An overtime win over rival Baltimore left the Pittsburgh Steelers hurting, Ben Roethlisberger screaming and coach Mike Tomlin calmly explaining what happens next.
PITTSBURGH — An overtime win over rival Baltimore left the Pittsburgh Steelers hurting, Ben Roethlisberger screaming and coach Mike Tomlin calmly explaining what happens next.
"No rest for the weary," Tomlin said after the Steelers played terribly for most of three quarters before beating the Ravens 23-20 Monday night to take over first place in the AFC North.
A lot of rest for the injured, however, and that may be the Steelers' No. 1 problem following a resourceful effort that was needed to overcome a strong game by Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco in his first NFL road start.
The physical-as-usual game against Baltimore cost the Steelers right guard Kendall Simmons (torn Achilles) and first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall (fractured shoulder) for the season, key injuries that will test their depth and resiliency.
The Steelers (3-1) were so beaten up that they ended the game with only one healthy running back, Mewelde Moore, who was signed to be a third-down back but played on nearly every down of overtime. Moore made important catches of Roethlisberger-thrown passes of 24 and 7 yards to set up Jeff Reed's third field goal of the game, a 46-yarder that won it with about six minutes gone in overtime.
"A 46-yarder there isn't a given, and a 53-yarder isn't easy," Reed said, a reference to Moore's 7-yard catch ahead of his seventh and longest career game winner. "I get too much credit. My foot won it, but that's what I'm supposed to do in that situation."
Or exactly what Roethlisberger told his teammates during an emotional locker room talk — an outburst he felt was needed after the Steelers were outgained 146-46 while falling behind 13-3 at halftime. Baltimore ended with a 243-237 yardage edge despite Flacco's 192 yards passing during a 16-of-31 night.
"We lost a lot of guys," Roethlisberger said. "I was more emotional, more vocal than I've ever been at halftime. I screamed at our offense. We were terrible in the first half. Not that we were great in the second half, but we bounced back."
So did the Ravens (2-1), who were in position to open a 11/2;-game division lead by winning only to lose a 10-point lead in a span of only 15 seconds late in the third quarter.
The Steelers, depleted offensively by injuries, went to a no-huddle offense almost out of desperation, and Roethlisberger responded with a 38-yard scoring pass to Santonio Holmes to end their only TD drive of the game. The four-play drive was aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Baltimore's Jarret Jackson that gave Pittsburgh its initial first down since its opening drive.
The touchdown also gave the Steelers some much-needed momentum, and they got plenty more when James Harrison's hit forced a Flacco fumble on Baltimore's next play from scrimmage. LaMarr Woodley picked up the ball at the 7 — he planned only to fall on it, then realized he could return it — and scored to make it 17-13.
Before the two-TD burst, the Steelers had been held without a touchdown for nearly eight quarters, or since the first half of a 10-6 win at Cleveland on Sept. 14.
Many rookie quarterbacks would have been flustered, but Flacco — forced to shoulder more of the offense with running back Willis McGahee out for much of the game with a chest injury — came back to lead a game-tying drive ended by Le'Ron McClain's 2-yard run with 4:02 remaining.
"There's nothing you can say about this game, other than the fact a couple of plays went against us," coach John Harbaugh said. "Aside from that, our guys played well enough to win. They played their hearts out."
Since they drafted him, Flacco has impressed the Ravens with his big-league arm. On a night they may have lost a game but gained a leader, he also showed them a poise uncommon for a quarterback playing only his third NFL game.
"We've got to take care of the ball. If we take care of the ball there, it's a different story," Flacco said. "I was really proud of the way we came back. ... I think we did a pretty good job at weathering what they threw at us overall, but we just have to find a way to win."
Tomlin knows what the Steelers gained, besides an important victory before they take on Jacksonville (2-2) on Sunday night following a short week of preparation. The Jaguars put the Steelers out of the playoffs in January after also beating them in Pittsburgh the month before.
"You can't blink and we didn't," Tomlin said. "Does that mean we have a chance to be something special? Maybe. Right now, all that it means is we are 3-1 and we have to go to Jacksonville on a short week against an AFC opponent we have some issues with."
Notes: Pittsburgh won its 14th consecutive Monday night home game, a streak that dates to a 1991 loss to the New York Giants at Three Rivers Stadium. ... Despite winning, the Steelers have been held to two touchdowns on offense in three games. ... Baltimore failed to allow a 100-yard rusher for the 22nd consecutive game. Mendenhall (9 carries, 30 yards) was Pittsburgh's leading rusher. ... Roethlisberger was sacked three times after being dropped eight times the week before during a 15-6 loss at Philadelphia. ... Holmes has four TD catches in his last three games against Baltimore.