The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens last night in a thrilling game that gave the Steelers sole possession of the AFC North. It truly was a battle that lived up to expectations and even more.
Ben Roethlisberger came into Sunday night's game already banged up with a bad foot and left in worse shape with a broken nose. Regardless of the pain he has gone through, Big Ben has found a way to be productive.
As tough as Roethlisberger has proven himself to be, it was the Steeler defense that got the job done. Troy Polamalu forced a Joe Flacco fumble late in the fourth quarter that was picked up and returned 18 yards by LaMarr Woodley deep into Ravens territory.
Pittsburgh's offense took advantage and got into the end zone, which proved to be the game-winning TD.
There are still four games left in the season, but the win allows the Steelers to control their own destiny the rest of the way.
Here are five things to take away from Sunday night's game.
If you thought Flacco had turned a corner this season and become a top quarterback, you may want to think again. Flacco short-armed a ball on a 4th-and-2 with 33 seconds remaining in the game, down just three.
To compare Flacco's throw to basketball, it would be like a basketball player aiming the ball at the hoop instead of just shooting it. That's exactly what Flacco did: He aimed it, clearly not wanting to overthrow the receiver, and softly tossed it, skipping it to Ed Dickson.
Game over, Steelers win. And the questions regarding Flacco's ability to come up big when the pressure is on will continue.
Brett Favre gets praised week in and week out for playing with an assortment of injuries, but now it's time to acknowledge Big Ben for doing the same. As was mentioned earlier, Roethlisberger has a sprained foot and received a broken nose early in the game against Baltimore.
Nevertheless, it didn't stop the Pittsburgh QB from hanging in there and making a big throw on 3rd-and-goal late in the fourth quarter, down by four.
Neither offense had much success throughout the game, but it was Big Ben who came out on top in the end.
Sunday's game was huge because the winner has the inside track on winning the division, meaning a home playoff game is guaranteed, and the possibility of a first-round bye is still there.
As Baltimore came up short, they are going to need the Steelers to lose again—which still doesn't guarantee them the division—and win out, or hope that Pittsburgh falls apart.
The Steelers toughest test left is a home game against the New York Jets, whereas the Ravens still have to go into Houston and New Orleans.
If Baltimore is going to make the Super Bowl, they are most likely going to have to do it on the road as a Wild Card.
With Troy Polamalu back and healthy this season for the Steelers, the defense has regained its identity as the NFL's toughest and most physical. And when the offense struggled last night, it was the defense who came up with the big turnover to give Big Ben and Co. optimum field position to put points on the board.
Last season the Steelers defense squandered many fourth-quarter leads. and this season they've also struggled at times in that department. But last night they played a complete game and came up with big plays when it mattered most.
For the second time this season, Rice was bottled up by the Steeler defense. Rice finished with only 11 touches last night. For the season against the Steelers, Rice has just 17 carries for 52 yards to go with three receptions for 27 yards.
Baltimore's passing game was working early in the game against Pittsburgh, but it became less successful as the game wore on. It seemed the early passing success deterred the Ravens from running the ball as much, which ultimately cost Rice touches.
If these two teams meet again in the playoffs, the Ravens are going to have to find a way to get Rice going.