Steelers keep playoff hopes alive
By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jeff Reed's 38-yard field goal put Pittsburgh ahead with 5:25 remaining and the Steelers finally managed to hold a fourth-quarter lead, beating division rival Baltimore 23-20 on Sunday to remain in playoff contention and further jumble the AFC postseason race.
The Steelers (8-7), their season seemingly ended by a late-season five-game losing streak, won their second in a row and will go into the final weekend of the season with a chance to sneak into the playoffs if they win at Miami and get some help.
Joe Flacco threw two touchdown passes to Todd Heap, but the Ravens (8-7) - who could have clinched a wild-card spot with a victory and losses by two other contenders - face a win-or-else game at Oakland next Sunday although they retain the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Steelers.
Pittsburgh has lost six leads in the final quarter during a season marked by victories over contenders San Diego, Baltimore, Minnesota, Green Bay and Denver and losses to the Chiefs, Raiders and Browns, but held on to win as Reed kicked three field goals and Rashard Mendenhall ran for a touchdown.
Baltimore had a chance late, but rookie defensive end Ziggy Hood - who earlier got his first NFL sack - recovered Flacco's fumble on a fourth-and-10 play from the Steelers 39 with 2:27 to play. After that, an apparent interception thrown by Ben Roethlisberger was wiped out by an illegal contact penalty on cornerback Frank Walker and Pittsburgh ran out the clock.
Ray Rice ran for 141 yards to end Pittsburgh's 33-game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher, but Baltimore still lost its fifth game by a margin of six points or fewer.
The Ravens were repeatedly hurt by their own mistakes in their ninth loss in their last 10 in Pittsburgh, counting the playoffs.
They wiped out a 20-10 Pittsburgh lead by retaining the ball for all but 2 1/2 minutes of the third quarter, but they had two touchdowns called back by penalties. And a wide-open Derrick Mason, their most reliable receiver, dropped a certain touchdown pass in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter when the ball clanked off his face mask, preventing the Ravens from going ahead 27-20.
Roethlisberger followed up his 503-yard game against Green Bay by going 17 of 33 for 259 yards, including a 24-yard TD pass to Santonio Holmes that ended a 94-yard drive in the final two minutes of the first half and made it 20-10. Roethlisberger became the first 4,000-yard passer in the franchise's 76-year history - he has 4,108 yards - and Mendenhall went over 1,000 yards rushing by gaining 36 yards. He has 1,014 yards.
Flacco came back to start the second half by hitting Heap for 7 yards to end a 64-yard drive that featured Rice's 15-yard run and his 14-yard catch, and Domonique Foxworth's interception of Roethlisberger's pass led to Billy Cundiff's 35-yard field goal and a 20-all tie.
The Steelers, their season revived by the last-second 37-36 victory over Green Bay the week before, had responded to Heap's first scoring catch - a 30-yarder - by driving nearly the length of the field in 85 seconds. Roethlisberger found Mike Wallace - the star of the Green Bay game with two TD catches - for 45 yards on third-and-12 and Heath Miller for 19 yards on the next play ahead of the Holmes scoring catch.