravens' next play from scrimmage, LaMarr Woodley returned a Joe Flacco fumble 7 yards for a touchdown. James Harrison caused the turnover with his sack of Flacco, the rookie quarterback who started his collegiate career at Pitt.
The previous time the Ravens visited Heinz Field for a "Monday Night Football" game, Harrison turned the meeting into a springboard to the Pro Bowl. The outside linebacker recorded 3 1/2 sacks, forced three fumbles and intercepted a pass to lead a suffocating Steelers defense.
Harrison was almost as disruptive as he was last November against Baltimore. He went around Ravens offensive tackle Adam Terry for an early sack, and by the second quarter the Ravens were assigning two blockers to fend off his advances.
Roethlisberger couldn't conjure up the same magic as last year, when his five touchdown passes against the Ravens at Heinz Field tied a Steelers' single-game record.
Roethlisberger again had to dodge a heavy rush and it seemed to affect his timing. He completed 5 of 9 passes for 43 yards through the first two quarters and was sacked three times.
He also threw his second interception of the season on a pass that appeared to slip out of his right hand with just over five minutes left in the first quarter. That miscue happened near midfield and set up a Matt Stover field goal, which tied the score, 3-3.
The Steelers' offense continued to sputter, and the Ravens took control of the game with another Stover field goal and a touchdown right before halftime.
The Steelers cut into Baltimore's lead in the third quarter with Roethlisberger's TD pass to Holmes, and Woodley's fumble return for a touchdown allowed them to take a three-point lead into the fourth quarter.
A 49-yard pass play between Roethlisberger and Hines Ward off broken coverage early in the fourth quarter set up a short Reed field goal that pushed the Steelers' lead to 20-13. Flacco, however, coolly led a late touchdown drive that sent the game into overtime.
Roethlisberger and Moore answered with a big pass play on third down early in overtime, setting up Reed's kick.
Scott Brown can be reached at [email="email@example.com"]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email] or 412-481-5432.