Ravens edge past Steelers for overtime win
BALTIMORE — A valiant effort Sunday night in Baltimore won't count for anything in the standings.
And following a heartbreaking 20-17 overtime loss to the Ravens in front of an announced crowd of 71,314, the reigning Super Bowl champions find themselves in a fight just to secure a wild-card berth.
The shorthanded Steelers gave their archrivals all they could handle, but their vaunted defense again failed to protect a fourth-quarter lead.
Dennis Dixon's 24-yard touchdown run with just over six minutes left in the game gave the Steelers a three-point lead at M&T Bank Stadium. But the Steelers allowed the Ravens to tie the game late in the fourth quarter and win it in overtime.
Rookie linebacker Paul Kruger intercepted a Dixon pass with just over 10 minutes left in overtime, and returned it to the Steelers' 28-yard line.
Four plays later, Billy Cundiff kicked a game-winning 29-yard field goal.
"It was a designed blitz," Kruger said of his interception. "I was just in the right place at the right time."
"Please don't talk to me about moral victories," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "That would be disrespectful to guys in (the visiting) locker room. We're going to unleash hell."
The good news for the Steelers (6-5) is they should have Ben Roethlisberger back Sunday when they try to snap a three-game losing streak against the visiting Oakland Raiders.
Roethlisberger didn't play last night as a precaution after sustaining a concussion in the Steelers' 27-24 overtime loss in Kansas City on Nov. 22. Tomlin said he is hopeful the exercise-induced headaches which Roethlisberger experienced late last week and caused the Steelers to sit the sixth-year veteran won't be an issue this week.
The Steelers couldn't have asked for much more from Dixon, who made his first NFL start.
Dixon completed 12 of 26 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. He also had the touchdown run that gave the Steelers their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers were not able to run their winning streak against the Ravens to four games because the defense couldn't make a stand at the end of the game and because Dixon finally made a mistake.
"All year we've been allowing teams to put points on the board," outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. "That's what teams are beating us, those last drives."
It didn't take long for the Ravens to show why the oddsmakers made them touchdown-plus favorites after news of Roethlisberger's status surfaced Saturday.
Dixon's first pass of the season nearly got intercepted deep in Steelers territory after defensive end Dwan Edwards batted it into the air.
The Ravens then went right down the field following the first punt of the game.
Flacco completed passes of 15, 20 and 12 yards. A 19-yard run by Ray Rice set up Willis McGahee's 2-yard touchdown run with more than eight minutes left in the first quarter.
Dixon settled down after the Steelers' opening possession and completed six consecutive passes, including a 33-yard touchdown to Santonio Holmes early in the second quarter.
The Steelers were driving later in the quarter, and a highlight-worthy catch by Holmes — he tipped a pass by Dixon to himself on the left sidelines and then stretched for the first down — gave them the ball inside Baltimore's 20-yard line.
A holding call on Mewelde Moore negated the play, and the Steelers were forced to punt.
Daniel Sepulveda pinned Baltimore on its 11-yard line.
Flacco, however, flipped the field when he completed a 54-yard pass to Mark Clayton, who tormented cornerback William Gay in the first half.
Flacco capped a six-play, 89-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason, and the Ravens took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Baltimore continued to go after Gay in the second half, but the first-year starter caused a much-needed turnover when he stripped Clayton after the latter made his fourth catch of the game.
The Steelers recovered the fumble, and later in the quarter they cut the Ravens' lead to four points after a 44-yard field goal by Jeff Reed.
The fierce rivals went back and forth the rest of the way, with the Ravens finally prevailing for the third time in four overtime games against the Steelers.
"We made some big plays, but not enough of them," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "We've got to win out. There's no other ifs, ands or buts."