Steelers need late field goal to escape with win
The Baltimore Ravens dressed up like a competent football team Monday night and put a scare into the Steelers at Heinz Field.
They entered as AFC North bottom-feeders and without star defenders Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but came disguised as the Ravens of old and wreaked havoc for much longer than the crowd of 64,178 people had anticipated.
In the end, the Steelers squeaked by with a 20-19 victory, a margin that was far closer than the pregame double-digit point spread had indicated.
By kickoff, the Steelers were 14-point favorites.
By game's end, they were happy to escape with any type of win, considering it boosted their record to 5-2 and kept them a half-game behind the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (6-2). The Ravens dropped to 2-5 and 3-1/2 games out of first place. The Steelers are 11-0 under Cowher in Monday night home games.
Steelers kicker Jeff Reed hit a 37-yard field goal with 1:36 remaining for his second game-winning kick of the season, both occurring on Monday nights. He also beat the San Diego Chargers in Week 4.
The final scoring drive featured back-to-back completions of 14 and 23 yards by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to Antwaan Randle El and Quincy Morgan to get things started. Verron Haynes followed with a 7-yard run on a draw, then tailback Jerome Bettis did the rest, carrying four consecutive times for 16 yards to set up Reed's winning kick.
The fired-up crowd was relieved, but only briefly. That's because the Ravens took over at their 31 with 1:29 remaining and drove to the Steelers 50 with less than a minute to play. But on third-and-three, Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright was thrown for a 3-yard loss by backup Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel.
"He had running room," Keisel said. "If I hadn't got to him there, he could have taken off."
Keisel's stop made it fourth-and-six from the Ravens' 47. Then, on the final play of the possession, Ravens running back Chester Taylor dropped a pass at the 50, ending Baltimore's hope of an upset in front of a national television audience.
"We knew this was going to be a battle," said Roethlisberger, who finished 18 of 30 for 177 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions,. "The fans and (the media) are the ones (who thought otherwise)."
For the Steelers, the victory not only ended an uncharacteristic two-game losing streak at Heinz Field, but also showcased rookie tight end Heath Miller, who scored both of the Steelers touchdowns and continued to emerge as a bonafide candidate for rookie of the year.
The No. 1 draft choice gave the Steelers a 7-0 lead on the game's first possession with a 4-yard scoring reception, then scored on an 8-yard pass to open the third quarter, pushing the advantage to 17-10.
Miller had seven catches for 38 yards, bumping his totals to 21 for 204 with five touchdowns the past three games. He was wide open in the end zone on both of his touchdowns last night.
"They were good calls by coach Whisenhunt," Miller said of offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.
The Steelers nearly self-destructed midway through the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-10 from their 45, they botched a snap on a punt attempt. Up-man Sean Morey walked up behind long snapper Greg Warren to warn his teammates that the Ravens had two returners back, including the dangerous Deion Sanders, but Warren snapped early and the ball hit Morey's leg.
Morey picked up the loose ball, then threw back to punter Chris Gardocki, who threw incomplete to Morey.
The Ravens took over at the Steelers 45 and turned the miscue into the go-ahead field goal, a 47-yarder by Matt Stover, who was 4 of 5 on the night. The Steelers then responded with the game-winning drive.
Heinz Field was filled with Terrible Towels, a tribute to retired color commentator Myron Cope, and the Steelers used that energy to jump on the Ravens. They went 79 yards in 15 plays to open the game, with the final 4 yards coming on the touchdown grab by Miller, who reversed his motion at the line of scrimmage and found a spot in the end zone.
Roethlisberger, who aggravated a right knee injury that he initially suffered in Week 1, completed seven of eight pass attempts on the opening drive, finding wide receiver Hines Ward four times for 48 yards. The drive lasted 8 minutes, 57 seconds, and the Steelers appeared to be picking up where they left off a week earlier in a 27-13 pounding of the Bengals.
It stood to reason that the Steelers had a chance of putting the game away at that early juncture, given the Ravens were the lowest-scoring team in the NFL (an average of 11.5 points per game) and their offense was being managed by Wright, a career backup.
But the Ravens' offense hardly looked anemic on the ensuing possession. The passing of Wright (4 of 6 on that drive) and the running of beleaguered back Jamal Lewis (3 carries for 22 yards) carried the Ravens to the Steelers 13 before Wright hit running Taylor for a 13-yard touchdown and a 7-7 tie.
A 42-yard field goal by Reed pushed the Steelers ahead, 10-7, early in the second quarter, thanks to a forced fumble by Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend on the previous possession.
The Ravens also added a field goal, a 22-yarder by Stover, to head into halftime tied at 10-10.
After Miller's second touchdown, Stover connected on three field goals to put the Ravens ahead, 19-17, with 3:21 remaining. From there, Roethlisberger, Bettis and Reed put the finishing touches on the win, keeping the Steelers from getting tricked on Halloween night.