When it comes to winning, the 2017 Steelers just get it.
It’s not always pretty, it seldom comes easy, but in eight straight games, Pittsburgh (11-2) has lit the torch of victory, this time dismissing Baltimore (7-6) in the one point come-from-behind thriller that clinched the AFC North for the Steelers, marking the third time in the last four years they’ve held the crown.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for a season-best 506 yards on a ludicrous 44-of-66 passing, adding two touchdowns with no interceptions against the NFL-leading, ball-hawking Ravens secondary that gathered 20 on the year.
Ben’s quintessential connection, Antonio Brown answered to the tune of 213 of those yards, catching 11 passes.
“I think championship teams find ways to win,” said Roethlisberger, who has posted an 18/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio during the eight-game winning streak. “In the past, you felt like we couldn’t get over that hump for whatever reason.”
The Steelers heard the boos of a Heinz Field crowd after Baltimore grabbed a 31-20 lead with 2:43 left in the third quarter, when Baltimore took advantage of a 31-yard Artie Burns pass interference, which set up a Joe Flacco to Patrick Ricard six-yard hookup.
All-in-all, Pittsburgh was pegged with six penalties for 101 yards, while the Ravens were able to rattle off 413 total yards.
The defensive stand of the game, however, came from the Steelers, when on the final drive of the game for Baltimore, a T.J. Watt strip sack on 3rd and 10 with just eight seconds left ended the game.
“I was never nervous until the last throw, when I thought they had the ball at the 35-yard line,” said Mike Mitchell of a 14-yard Flacco to Mike Wallace hook up just three plays prior to the sack. “He just knew we needed to stand up.”
“I think the group that we have now, we’ve been in these situations before, but more importantly, we’ve been in them together,” continued the safety, who led a defensive unit that was without the likes of Tyler Matakevich, Joe Haden and Ryan Shazier Sunday night. “I think we’ve learned from our mistakes in the past. This year, you’ve seen being more clutch in those moments. You’re just seeing us finish in those moments.”
Flacco finished his day with 269 yards on 20-of-35 passing with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. Alex Collins complimented Flacco from the ground game, where he covered 120 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown.
“It’s tough to be happy right now, in this situation,” said Baltimore’s signal-caller. “I definitely thought we played well tonight, but we didn’t win the game. We were not able to do it.”
The Steelers outscored Baltimore 19-7 in the fourth quarter, using two field goals from Boswell, and a pair of touchdowns, including a Le’Veon Bell 11-yard rush, which capped an eight play, 68-yard drive with 3:29 left in the game, bringing the Steelers to within two points.
A Roethlisberger to Roosevelt Nix one-yard hookup—which preceded a failed two-point conversion—with 9:15 left in the game initially brought the Steelers within two points, but Baltimore answered with a nine-yard Javorius Allen touchdown run just under three minutes later.
“We always say that we want to have at least one more point than the other team,” explained Bell, who rushed for 48 yards on just 13 carries with two touchdowns. “I’m glad we got the job done. Boswell’s making big kicks all of the time. This was a total team effort. The defense was making stops when they needed to make stops. The offense, we scored when we needed to score. I couldn’t be more-happier with my team. I’m ready to go crazy right now. I’m super-excited, and I’m glad my team is what it is.”
Bell scored the first two touchdowns of the game, including a 20-yard connection from Roethlisberger that started the scoring. After a Boswell 52-yarder made it a 17-7 game with 4:14 left in the half, Baltimore ripped off a 24-6 run, which created the 11-point deficit for the home team.
“We did what we had to do to win tonight,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “Obviously, we’ve got some things that we need to work on, but we’ll work on those things in our AFC North [championship] hats and t-shirts. For that, we are thankful.”
Pittsburgh totaled 545 yards, going 12-of-18 on third-down and punting just three times.
Win for Shazier
Coach Tomlin talked about the team using Facetime to connect with Ryan Shazier, who could be seen on the video lying in a hospital bed.
“He had an opportunity to share that moment with the team, and that was a special thing,” said an emotional Tomlin. “We are riding with that guy. He is strong. He is strengthening us.”
Bell also had affectionate words for Shazier.
“We missed Shazier today. Shay, if you hear me, I love you, man. I know you were watching the game. We miss you out there, man. I love you to death.”
After the spread
The Steelers failed to cover as the 5.5-point favorites, marking the second consecutive time they lost after the spread at home (Green Bay, -14.5,) and four of the last five games ATS.
The O/U, which was set at 43 points, went well over with a combined total 77 points, which marks the highest combined point total in the history of the rivalry. The total has gone over for the Steelers in each of the last four games.
The Steelers will host the AFC’s best when New England comes to town Sunday. Kickoff from Heinz Field is set for 4:25 PM. According to early Las Vegas oddsmakers, New England is a slight 2.5-point road favorite for the game.
“Get your press ready. Get your popcorn ready. This is the game everyone’s been waiting see,” said an ambitious of Mitchell about New England. “We’re going to show up and fight. Obviously, it’s got a lot of history to it. I’ve been thinking about this game since we lost it last year. Very much look forward to playing them.”