Ravens' 'bunt' a home run for Steelers

| Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, 9:24 p.m.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and center fielder Andrew McCutchen donned Steelers jerseys and waved Terrible Towels before the game, but that wasn't the only baseball reference to take out of Sunday's 19-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field.

After a 32-yard Justin Tucker field goal cut the Steelers' lead to 13-9 early in the fourth quarter, Ravens coach John Harbaugh called for a “bunt” onside kick — a nifty name for Tucker nudging the ball forward, hopefully quickly and discreetly enough that he or someone else can chase it down.

Hurdle would've been proud, as the Steelers' covered the bunt perfectly. Stevenson Sylvester blasted Tucker. Vince Williams gobbled up the kick.

And the call, gutsy — some might say desperate given the time left and Baltimore's inability to stop the run — as it was, backfired, allowing the Steelers a short field en route to a 38-yard Shaun Suisham field goal.

A try that might never have been possible if the Ravens didn't try to play some small ball.

“Their guy made a great play,” Harbaugh said. “He covered a lot of ground very quickly to get to that ball.”

Tucker said he works with the grounds crew at Baltimore's practice facility in Owings Mills, Md., purposefully destroying perfectly good sod in order to mimic conditions at Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

But with Pitt having played Old Dominion on Saturday night, the Heinz Field turf was more than a few notches below pristine, a muckiness that likely limited Tucker.

“It's tough on this field because the turf is so poor,” Tucker said. “You can't really practice that type of kick on this turf.”

The call was made, Harbaugh said, “to grab another possession.” Of the Steelers' eight drives, four of them included nine or more plays. The average number of plays was 7.4, and Pittsburgh held a 31:01-28:59 advantage in time of possession.

“We were struggling to get possessions and get our offense on the field,” Harbaugh said.

Williams, who finished with three tackles, was the primary pursuer, but several members of the Baltimore kickoff team missed their blocks. There was also an offside call, and the officials ruled the ball did not travel 10 yards.

“We had a guy offsides,” Harbaugh said. “To me, that's the unforgivable part of the whole thing. I don't want to see a guy offsides.”

Nor did he want to see his kicker blasted by Sylvester, whose thunderous hit bloodied Tucker's ear and gave Williams time to cover the bunt, though no throw to first was needed.

“That's a pretty common surprise onside (kick), that bunt-up-the middle kind of play,” Tucker said. “The idea is that the kicker will recover it. ... I love that we're aggressive. And that's the way we're going to continue to be.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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