When there are 22 Pro Bowlers along with three former defensive players of the year on one field together, you can expect the game to be a serious throwdown. That was exactly the case Sunday night when the Steelers and Ravens met at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore with the AFC North lead on the line.
The Steelers' 13-10 victory brings some clarity (for now) to the AFC playoff picture -- Pittsburgh now controls the North division, a spot that could lead the Steelers to the second seed in the AFC playoff bracket and an all-important first-round bye. A loss Sunday would have dropped Pittsburgh a game back of Baltimore and given the Ravens a sweep in the season series, meaning they would have held the tiebreaker over the Steelers.
As expected, the Steelers and Ravens slugged it out in a physical, bloody affair. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger entered the game with a bad foot, that was believed to be broken, but it was his nose that received the most attention Sunday night.
On the Steelers' opening drive, Baltimore lineman Haloti Ngata hit Roethlisberger in the face with his arm, breaking Roethlisberger's nose.
Roethlisberger, though bloodied, did not miss a snap. He finished 22 of 38 passing and one TD, which came with just 2:51 left in the fourth quarter -- Roethlisberger hit Isaac Redman on a short crossing pattern, and Redman fought his way into the end zone from nine yards out, securing the Pittsburgh victory.
Some thoughts on this game:
• The sign of things to come, injury-wise, came on the opening play from scrimmage. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw a deep pass down the middle of the field to tight end Todd Heap. The pass was incomplete, but Heap injured a hamstring on the play. Later in the game, in addition to Roethlisberger's injury, the Steelers also lost tight end Heath Miller to a concussion after a big hit by Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain, and offensive tackle Flozell Adams, who left the game with an apparent ankle injury.
• The biggest play of the game came with 3:22 left in the game, with the Ravens slowly moving the ball and trying to kill the clock. On second-and-5 near midfield, Flacco dropped back to pass, but Steelers safety Troy Polamalu came clean on a blitz off Flacco's blind side to sack the Baltimore QB and strip the ball. Pittsburgh's LaMarr Woodley recovered and ran the ball all the way to the Baltimore 9, setting up the Roethlisberger-to-Redman TD.
• Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has played in more Steelers/Ravens matchups than any other player -- Sunday night's game was his 25th appearance in the rivalry.
• The Ravens have not allowed a 100-yard rusher against the Steelers since Dec. 26, 2004 (Jerome Bettis).