Steelers persevere to outlast Ravens
Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 3:27 pm
By: By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers were down by 10 points, and down to their fourth and last running back. Somehow, they found an offense that was missing for most of three quarters and a way to win a game that easily could have been lost.
Jeff Reed kicked a 46-yard field goal in overtime and the Steelers withstood two season-ending injuries to key players and a bad first half to outlast the Ravens 23-20 on Monday night.
Reed’s third field goal — and his seventh career game-winner — ended a back-and-forth game in which the Steelers (3-1) were down 13-3 late in the third quarter, rallied but couldn’t hold a seven-point lead, then won despite being without their top three running backs.
“We lost a lot of guys,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “I was more emotional, more vocal than I’ve ever been at halftime. I screamed at our offense. We were terrible in the first half. Not that we were great in the second half, but we bounced back.”
The Steelers managed to win the game, but lost first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall (fractured left shoulder) and right guard Kendall Simmons (right Achilles) for the season. Both will be placed on injured reserve.
“It is only devastating if you allow it to be,” Tomlin said.
The Ravens (2-1), losing for the seventh time in their last eight games in Pittsburgh and falling out of the AFC North lead, won the important overtime coin toss but were backed up by two penalties and a sack and Sam Koch had to punt out of the endzone.
Then, on third-and-8, Roethlisberger found fourth-string running back Mewelde Moore — playing only because of the injuries — on a key 24-yard swing pass for a first down at the Ravens’ 31. On third-and-14, Moore made a seven-yard catch to give Reed the extra yardage he needed to make it.
“That was important — a 46-yarder there isn’t a given, and a 53-yarder isn’t easy,” Reed said. “I get too much credit. My foot won it, but that’s what I’m supposed to do in that situation.”
Moore said, “Coach Tomlin told me when I came here I’d be his minute man, that I had to be ready on a minute’s notice. Everything he said held true.”
Before that, the Steelers turned a 13-3 deficit into a 17-13 lead by scoring two touchdowns in a 15-second span in the third quarter and Reed added a 19-yard field goal, only to have Baltimore rookie quarterback Joe Flacco hit Derrick Mason for 35 yards ahead of Le’Ron McClain’s 2-yard TD run that tied it at 20 with 4:02 remaining.
The Steelers, booed by their own fans while held without a touchdown for eight quarters since the second period of a 10-6 win in Cleveland on Sept. 14, finally awoke late in the third by going to a no-huddle offense with Roethlisberger lined up in a shotgun formation.
They resorted to the no-huddle almost by necessity, with running back Mendenhall out and Willie Parker (knee) not in uniform. They would also lose third-string running back Carey Davis (sprained ankle).
“We’re resilient,” Steelers receiver Hines Ward said. “There was no finger-pointing when we fell behind. We stayed together. I can’t say enough about that group of running backs.”
With only one first down since the first quarter, the Steelers got a second when Baltimore’s Jarret Johnson unwisely drew a personal foul penalty for an out-of-bounds hit following Nate Washington’s eight-yard run. With his best field position since the first quarter, Roethlisberger — sacked and harassed by Baltimore’s defense most of the game — found Santonio Holmes for a 38-yard touchdown pass three plays later on a third-and-4. Roethlisberger was 14-of-24 for 191 yards and was sacked three times.
Until that turnaround sequence, the Steelers’ offensive malaise carried over from a dreary 15-6 loss in Philadelphia in which Roethlisberger was sacked eight times, threw an interception, lost a fumble and was dropped for a safety.
On Baltimore’s next play after the kickoff, Flacco — who had impeccably managed the game until then in only his third career start — fumbled while being sacked by James Harrison, Woodley scooped up the ball and scored from the 7, after initially attempting to fall on the ball.
“Then I remembered it wasn’t college and I could run, and I don’t have a lot of speed but I got in there,” Woodley said.
Flacco finished 16-of-31 for 192 yards.
“I’m proud of the way we came back and tied the game up,” he said. “I thought we did a good job of weathering what they threw at us. But I’ve got to take care of the ball.”
The Steelers drove for Reed’s 49-yard field goal on their opening possession, then could barely gain a yard until late in the third. Baltimore, beaten 38-7 in Pittsburgh last season, answered with field goals by Matt Stover of 33 and 20 yards before making it 13-3 on Flacco’s first career TD pass, a four-yarder to Daniel Wilcox with 17 seconds left before halftime.
Flacco, outplaying Roethlisberger for much of the game, set up the score with completions of 13 yards to Mason and 25 to McClain, who was in the game because starter Willis McGahee hurt his chest earlier in the 56-yard drive.
“He didn’t get rattled,” Mason said. “He showed poise out there and that’s all you can ask your young quarterback to do. That second half, they were throwing a lot of stuff at him, through it all he showed the poise of a veteran. But we’ve got to help him out.”
Pittsburgh won its 14th consecutive Monday night home game, a streak that dates to a 1991 loss to the New York Giants at Three Rivers Stadium.