BALTIMORE (Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Steelers overcame the absence of Ben Roethlisberger to stun the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 on Sunday and keep alive their once-unthinkable hopes of an AFC North Division title.
Shaun Suisham kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired, enabling the Steelers to snap a two-game losing streak and halt Baltimore’s 15-game regular season winning streak at home.
The Steelers (7-5), behind veteran back-up quarterback Charlie Batch, drove 61 yards over the final 6:14 to set up Suisham’s field goal, his third of the game.
“Big necessary win for us tonight in a hostile environment,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin told reporters. “It was a tough physical and mental battle and we persevered.”
Baltimore (9-3) took a 20-13 lead on a 34-yard, reverse-field touchdown by Ray Rice with five minutes left in the third quarter, igniting the crowd of 71,442 at M&T Bank Stadium.
But the Steelers refused to fold, tying the score at 20-20 on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Batch to tight end Heath Miller with just under eight minutes remaining in regulation.
Miller was sliding out of bounds at the two-yard line but acrobatically held the ball out over goal line, a painfully close call that was upheld under review.
On the game-winning drive that began at their own 15, the Steelers received a gift when linebacker Paul Kruger whacked Batch after he had thrown a 10-yard pass to Mike Wallace.
The reception and the roughing-the-passer penalty gave Pittsburgh a first down at the Baltimore 19 with 1:46 to play and allowed the Steelers to run the clock down for Suisham’s game-winner.
”I had a clear shot at him,“ said Kruger. ”I just got my hands too high and shouldn’t have made it that close. It was a big mistake on my part for even making it a possible call.
“I just can’t believe I put my team mates in that position. There’s not much to say. It was a big mistake and we have to make up for it.”
Pittsburgh had played poorly without Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback who hurt his shoulder and ribs against Kansas City on November 12.
But Batch came to play, helping halt the Ravens’ four-game winning streak and deny them a postseason berth. The 15-year veteran completed 25 of 36 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown.
The Steelers’ playoff hopes had been fading rapidly without Roethlisberger but they are now tied with Cincinnati in the AFC North, just two games behind Baltimore.
“It was an amazing win for us,” said Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer, who rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
“Anytime you can win on the road in this league, it is very satisfying. I know a lot of people were counting us out but we never did.”
The loss hurt Baltimore’s bid to catch the streaking Houston Texans (11-1) for the best record in the conference.
”A very emotional game, a very disappointing loss, a very tough loss,“ said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. ”One loss does not define any football team.
“It certainly does not define this football team and we will learn from it -- all of us, every single one of us, starting with me.”
Editing by Gene Cherry