The Steelers arrived in Baltimore as the underdog. They left as AFC North Champions.
The game was originally scheduled for 1p.m. Eastern. But talk of bounties, thuggery, the Ravens’ cocky defense, the Steelers’ Number One Defense, the “rookie wunderkind” at quarterback and a division title in the balance helped propel this matchup to CBS’s premier afternoon matchup. It was a good move because the game lived up to the hype as both teams pounded each other for 60 minutes.
Early in the game it appeared the Steelers would be able to move the ball. They made first downs on each of their first three possessions but stout efforts by the Ravens along with a few key drops and penalties stalled those drives. Similarly, the Ravens’ first three drives yielded only two punts and an interception. But despite superior field position (they twice started drives on the Pittsburgh side of the field) they posted only two field goals to take a 6-3 halftime lead.
After swapping punts in the third quarter the Steelers took possession at their own one yard line. On the first play Big Ben hit San Antonio Holmes on a quick pass out to the ten but Holmes was stripped and the Ravens recovered on the sixteen. As usual, the Number One Defense held their ground. The Ravens were forced to settle for a field goal and a 9-3 lead. It was their final score.
After both teams traded punts the Steelers finally sustained a second-half drive. They made it to the Baltimore 26 before Big Ben was sacked and fumbled away their opportunity. A quick Ravens’ 3-and-out later and the Steelers drove again, this time scoring three to make it 9-6 early in the fourth quarter.
Points were at a premium and through three plus quarters of play the teams had managed merely fifteen.
With time running down the Ravens threatened to put the game away on their next drive. They made it to field goal range at the Steelers 27. But that Number One Defense came up large again when Lawrence Timmons sacked Flacco for a seven yard loss and forced a punt. The clock read 3:36 remaining when the Steelers took over on their own eight. Only twice had they sustained drives of more than six plays and both times settled for field goals. Eleven plays later after several clutch throws from Big Ben to Hines Ward and Nate Washington the Steelers had a 3rd and goal from the Baltimore four yard line. Only fifty seconds remained when Santonio Holmes pulled in the winning touchdown. Just when it looked like the Ravens defense would dig in and force a field goal attempt, the Steelers did what they do best lately: snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
After a Steelers penalty and a thirteen yard return the Ravens took over at mid field with 43 seconds to go. Four plays later Flacco went deep to the Steelers’ endzone but backup cornerback William Gay intercepted the ball and sealed the victory.
Another stellar performance by the defense capped another late comeback by the offense.
It was a slug fest to the end and the Steelers landed the final blow.