The Steelers and Baltimore Ravens slugged it out in typical style Sunday night, and it turned into what is becoming an all too typical ending, a Ravens victory.
Baltimore not only went home with a third straight victory over the Steelers and a third straight in Heinz Field, but also with a near mortal lock on its second straight AFC North Division title.
The Ravens' 13-10 victory bounced them into a two-game lead over their bitter rivals in the AFC North Division. Baltimore is 8-2, and the Steelers 6-4. The teams meet again in two weeks in Baltimore.
"It was a typical Steelers-Ravens game, hard-hitting, low-scoring, down to the wire,"said Jonathan Dwyer, who led the Steelers with 55 yards rushing as part of a three-headed halfback rotation.
Byron Leftwich's first start at quarterback with the Steelers for an injured Ben Roethlisberger did not go well after a promising early start. He completed 16 of 33 passes for 189 yards and one interception.
With Roethlisberger shouting encouragement from the sideline, his injured right arm in a black sling, Leftwich ran for a 31-yard touchdown to cap the game's first series, but his offense did little after that. He was intercepted once and the Steelers failed to get into the end zone after reaching Baltimore's four in the third quarter.
"The difference is obviously that we didn't find a significant play, particularly in the waning moments and in anyof the three phases to be the difference," Steelers' head coach Mike Tomlin said.
The Ravens, though, came up with two significant plays. The first came when Mike Wallace lost a fumble, which gave the Ravens the ball at the Steelers' 12 yard line. They turned that one into three points. The bigger play came when Jacoby Jones returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown to put Baltimore on top for good 10-7 in the first quarter.
"We had some mishaps and mess ups," Dwyer said.
Those plays wiped out a distinct advantage the Steelers otherwise had, and ruined a good performance by their defense, which held Baltimore to 47 yards rushing, 40 by Ray Rice on 20 carries.
The Steelers outgained the Ravens 311 yards to 200, but once again, it was a game without a takeaway for them.
"We knew we had to come out, play hard and prevent them from scoring a lot of points, which we did," said cornerback Keenan Lewis, who continued his strong play against the Ravens. "We just didn't get the win."
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed 20 of 32 passes for 164 yards. Both teams played poorly on third downs with the Ravens converting 3 of 14 and the Steelers, who had been one of the best in the league at it, just 5 of 17.
"You can't turn the ball over and you have to make more plays than that," said Leftwich.
The Steelers had one last chance when their offense got the ball at their 16 with 1:05 to go. They managed only to move to their 28 before losing a fumble on fourth down after several laterals.
The Steelers' best chance, though, came in the third quarter when a 20-yard reception by Emmanuel Sanders and an 11-yard penalty on the play when Ed Reed hit him in the head put the ball at the 12.
After an incompletion, Dwyer ran up the middle for eight yards to the 12. Leftwich threw a fade pass in the right corner of the end zone for Wallace on third down. Wallace could only manage one foot in, and on fourth down Shaun Suisham kicked a 22-yard field goal that cut Baltimore's lead to three.
Neither team scored after that.
"I thought it was a touchdown when I let it go. I liked it," Leftwich said.
"It was close," Wallace said. "I couldn't look down to see where my feet were because I was looking for the ball."
Earlier, Baltimore had stretched its lead to 13-7 on Justin Tucker's 39-yard field goal midway through the third quarter. That drive began after cornerback Corey Graham intercepted a Leftwich pass at the Ravens' 18 and returned it 20 yards to the 38.
It was Leftwich's first interception with the Steelers.
Baltimore led 10-7 at halftime after erasing an early 7-0 Steelers lead, even though Tucker missed a 41-yard field goal wide right.
The Steelers jumped out quickly to a 7-0 lead.
On the first play of the game, Leftwich threw deep to Wallace, who had his man beat but cornerback Cary Williams grabbed him for a 42-yard pass interference penalty.
That put the ball on the Ravens' 38. After a 7-yard pickup by David Gilreath on an end around, Leftwich dropped back in an empty set, scrambled to his right and kept running. He put a move on safety Bernard Pollard at the 20 and kept running until he reached the end zone.
The 31-yard touchdown was the longest run of Leftwich's career.
"I can move around just as good as any other pocket passer in this league," Leftwich said.
Their second series was not so productive. Leftwich completed a third-down pass to Wallace from the Steelers' 14 and he picked up the first down over the middle on the 15-yard play. But cornerback Chris Johnson stripped Wallace of the ball and Ed Reed recovered and returned it 17 yards to the Steelers' 12.
"I was just getting ready to tuck it and he hit it from behind,'' Wallace said.
Baltimore moved only four yards before Tucker kicked a 26-yard field goal for the Ravens first points.
First Published November 19, 2012 5:00 AM