Monday, September 29, 2008
STEELER FOOTBALL Week #4
Final Score: Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 20 (OT)
Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Jeff Reed's 46-yard field goal in overtime gave Pittsburgh a 23-20 victory over Baltimore in a black-and-blue AFC North battle at Heinz Field.
Ben Roethlisberger battled a sore throwing hand to complete 14-of-24 passes for 191 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Thirty-seven of those yards were to Mewelde Moore, who came down with a clutch seven-yard reception to give Reed some breathing room on his game-winning kick.
Moore was also Pittsburgh's (3-1) only healthy running back by the time the fourth quarter began. Willie Parker didn't play with an ankle sprain, rookie Rashard Mendenhall left in the second half with a left shoulder injury and even fullback Carey Davis left with an undisclosed ailment and didn't return.
"We were fortunate to come out on top," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. "We aren't perfect, but we are together."
Tomlin's post-game press conference then took a different tone, as he announced that Mendenhall (fracture in the left shoulder) and starting offensive guard Kendall Simmons (torn Achilles) would both be placed on the injured reserve list, ending their seasons.
"The standard will not change," vowed Tomlin. "It is part of football."
The hard hits didn't end there.
Baltimore (2-1) also battled injuries at the running back position, as Willis McGahee played sporadically with a chest injury that required in-game tests and LaRon McClain even was shaken up late in the fourth quarter.
The hard-hitting affair was typical for the two hated divisional rivals. A few new stars were added to the mix. Joe Flacco, the Ravens rookie quarterback from Delaware, played admirably in his first NFL road start, completing 16- of-31 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown.
He met another new fixture on a game-turning head-on collision late in the third. James Harrison, who finished with 2 1/2 sacks, and LaMar Woodley, who added 1 1/2 sacks, converged on Flacco with Harrison stripping the ball out. Woodley rolled on top, got up and rumbled seven yards for a touchdown that gave Pittsburgh the 17-13 lead.
"I understand I have to protect the ball," said Flacco. "It's a large part of the game."
Flacco did find a security blanket in veteran Derrick Mason, who caught eight passes for 137 yards. Mason's Pittsburgh counterpart, Santonio Holmes, hauled in three passes for 61 yards and a 38-yard touchdown reception in the victory.
Baltimore went three-and-out on its first possession, and Pittsburgh converted a pair of third-down conversions. The first resulted in a 19-yard connection with Holmes, while the second started with Roethlisberger moving away from an upfield rush and finding a crossing Nate Washington for 12 yards. The march eventually stalled, resulting in Reed's 49-yard field goal.
After another Ravens punt, Roethlisberger bootlegged to his left, but the football slipped out of his hand and into the waiting arms of big defensive nose tackle Haloti Ngata.
Baltimore took advantage of the turnover with some major-league arm strength shown by the rookie signal-caller. He whistled a throw out to the right to Demetrius Williams for eight yards and a first down just in front of a lunging Troy Polamalu. He then threw a 14-yard deep-in pattern to Mason, again just in front of a hard-charging Polamalu. Matt Stover's 33-yard boot knotted the contest at 3-3.
The Ravens controlled the clock and the football for the remainder of the half. An 11-play drive that started at midfield ended with a chip shot off Stover's right foot and a 6-3 edge. McGahee found some running room with a 12- yard burst on the drive's second play, and Flacco tossed a pass to the tailback for five yards on 3rd-and-3. The march stalled, but Stover's 20-yard kick slipped inside the left upright.
Baltimore reached paydirt just before the half. Flacco found Mason for 13 yards along the left sideline and his swing pass to McClain went for 25 yards. In a running formation with a pair of tight ends, Flacco faked a handoff and found one of those tight ends, Daniel Wilcox, behind Polamalu for a four-yard scoring strike.
Fifteen seconds in the third stanza turned the momentum upside-down.
Using a no-huddle offense to offset the Ravens' pass rush and a personal foul penalty as added fuel, the Steelers struck for their first touchdown since a Roethlisberger-to-Hines Ward score in the second quarter during a Week 2 victory in Cleveland.
On 3rd-and-4 from the Ravens 38-yard line, Roethlisberger avoided the rush and flicked a strike across the middle to Holmes, who bounced off one tackle and shook off another for a 38-yard touchdown and a 13-10 game.
On Baltimore's first play of the next series, Flacco was hit and stripped by Harrison, allowing fellow linebacker Woodley to pick up the ball and run into the end zone for the lead.
About five minutes into the fourth period, Roethlisberger again evaded a would-be defender while keeping his eyes down field, where he found a wide open Ward for a 49-yard connection. The drive didn't end in the end zone, but Reed's 19-yard kick gave Pittsburgh a 20-13 advantage.
The Ravens responded with a nine-play, 76-yard march to square the game. Flacco found Mason for 15 and 35 yards on two separate plays, leading to McClain's two-yard touchdown run over left end with 4:02 left.
In a tale of two halves, Pittsburgh managed just 46 first-half yards. Prior to the game-tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, Baltimore had totaled five total net yards in the second half...The Steelers have won 14 straight Monday Night Football games at home.
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