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The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) suffered a devastating loss to the Baltimore Ravens (6-2) during a 23-20 defeat to their bitter rivals at Heinz Field, as they gave up top spot in the AFC North.
Whilst the Ravens were still missing wide receiver Lee Evans, guard Ben Grubbs was able to return to duty, and they had no new major injury concerns, unlike the Steelers. Pittsburgh did welcome back James Harrison after he recovered from his eye injury, but were without linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior for this crucial match.
Baltimore almost made the perfect start when Ray Rice found a hole on the Ravens first possession, and ran for a 76-yard touchdown, only for a flag to be thrown for holding by wide receiver Torrey Smith. The Ravens did take the lead soon after however, with the Steelers holding them out despite being on the one-yard line, and Baltimore had to make do with a field goal from Billy Cundiff.
Both teams proceeded to trade field goals and ended the second quarter with Baltimore leading 9-6. As predicted, both teams’ defenses seemed to be dominating the play, and limiting the opposition to field goals.
With the Steelers advancing down the field, and finding a couple of big gains through the air, it felt like only a matter of time before Ben Roethlisberger found someone for a touchdown pass, but then the veteran quarterback threw a ball straight at Terrel Suggs, and the linebacker picked up the interception.
The drive following Suggs’ interception was turned into a touchdown when Ike Turner was called for pass interference on Anquan Boldin, which brought the Ravens to the 10-yard line, and Rice had no trouble finding a hole and getting the touchdown, making it 16-6 to Baltimore.
Pittsburgh hit back in similar fashion however, going on an 80-yard drive, which culminated in Rashard Mendenhall going over for a one-yard touchdown, and cutting the Ravens lead to three points with most of the fourth quarter left to play.
Roethlisberger then put the Steelers into the lead for the first time on the night, passing on the run to Mike Wallace for a 35-yard touchdown pass, making the score 20-16 to Pittsburgh. The Ravens were not finished though, and went on a 92-yard drive, and Joe Flacco found Smith in the endzone for a 26-yard touchdown pass, securing the win for the visitors with just eight seconds left to play.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin will be disheartened with the loss, but can be content with the performance of Roethlisberger, as the quarterback continues from where he left off against the Patriots last week.
The Ravens, who have now recorded a sweep over the Steelers this year, will be encouraged by the return of Grubbs and the solidity that he brought to an offensive line which has been heavily criticised so far this season. Flacco’s proficiency on third down, and his contributions to the game-winning drive, will also have pleased Offensice Coordinator Cam Cameron, even if there are still large question marks over the quarterback.
The Steelers will head into Week 10 having to play AFC North surprise package the Cincinnati Bengals, and will need to maintain their focus after emotionally charged matches with rivals New England Patriots and the Ravens. The Ravens, meanwhile, will travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks, and will be fairly confident of getting the win but will need to ensure they do not slip up in the same way they did two weeks ago against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
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