Call it karma.
Two Ravens fans sitting in front of me at Heinz Field were enjoying themselves at halftime Saturday. Baltimore was ahead 21-7 and the Steelers was playing a very sloppy game.
Inexplicably they decided to move a few rows down in the section two sit by a fellow Ravens fan. With everything going in favor of Baltimore you really want to make such a drastic change?
Seventeen points later Pittsburgh claimed a 24-21 lead before finally adding a late touchdown to break a 24-24 tie to move on to their fourth AFC Championship game in the past seven years.
Who knew fans moving from their seats could have such an impact on the game? Okay, well maybe not, but it is fun to think that when you are desperate for something down by 14 points at the half.
Instead it was a Steelers safety not named Troy Polamalu who forced two turnovers. Ryan Clark forced a Ray Rice fumble and intercepted Joe Flacco to set up two scores while a young receiver not named Mike Wallace, but rather rookie Antonio Brown, caught a 58-yard bomb on a third-and-19 to set up the game winning score.
These players along with all-around outstanding defensive play have the Pittsburgh Steelers playing for at least one more week.
On first impression the 24 points allowed by the Steelers is not very impressive. Take a look a little deeper and you will see that Pittsburgh’s defense allowed on 17 of those points, with one touchdown drive going only 16 yards after a Rashard Mendenhall fumble and their lone field goal being set up by a long punt return.
Baltimore’s second drive of the game went 10 plays for 68 yards and a score. From that point on it was all defense for the Steelers. The Ravens only had 77 yards from that point on.
Pittsburgh’s defense held Baltimore to 126 total yards, 91 yards passing and 35 yards rushing. The Ravens only converted five of 12 third down attempts.
The Steelers pass rush flustered Flacco, sacking him five times including three by James Harrison and one each from LaMarr Woodley and Ziggy Hood. He only completed 16 of 30 passes, including only four of 12 in the second half.
Turnovers, however, were the key to giving the Steelers the win. Two fumble recoveries and one interception set up 17 points for Pittsburgh.
While the whole defense played outstanding, Ryan Clark stood out.
Clark was victimized on a Flacco touchdown pass to Todd Heap, but more than made up for it with his play in the second half.
Ray Rice, who virtually never fumbles, was stripped of the football on a screen pass which was recovered by Woodley. This came at a crucial time as the Steelers opening drive of the second half resulted in only seven yards and a punt.
The turnover set up a nine-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller.
Two possessions later Flacco floated a pass down field and Clark came up with the interception and returned it 17 yards to the Baltimore 25-yardline.
Four plays later Pittsburgh tied the game on an eight-yard touchdown reception by Hines Ward.
Clark was not the only veteran to have a big day. Miller and Ward each caught a touchdown and helped move the chains. Of course, Ward’s touchdown was in his classic style, over-the-middle.
On the Steelers final offensive drive, Ward caught a huge pass on a third-and-10 to pick up a first down.
Ike Taylor defended two passes and William Gay stepped in nicely for an injured Bryant McFadden.
As mentioned earlier, Woodley had a fumble recovery as well as a sack.
Pro Bowler Brett Keisel recovered Flacco’s fumbled sack and collapsed the pocket to free up Harrison for one of his three sacks on the day.
Finally, Roethlisberger showed why he is an elite quarterback, driving his team to the go ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
The veteran leadership on the Steelers pulled the team together in the second half so they could overcome a 14-point halftime deficit.
Pittsburgh’s top two receivers, Mike Wallace and Hines Ward, combined for six receptions for 65 yards and one touchdown.
Their rookie receivers, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, had seven receptions for 129 yards.
Didn’t they know that they are rookies and aren’t supposed to shine in a playoff setting? Apparently not. Both here huge in Pittsburgh’s win.
Sanders led the wide receivers with four receptions, but did drop a crucial pass late in the game. To be fair he was roughed up on the play.
The play of the game, maybe even the play of the year, though, came from Brown.
With only 16 receptions on the season, Brown would be one of the last players you’d expect to make a play on third-and-19. Apparently the Ravens didn’t expect it either.
Just about everyone in Heinz Field expected a safe play from the Steelers to set up a punt to get the game to overtime. The Ravens, however, did play it safe with eight deep in zone coverage.
The Ravens defensive back inexplicably allowed Brown to get behind him just as Roethlisberger’s perfect pass came down, landing in Brown’s hands before finally being possessed between one hand and his helmet.
The 58-yard pass set up the eventual game-winning touchdown run by Mendenhall.
It isn’t always pretty, but that is Ben Roethlisberger’s game. Whether it is inside or outside of the pocket, standing tall upright or throwing on the run, or getting sacked or shedding defenders, this quarterback can do it all.
Roethlisberger was under pressure all night from the one man wrecking crew named Terrell Suggs.
Suggs sacked Roethlisberger three times, including a forced fumble that resulted in a Ravens touchdown.
It was not enough.
Roethlisberger got the last laugh leading his team to a fourth AFC Championship game in his seven year career and once again got the best of Baltimore.
To no one’s surprise, Roethlisberger led the Steelers on an 11 play 65-yard touchdown drive with only 1:33 to go to give them a 31-24 lead that they would not relinquish.
Though he was sacked six times and hit on countless more attempts, Roethlisberger completed 19 of 32 for 226 yards and two touchdowns.
He may not have a clutch nickname like “Joe Cool” Flacco, but Ben came up “big” in the clutch once again and delivered for Pittsburgh sending them to yet another AFC Championship game.
- Prior to the game, Brett Keisel was named to his first Pro Bowl.
- Baltimore managed only 126 yards on offense (28 yards in the second half) which was the second-lowest total allowed by Pittsburgh in the playoffs. The lowest was in Super Bowl IX when they held Minnesota to 123 yards.
- The Steelers remain undefeated against division opponents in the playoffs. They are 3-0 against the Ravens.
- Bryant McFadden left the game with a hip injury and Flozell Adams with an illness.
- Pittsburgh will play in New England if the Patriots win or in Pittsburgh if the Jets win the other AFC Divisional playoff game.
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