BALTIMORE – The Pittsburgh Steelers used a second straight fourth-quarter comeback to earn another AFC North title. Santonio Holmes caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger with 43 seconds left, and the Steelers clinched their second consecutive division crown by beating the Baltimore Ravens 13-9 Sunday.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) gets away from Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008, in Baltimore. The Steelers won 13-9.
(AP Photo/Rob Carr)
The Steelers (11-3) trailed 9-6 before moving 92 yards in 13 plays to take their only lead and score the game's lone touchdown. Roethlisberger went 7-for-11 for 89 yards on the drive.
Last week, Pittsburgh used a 17-point fourth quarter to rally past Dallas 20-13. The Steelers have won five straight, and this was their first win in Baltimore since 2002. It also earned the Steelers a first-round bye.
Matt Stover kicked three field goals for the Ravens (9-5), who remain in the wild-card hunt despite being eliminated from the AFC North race.
The Steelers began their final drive at their 8 with 3:36 left. Two straight completions to Hines Ward moved the ball to the 34, and a third-and-10 completion to Nate Washington for 16 yards took Pittsburgh to midfield.
Washington caught a 24-yarder to the 14, and a 10-yard pass to Ward set up first-and-goal at the 4. After two incompletions, Roethlisberger scrambled left, then found Holmes over the middle for the winner.
The play was reviewed because it appeared Holmes' feet were in the end zone but the ball may have been in front of the goal line. The official explanation for a TD was that Holmes had both feet in the end zone with possession of the ball.
Page 776 of the rules digest in the NFL fact book reads: "A player with the ball in his possession scores a touchdown when the ball is on, above or over the goal line."
Down 9-3, the Steelers used a 30-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Ward to set up a 30-yard field goal by Jeff Reed with 9:26 to go.
Baltimore then moved to the Pittsburgh 27, but a third-down sack forced the Ravens to punt, setting up the dramatic conclusion.
Baltimore used an outstanding punt and a turnover to take the 9-3 third-quarter lead. After Sam Koch punted to the Pittsburgh 1, Holmes caught a pass but fumbled when hit by Samari Rolle. Ed Reed returned the ball to the 16, setting up a 28-yard field goal.
Later in the quarter, Holmes muffed a punt. Pittsburgh's Keyaron Fox took the loose ball 18 yards to the Baltimore 33, but on third-and-1, Roethlisberger fumbled when sacked by Terrell Suggs and Brandon McKinney plucked the loose ball out of the air for the Ravens.
Tempers flared after the play, and Baltimore's Haloti Ngata received a 15-yard penalty for vigorously pulling a Pittsburgh player from the angry crowd.
A risky play by Ravens punt returner Jim Leonhard produced the game's first points. On the final play of the first quarter, Leonhard picked up a bouncing kick in a crowd at the Baltimore 11 and scooted 46 yards down the right sideline. Joe Flacco then completed a 24-yard pass to Todd Heap, and Stover followed with a field goal.
Pittsburgh answered with a 14-play drive that ended with a 31-yard field goal by Reed.
Baltimore then deftly mixed the pass and run in a beat-the-clock possession for a 26-yard field goal with 49 seconds left in the half.