Steelers 23, Ravens 20

There’s still a tomorrow for the Pittsburgh Steelers, all they

could have asked for only days ago. There’s also a next week for

the Baltimore Ravens, or exactly what they didn’t want.

Jeff Reed’s 38-yard field goal put Pittsburgh ahead with 5:25

remaining and the Steelers finally preserved a fourth-quarter lead,

beating rival Baltimore 23-20 on Sunday to further jumble the

complicated AFC postseason race.

The Steelers (8-7), their season seemingly ended by a

late-season five-game losing streak, followed their last-second

37-36 victory over Green Bay with another tight victory helped by

Reed’s three field goals and Rashard Mendenhall’s touchdown run.

Now, their final regular season game at Miami will have some

meaning, although the Steelers could win and still be

eliminated.

According to the NFL, the Ravens (8-7) will clinch an AFC

wild-card playoff spot if they win Sunday at Oakland. The Steelers

must win and hope for some losses as the Jets, Ravens, Broncos,

Texans and Pittsburgh all go into the final weekend with the same

record.

“It’s been do or die for us for a while, fighting to the last

minute. We’re like the cardiac kids,” said Ben Roethlisberger, who

threw a touchdown pass while becoming the first Steelers

quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards in a season.

Joe Flacco threw touchdown passes of 30 and 7 yards to Todd

Heap, but the Ravens couldn’t overcome two touchdowns wiped out by

penalties, a dropped TD pass by Derrick Mason and 113 yards in

penalties. If they had won, the Ravens would have clinched because

the Jaguars and Broncos both lost. Instead, their season could be

riding on the Oakland game.

“We can’t wait to go get on that plane,” Ravens coach John

Harbaugh said.

The Super Bowl champion Steelers have lost six leads in the

final quarter during a season marked by victories over contenders

San Diego, Baltimore, Minnesota, Green Bay and Denver, and losses

to the Chiefs, Raiders and Browns. This time they closed it out

with a scoreless final quarter after giving up a 20-10 lead during

the third.

“We know our defense has been struggling to stop teams at the

end of the game, and this was big for us,” linebacker James

Farrior said. “Hopefully it will carry over and we’ll have teams

do what need to do and we can get into the dance, because that’s

the ultimate goal.”

Ray Rice ran for 141 yards to end Pittsburgh’s 33-game streak of

not allowing a 100-yard rusher, but Baltimore still lost its fifth

game by six points or fewer.

The Ravens were repeatedly hurt by their mistakes and penalties

during their ninth loss in their last 10 in Pittsburgh, counting

the playoffs.

A wide-open Mason, their most reliable receiver, dropped a

certain touchdown pass in the end zone on the first play of the

fourth quarter when the ball clanked off his face mask, preventing

the Ravens from going ahead 27-20.

During a testy postgame news conference, Harbaugh wouldn’t blame

the disparity in penalties – 113 yards to Pittsburgh’s 20 – or the

squandered chances.

“You can go to penalties if you want, you can put your finger

on whatever you want, but we’re going to Oakland and we’re going to

play our hearts out,” Harbaugh said.

Baltimore had a chance late, but rookie defensive end Ziggy Hood

– who earlier got his first NFL sack – recovered Flacco’s fumble on

fourth-and-10 from the Steelers 39 with 2:27 to play. After that,

an apparent interception thrown by Roethlisberger was wiped out by

an illegal contact penalty on cornerback Frank Walker, and

Pittsburgh ran out the clock.

Roethlisberger followed his franchise-record 503-yard game

against Green Bay by going 17 of 33 for 259 yards, including a

24-yard TD pass to Santonio Holmes that ended a 94-yard drive

during the final 2 minutes of the first half.

“He (made the wrong adjustment) and I shouldn’t have thrown it,

but I did and we scored,” Roethlisberger said. “It was completely

wrong in every way except we scored a touchdown.”

Roethlisberger has 4,108 yards with one game remaining, while

Mendenhall gained 36 yards to give him 1,014.

Flacco started the second half by hitting Heap for 7 yards to

end a 64-yard drive, and Domonique Foxworth’s interception led to

Billy Cundiff’s 35-yard field goal and a 20-20 tie. But the Ravens

could have had much, much more.

Foxworth scored on the interception, only to have Terrell Suggs’

illegal block penalty put the ball back on the Steelers 37.

“Missed opportunities is the moral of this story,” Foxworth

said.

On Baltimore’s next possession, Willis McGahee’s apparent

32-yard TD run was wiped out by a holding call on wide receiver

Kelley Washington, and the Ravens punted.

“I think that call was very late,” Harbaugh said. “It didn’t

seem like if affected the play.”

Rice wouldn’t blame the officials, saying, “We score points, we

win the game. Everything else is self-explanatory.”

NOTES: The Steelers have two 1,000-yard receivers (Holmes, Hines

Ward), a 1,000-yard rusher and a 4,000-yard passer for the first

time. … Pittsburgh went 6-2 at home. … The Steelers allowed 121

points in the final quarter during their first 14 games, second

most in the league. … Farrior’s interception in the first quarter

was Pittsburgh’s first in seven games. … The Ravens are 0-3 in

Pittsburgh the last two seasons.