The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens both knew this game was going to be physical and drawn out, driven by defense, not like the Monday Night Football game from last year when "Big" Ben Roethlisberger threw for five touchdowns to blow out the Ravens, 35-7.
However, that was not the case at the outset, as the Ravens came into Heinz Field to send a message that was received by the Philadelphia defense a week ago. The game turned into an evenly matched battle that took overtime to decide, but the home team prevailed behind a Josh Reed field goal in a 23-20 Steelers victory Monday.
Led by rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, a former Pitt Panther who already was familiar with Heinz Field, the Ravens entered the game sporting a 2-0 record that placed them atop the AFC North.
Flacco, who had not thrown a touchdown yet this season, came out shaky, fumbling the first snap of the game leading to a three-and-out that gave the Steelers ample field position.
The Ravens defense was fired up and looked to take advantage of the Steelers' weak offensive line that was exploited last Sunday, racking up three sacks in the first half and leading to a first-possession field goal for the Steelers.
The Steel Curtain of the '70s seemed to be alive with the Pittsburgh defense tonight as the Ravens went to another three-and-out, leading to another punt. However, the Steelers were not able to capitalize on the field position after Roethlisberger threw a mistaken pump fake for an interception to the rookie Halofi Ngata that led to a Baltimore field goal.
The Steelers went a three-and-out, which seemed to be the trend for the team who only managed 67 first-half total yards, that led to another Stover field goal making the score 6-3.
The Steelers were forced to punt again, and the Ravens finally capitalized driving 44 yards for Joe Flacco's first touchdown pass of his pro career, giving the Ravens a 10-point lead and silencing the Terrible Towels of the Steel City.
Halftime came not a second too fast for Pittsburgh, as it needed time to adjust its struggling offense, which hadn't put up a touchdown in eight quarters.
That change was not seen for a while after both teams suffered multiple consecutive three-and-outs leading up to the turning point of the game, where Flacco's rookie image came out. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley credited with the sack and Harrison for the forced fumble, leading to a seven-yard fumble return for a touchdown for Woodley that lifted the Steeler spirits, and the score to just a 13-10 deficit.
Fifteen seconds later, after another Baltimore punt and a costly penalty, Roethlisberger hooked up with Santonio Holmes for the go ahead score to make it 17-13.
Reed came back with another field goal on 4th-and-goal from the 1, and the game seemed to be in the Steelers' control.
Flacco and the Ravens drove down field to end in a LeRon McClain touchdown to tie the score and send the game into overtime.
The Steelers defense came alive and ended the Ravens' hopes for victory by sacking Joe Flacco for the fifth time in the game to lead to a Jeff Reed OT field goal to put the game away.
The Steelers offense struggled in the first half, but made adjustments, running a no-huddle, and mixing up the play-calling a bit more. If the Steelers want to continue success throughout the season, the offensive line will have to step up and Roethlisberger will have to make quicker decisions with the ball.
The defense has continued to play phenomenal and smashmouth, but it alone can't win every game. The offense will have to make major improvements, especially with Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall out for at least another week.