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Steelers rally to beat Ravens and clinch AFC North

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Antonio Brown reached across the goal line with nine seconds left to score the winning touchdown as the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens, 31-27, to clinch the AFC North Division.
After a slow three quarters in Sunday’s battle for the AFC North championship, Pittsburgh and Baltimore exploded for one of the most-exciting fourth quarters in recent Heinz Field history. After the fireworks settled down, the Steelers clinched the AFC North title with a 31-27 win on Christmas Day.

“It’s great to be AFC North champs,” Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. It always is [with the Ravens]. We punched our ticket [to the playoffs].” 

Pittsburgh took a 7-0 lead on their first possession of the game after Ben Roethlisberger hit Xavier Grimble on a 20 yard touchdown. After that, the Ravens added a pair of field goals while the Steelers did nothing on offense the rest of the half. Pittsburgh led 7-6 at the break.

The Ravens built a 20-17 lead in the first minute of the fourth before the Steelers (10-5) scored 14 unanswered points to take a 24-20 lead midway through the fourth. The Ravens (8-7) then put together a 6-minute touchdown drive to take a 27-24 lead with 1:18 left in the game.

The Steelers responded as Roethlisberger drove the team down the field in the last minute and hit Antonio Brown for a 4-yard touchdown with 9 seconds left to pull out the last-second win.

“It was great to see that no-blink mentality, the competitive spirit,” Tomlin said. “We stopped kicking our own butts [in the fourth quarter] and did what it is that we do.”

The winning score was dramatic to say the least. Roethlisberger hit Brown near the goal line on a crossing route with about 13 seconds left. The Steelers had no timeouts left so if Brown did not score, the last 10 seconds would have been a Chinese fire drill. 

However, Brown was able to bounce off the would-be tackler C.J. Mosley and reached around another defender as he held the ball out over the goal line for the touchdown.

“It was a great throw by Ben and he trusted me to get the ball over the goal line. [Bell] actually told me before the game that I was going to get the game-winning touchdown," said Brown.

"I knew I was going to take some contact and knew I had to get the ball over the line,” Brown added. “I just had to stay centered over the course of the game. I know there’s going to be ups and downs. I just stayed positive, we have a great quarterback that doesn’t blink.”

Brown only had one catch for 7 yards in the first half, but finished the game with 10 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Mosley credited Brown after the game for making the game-winning play.

“Just a matter of effort. I hit him and he had the extra effort and reached out. He made the play and I didn’t on that one,” Mosley said. “At the end of the day, they made the play and we didn’t.”

Roethlisberger overcame two third-quarter interceptions and a shaky first half performance (6-9 for 60 yards). He finished the game completing 24 passes on 33 attempts for 279 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also had confidence in his star wide receiver to make the game-winning play.
“It was all or nothing. When AB reached over [the goal line] that was awesome. When you get him one-on-one with someone, you gotta take advantage. He popped open and I wanted to get the ball to him quick,” Roethlisberger said. “We only had 9 passing attempts in the first half. We really couldn’t get anything going. In the fourth quarter, we went to the no huddle and just started throwing the ball.”
Le'Veon Bell ran for 122 yards and a seven-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. 

When the Steelers came off the field after the win and were marching down the hallway toward the locker room, Vince Williams was screaming, “Our coach ain’t great—what?” in response to former Steeler and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who commented this week that he is not too impressed with Tomlin.

Afterwards, the Steeler players were greeted in the locker room with gray baseball caps that read “AFC North Champs” and black and gold tee shirts with the saying “Hold Down The North” written across the front.
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