Steelers fall in overtime to Ravens, 20-17
Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff kicks a field goal in overtime and gives his team a 20-17 win against the Steelers last night at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore Baltimore.
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BALTIMORE -- Third-string quarterback Dennis Dixon played well in his first NFL start, yet the Steelers' defense once again could not hold a fourth-quarter lead and they lost to the Baltimore Ravens, 20-17, last night in overtime.
As Ben Roethlisberger watched from the sideline amidst a swirling controversy over his status, the Steelers lost a third consecutive game for the first time under coach Mike Tomlin. It was their second overtime loss in a row and at 6-5 they and Baltimore trail Cincinnati by two games in the AFC North Division.
"We will not go gently," Tomlin emphatically declared afterward.
Dixon threw a touchdown pass of 33 yards to wide receiver Santonio Holmes and ran 24 yards for another score to give the Steelers a 17-14 lead with 6:24 left to play in the fourth quarter.
But Baltimore tied the score on Billy Cundiff's 24-yard field goal with 1:51 left that ended an 84-yard drive by the Ravens, and then won it in overtime after Dixon threw his only interception.
Rookie linebacker Paul Kruger picked off a pass intended for Holmes and returned it 26 yards to the Steelers' 28. The Ravens worked their way to the Steelers' 11 and Cundiff hammered home a 29-yard field goal for the Baltimore victory with 6:42 to go in overtime.
Of their five losses, the Steelers' defense has allowed a fourth-quarter lead to slip away in four of them.
"Any time you have a lead in the fourth quarter and lose, it stinks," defensive end Brett Keisel said.
It particularly hurt this time because Dixon had given them a chance to win after Roethlisberger and backup Charlie Batch went down with injuries in their overtime loss in Kansas City seven days earlier. Roethlisberger had concussion-like symptoms that day, according to Tomlin, but then passed every test last week as he practiced.
However, on Friday he told Tomlin he was having headaches and on Saturday team neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Maroon of UPMC advised coaches not to play him. While he did not play, Tomlin did suit him up as the emergency No. 3 quarterback. "I had no other options," Tomlin explained.
The late decision to not play him did not go down well with receiver Hines Ward.
"This game is almost like a playoff game," Ward told NBC-TV in a Saturday interview broadcast last night. "It's almost a must-win. I could see some players or teammates questioning, like, 'It's just a concussion. I've played with a concussion before.'
"It's almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room. Should he play? Shouldn't he play? It's really hard to say."
Ward backed off somewhat from those words after the game, expressing frustration that no one on the team found out until Saturday.
In the meantime, Dixon completed 12 of 26 passes for 145 yards, one touchdown and the interception in overtime that led to Baltimore's victory. He had help from a ground game that produced 153 yards on 38 carries with Rashard Mendenhall getting 95 yards on 24 tries.
But Ray Rice and the Ravens' ground game were successful, too. Rice had 88 of his team's 132 yards rushing, and Willis McGahee ran 2 yards for a Baltimore touchdown early in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead. Joe Flacco completed 23 of 35 passes for 289 yards and tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason
Dixon, who had completed just one pass in his two years and had not played this season, gave the Steelers a 17-14 lead when he ran 24 yards for a touchdown with 6:24 to play in regulation. On that third-down play, he faked a handoff from the shotgun and ran around right end. Mewelde Moore threw a block to help spring him.
"I liked his demeanor throughout it all," Tomlin said. "He made some plays. I thought he represented himself relatively well, but we came up short."
Baltimore grabbed an early 7-0 lead as Flacco completed all five of his passes to smartly move the Ravens 73 yards in nine plays on their first drive of the night. McGahee ran up the middle for 2 yards and the score to stake Batlimore to an early 7-0 lead.
Dixon scrambled for a 31-yard gain up the middle in the first quarter to Baltimore's 24 but a holding call negated that play and set the Steelers up with a third-and-13 at their 35.
But on the Steelers' third possession Dixon got hot. The drive began at the 26 with three consecutive handoffs to Willie Parker and a first down. Then Dixon went to the air and did so with authority.
He hit Holmes for 8 yards and found Ward for 19 to put the ball on the Baltimore 33. From there, he faked a handoff to Parker to the left and rolled to his right. He hit Holmes at the 12 and Holmes ran to the left front corner of the end zone, where he stiff-armed cornerback Domonique Foxworth and squeezed into the end zone on the 33-yard play.
It was Holmes' first touchdown since the opening game.
Dixon completed another pass to Holmes on third-and-18 to the Baltimore 23 that would have gone for a first down, except Moore was caught for holding. That scuttled the play and the Steelers wound up punting to end the series and the game seemed headed toward a 7-7 halftime tie.
But then Flacco, from his 30, pumped once and then again as Mark Clayton put a double-move on cornerback William Gay and beat him badly down the left sideline. Flacco cut loose and safety Ryan Clark closed but missed the ball as Clayton came down with it for a 54-yard gain to the Steelers' 16.
Two plays later, Derrick Mason beat Ike Taylor in the left side of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown and a 14-7 Baltimore lead with 1:45 left before the half. It was the first touchdown catch by Mason against the Steelers in 21 games that covered 80 receptions.
Jeff Reed cut the Ravens' lead to 14-10 with a 44-yard field goal in the third quarter. It came after a short drive that began at midfield and included a 20-yard reception by Mendenhall.
Dixon put the Steelers ahead with his bootleg touchdown run, but it fell apart again for the Steelers in the fourth quarter and in overtime.
"We won't go in a shell," Tomlin promised. "We'll go into attack mode because that's what's required."
First Published November 30, 2009 12:36 am