Steelers win AFC North after rallying by Ravens 31-27

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers rode Ben Roethlisberger's right arm and Antonio Brown's left arm to the AFC North title.

BOX SCORE:  STEELERS 31, RAVENS 27

Roethlisberger shook off a pair of interceptions to throw two late touchdowns, including a 4-yard strike to Brown with 9 seconds remaining to lift the Steelers to a 31-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night. Brown caught Roethlisberger's pass just short of the goal line and stretched the ball into the end zone with his left hand to cap a wild fourth quarter and give Pittsburgh (10-5) its second division title in three years.

The Ravens took the lead on Kyle Juszczyk's 10-yard burst up the middle with 1:18 remaining. But Roethlisberger calmly led the Steelers 75 yards in 10 plays, the last 4 coming as Brown fought through a pair of tacklers to assure the Steelers of a third straight playoff berth.

HIGHLIGHTS:  Steelers overtake Ravens

"Right before we went out," Brown said, "we said, `Let's get the game-winning touchdown and get out of here.' `'

The Ravens (8-7) were officially eliminated when Joe Flacco's pass near midfield was intercepted on the final play.

Kansas City secured a playoff berth with the Baltimore loss.

The Steelers have won six straight and ended a four-game losing streak to Baltimore.

Roethlisberger finished with 279 yards passing and three touchdowns to overcome two third-quarter interceptions. Those picks allowed the Ravens to take a 20-10 lead on Justin Tucker's fourth field goal with 14:21 to play.

Brown caught 10 passes for 96 yards to join Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison as the only players with four straight seasons with at least 100 receptions.

Le'Veon Bell ran for 122 yards and a 7-yard touchdown that kick-started Pittsburgh's rally during a fourth quarter that featured 31 combined points and three lead changes in the final 7:16.

Flacco passed for 262 yards, including a pretty 18-yard dart to Steve Smith that put Baltimore up 14-10 early in the third quarter. Smith ended up with seven receptions for 79 yards, but the Ravens crumbled late. Their defense put up little resistance as Roethlisberger clinically got his team in position to get back to the playoffs.

It's a destination that seemed to be disappearing right in front of Pittsburgh's eyes in the third quarter. Roethlisberger threw a pair of interceptions deep in Pittsburgh territory -- both poorly thrown balls to heavily covered targets -- that helped the Ravens take control.

"I kind of dug ourselves a hole," Roethlisberger said. "I take all that blame. We never quit and never gave up. Guys fought back."

Indeed, with a season once filled with such promise slipping away, the Steelers turned to their three big stars.

BIG ROLE FOR AYERS

Obscure rookie wide receiver Demarcus Ayers drew a pass interference play that set up Bell's score.

UP NEXT

Ravens: Baltimore is just 2-6 in Cincinnati under John Harbaugh.

Steelers: Pittsburgh hasn't lost at home to Cleveland since 2003.


Ravens fullback’s TD to take a lead vs. Steelers may have lost the game


The Baltimore Ravens were trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers by four points late in the fourth quarter when fullback Kyle Juszczyk ran in a score.

Juszczyk broke one tackle and then fought his way to the goal line for the score with just 1:18 remaining in the game. It gave Baltimore a 27-24 lead. The problem is that it also left Pittsburgh plenty of time to score.

after contact, and dove to break the plane and put six on the board for the Ravens. But was that the right call, or did it cost Baltimore the game?

Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com raised that question. He asked whether or not Juszczyk should have intentionally gone down outside of the end zone to take more time off the clock and leave the Steelers less time to score.

Head coach John Harbaugh said that wasn’t necessarily the case.

“Yes, it’s tough to balance that,” Harbaugh said, via Mink. “We’re trying to score a touchdown. If you’re saying we should have sat on the ball and then kept our fingers crossed to score later, I would say that’s not a strategy I’ve seen attempted too often.”

If Juszczyk had given himself up outside of the end zone, there’s no guarantee the Ravens would have been able to punch in a score. Mink points out that the Steelers have been stout this season inside the 5-yard line, ranking No. 5 in the NFL with just nine scores allowed on 13 attempts.

As it turned out, though, the timing didn’t work in the Ravens’ favor. Ben Roethlisberger led a 10-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a hard-fought, one-armed reach for a touchdown by Antonio Brown.

The score gave the Steelers a 31-27 lead with just nine seconds remaining to play. Joe Flacco threw an interception to seal the win, and the AFC North title, for Pittsburgh.

A win against the Steelers would have put the Ravens in control of their own playoff destiny. Instead, Baltimore has been eliminated from postseason contention, and the Ravens are left to wonder what might have happened if Juszczyk hadn’t scored that touchdown.


Check out the Steelers Week 16 highlights vs. the Ravens

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens made NFL history during Sunday's thrilling Christmas Day showdown.
For the second straight week, Pittsburgh (10-5) climbed back from a second half deficit to pull out a victory over a divisional foe. A week after rallying back to defeat the Bengals, the Steelers scored three touchdowns in 12 minutes in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, as two touchdowns by Le'Veon Bell followed by Antonio Brown's game-winning touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger gave Pittsburgh a 31-27 victory.

Adding to Sunday's drama was the magnitude of Sunday's game, as Baltimore and Pittsburgh battled with the division title and a ticket to the AFC playoffs on the line, as the Steelers' victory gave them the No.3 seed in the playoffs while Baltimore (8-7) was eliminated from post season play.
While most games fail to live up to the hype, Sunday's game between the Steelers and Ravens was arguably the best game of the 2016 season thus far, as Pittsburgh and Baltimore put on a performance that was worthy of it's Christmas Day spotlight.

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