Staying alive

The Steelers won to stay relevant in the AFC playoff picture while also dealing the Ravens a big loss.

PITTSBURGH – Surprisingly, things are going to go down to the wire for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Even more surprisingly, they will also do the same for the Baltimore Ravens.

The Steelers took care of that Sunday by breathing a little more life into their playoff hopes while also dealing a blow to those of the Ravens, beating Baltimore, 23-20, here at Heinz Field.

The victory, which improves the Steelers to 8-7, puts them in a five-way tie with the Ravens, Broncos, Jets and Texans for the final two playoff spots in the AFC heading into the final week of the regular season.

As things currently stand, the Broncos and Jets would be in the playoffs.

"We've been in do-or-die for a while now," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for 259 yards with one touchdown and one interception. "I think we're the cardiac kids or something. We're out here barely winning these games, but a win is a win. It doesn't matter how you get it."

Tell that to the Ravens, who had two touchdowns negated by penalties in the third quarter and then had veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason – their most reliable wideout – drop a wide-open touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter.

"Missed opportunities, I think, are the moral of this story," said Baltimore cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who had an interception return for a score negated by a block in the back penalty.

Baltimore, however, was able to stay in the game thanks to a strong rushing attack led by Ray Rice. Rice became the first back to go over 100 yards rushing against the Steelers in 33 games, gaining 141 yards on 30 attempts.

But unlike the first meeting between these two teams – when he broke off some long runs and receptions to lead the Ravens to a 20-17 overtime win – the Steelers held him to a long gain of 16 yards.

"Ray Rice is Ray Rice," said Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who had a team-high 10 tackles to go along with two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass deflection that led to Pittsburgh's first interception in its last seven games.

"We knew he was going to get some yards against us, but we didn't want him breaking off the long gains. We had to get him on the ground. And for the most part, I thought we did a decent job of that."

Woodley's hit on Flacco led to an interception by linebacker James Farrior that ended Baltimore's opening possession and set up a 26-yard Jeff Reed field goal.

The teams traded field goals before Pittsburgh pushed its advantage to 13-3 on a four-yard TD run by Rashard Mendenhall early in the second quarter. Flacco answered on the Ravens' next possession with a 30-yard TD pass to tight end Todd Heap.

The Steelers took a 20-10 lead late in the first half after taking possession at their own 6 with two minutes remaining. Roethlisberger completed a 45-yard bomb to rookie Mike Wallace and finished off the drive with a 24-yard TD pass to Santonio Holmes.

Flacco found Heap again for a seven-yard score on the Ravens' opening possession of the second half and Billy Cundiff added a 35-yard field goal following Foxworth's interception to tie the score.

But Reed booted a 38-yard field goal with 5:30 remaining to put the Steelers ahead for good and Woodley finished the Ravens off with a sack that forced Flacco to fumble with 2:27 remaining.


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