PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger’s career may be coming to a close, but the Steelers’ future Hall of Fame quarterback provided a throwback performance during the Steelers’ 20-19 win over the Ravens on Sunday. Trailing 10-3 through three quarters, Roethlisberger led three game-winning drives that was capped off by his 5-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson with 1:48 left.
The Ravens responded with Lamar Jackson’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins with 12 seconds left. Rather than attempt to tie the game with an extra point, Baltimore went for two, and Jackson’s two-point conversation attempt to Mark Andrews fell incomplete. It secured the Steelers’ third consecutive win over Baltimore.
With the win, the Steelers moved to 6-5-1 and 1.5 games back of the Ravens for first place in the AFC North. Pittsburgh also gained ground on AFC North foe Cincinnati, who fell to 7-5 after losing at home to the Chargers earlier in the day.
In a first half dominated by defense, the Ravens took a 7-3 lead at intermission. Led by running backs Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray, the Ravens drove 75 yards on the game’s first drive. Baltimore came up empty on the drive, however, as Jackson — facing heavy pressure from T.J. Watt — was picked off in the end zone by safety Minkah Fitzpatrick on third-and-6 on Pittsburgh’s 10-yard line. The teams exchanged punts for the remainder of the quarter.
After getting pinned at their own 1-yard line, the Ravens mounted a 16 play, 99-yard drive that took over 10 minutes off the clock. The drive, which ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Freeman, included a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from Watt. The game’s first scoring drive also included a 29-yard completion from Jackson to Andrews on a third-and-6 play.
Johnson’s dropped pass in the end zone prevented the Steelers from tying the game, but they did get on the board with Chris Boswell’s 53-yard field goal with 27 seconds left in the half. The drive’s two big plays were a 17-yard completion from Roethlisberger to tight end Pat Freiermuth and a 14-yard completion from Roethlisberger to Johnson.
At the start of the second half, the Steelers appeared to be in business after Roethlisberger hit Ray-Ray McCloud for a 32-yard gain. But upon further review, the referee determined that McCloud did not maintain possession upon hitting the ground. The Steelers punted two plays later, giving the Ravens a first down at their own 42-yard-line. Baltimore, on the strength of a 15-yard catch-and-run by Freeman on a third-and-11 play, parlayed the good field position into a 35-yard field goal from Justin Tucker.
Roethlisberger started the fourth quarter with a 40-yard completion to Chase Claypool. Roethlisberger then found a wide open Johnson for a 29-yard touchdown on the next play. On the play, Roethlisberger appeared to be locked in on Freiermuth before finding Johnson downfield for the score. Boswell’s missed field goal, however, allowed Baltimore to maintain the lead with 14:01 left.
Both teams traded field goals on their ensuing possessions, as the Ravens maintained their one-point lead with 7:18 left. After forcing a punt, the Steelers’ offense drove 69 yards, with Roethlisberger hitting Johnson to complete his 51st career game-winning drive. The Steelers took a 21-13 lead on Roethlisberger’s completion to Freiermuth on the two-point conversion attempt.
Here’s a breakdown of what further transpired in Pittsburgh
Why the Steelers won
Pittsburgh’s defense had another stellar performance against Jackson, who now is 1-2 against the Steelers as Baltimore’s starting quarterback. Watt and former Raven Chris Wormley combined to record six sacks of Pittsburgh’s seven sacks of Jackson. During Sunday’s game, Watt joined Reggie White as the only players in NFL history with at least 13 sacks in four consecutive seasons. Speaking of defense, Pittsburgh received a stellar outing from Ahkello Witherspoon, who started in place of injured starter Joe Haden.
The offensive line enabled the Steelers to control the ball for over 10 minutes in the fourth quarter after the unit had the ball for less than 14 minutes during the game’s first three quarters. Najee Harris ran for 71 hard-earned yards, while Johnson continued his glittering 2021 campaign with an eight-catch, 105-yard, two touchdown performance. Backup lineman John Leglue did a solid job replacing B.J. Finney, who left the game during the first half with a back injury.
Why the Ravens lost
Baltimore lost despite controlling the ball for nearly 37 minutes. The offense largely went away from Murray and Freeman after the duo gained most of the team’s 75 yards on the game’s opening drive, a drive that ended with Fitzpatrick’s pick.
Baltimore’s defense, after dominating Pittsburgh’s offense for three quarters, was unable to come up with a big stop during the fourth quarter. They provided little pressure on Roethlisberger, who completed nearly 68% of his passes with two touchdowns and no picks.
The Steelers had punted on five of their first six drives when they took possession with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter. Trailing 10-3 and facing a third-and-1 on their own 31, Roethlisberger’s 40-yard completion to Claypool set up Johnson’s first touchdown receptions. The Steelers then proceeded to score on their final two offensive possessions.
Play of the game
The game’s best play goes to Johnson, whose sixth touchdown of the season gave the Steelers the lead for good. A former third-round pick out of Toledo, Johnson is just 86 yards away from becoming Pittsburgh’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2018.
“Yes, and there won’t be music, either.” — Mike Tomlin (when asked if Watt ever practice again after spending the past week on the COVID-19 list) alluding to Claypool’s comments last week about how he would prefer to have music at practice
Pittsburgh has a quick turnaround as they head to Minnesota to take on the Vikings Thursday night. Baltimore’s second of three road games over a four-week span will take place next Sunday in Cleveland. The Ravens eked out a six-point win over the Browns back in Week 12.