Charlie Batch was 4 of 6 for 54 yards on the 93-yard drive that gave the Steelers a 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter. And his soft 34-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El set up the first touchdown. But the offense managed just 3 yards and failed to score on two possessions when defensive takeaways gave them the ball at the Ravens' 27 and 33, respectively, in the second half.
Rashard Mendenhall pounded out 79 yards on 25 carries against a Ravens defense geared to stop him and also scored two touchdowns -- the second multiple TD game of his young career. His 7-yard touchdown around right end was all Mendenhall, too, because he beat the defense to the corner and got the ball inside the pylon. Isaac Redman's blitz pickup on a third-and-5 pass helped keep that drive alive.
Batch kept trying to connect with Mike Wallace behind the defense, but his only success was a 20-yarder underneath the coverage. Antwaan Randle El was one of five receivers with two catches, the biggest a 34-yarder over CB Fabian Washington to set up the first touchdown. But TE Matt Spaeth had one of two false-start penalties when the Steelers were backed inside their 10 in the final two minutes.
The Steelers averaged 3.1 yards per rush and finished with a season-low 84 yards rushing, not what they were hoping against a Ravens defense that allowed more than 170 yards rushing against the Browns. Batch was sacked twice, but the first one was a coverage sack. G Chris Kemoeatu had one of the three false-start penalties and rookie C Maurkice Pouncey had one of the two holding penalties.
The Ravens finished with 70 yards rushing on 27 carries, an average of 2.6 yards, and didn't have a run longer than 10 yards. And the only sack against QB Joe Flacco was registered by NT Casey Hampton, who forced a fumble on the play. But the Steelers needed to put more pressure on Flacco, who had committed nine turnovers in five previous games against them. Instead, he put the pressure on them.
The defense made sure RB Ray Rice wasn't going to hurt them, holding him to 20 yards rushing and 9 yards receiving. ILB Lawrence Timmons led the team for the third game in a row with 13 tackles (six solo) and pressured Flacco into a bad throw on third-and-1 near midfield. But James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley failed to register a sack for the second game in a row and never flustered Flacco.
Flacco was nothing short of sensational, throwing for 256 yards and completing all four pass attempts on the winning drive that took just 36 seconds. William Gay had big pass breakups on third and fourth down from the Steelers' 2 in the final three minutes to protect a 14-10 lead. But Ike Taylor's interception at the Ravens' 27 went for naught and Bryant McFadden got beat on the winning TD to Houshmandzadeh.
The Steelers failed to take advantage of two takeaways inside the Ravens' 35 when K Jeff Reed missed field goals from 49 and 45 yards in the third quarter. P Daniel Sepulveda was more than solid with punts of 57 and 52 yards, but special-teams captain Keyaron Fox was called for holding on Sepulveda's final punt from the end zone, giving the Ravens another 10 yards to start their final drive.
There is a certain lack of concentration when you commit as many penalties in one game (11 for 88 yards) than in the previous three combined (11 for 80). And the lack of faith in the passing game was evident when the Steelers ran three consecutive plays from their 3 in the final minutes. Even when the defense finally blitzed, that backfired on the winning touchdown pass with 32 seconds left.
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org .