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Late TD lifts Steelers over Ravens in classic battle

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Troy Polamalu's strip of Joe Flacco late in the fourth quarter sets up a Ben Roethlisberger to Isaac Redman touchdown pass to lift the Steelers over the Ravens 13-10 in another classic AFC North battle between the two teams.

Steelers 13 – Ravens 10

In one of the best games of the 2010 season, Pittsburgh slipped past the Ravens thanks to a strip-sack by do-it-all safety Troy Polamalu. That fumble set up the game-winning touchdown catch by rookie RB Isaac Redman, who has transformed from pre-season love affair to regular season hero. As usual in this rivalry, defense ruled the day.

GAME FLOW

As expected, the defenses controlled the play early, limiting each team to minimal gains on the first four drives of the game. The Ravens were able to break into the redzone on the fifth drive of the contest (their own third drive) thanks to a 61-yard bomb from QB Joe Flacco to WR Anquan Boldin. The two hooked up again to finish the drive with a 14-yard touchdown and take a 7-0 lead. For the rest of the half, it was all defense yet again as each team put relentless pressure on the opposing quarterback. When the dust settled after the first half, Pittsburgh faced a seven-point deficit with their quarterback hobbled (and sporting a fresh broken nose) and their starting punter already knocked out of the game.

Pittsburgh’s offense switched to a no-huddle in the second half and came up with points on their very first drive as kicker (and de-facto punter) Shaun Suisham nailed a 45-yard field goal to put Pittsburgh on the board. Baltimore responded with an impressive drive of its own, only to come up short in the redzone. Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff put the Ravens up 10-3 with a 24-yard field goal. Pittsburgh then embarked on a 16-play monster of a drive that was extended when a Ravens player jumped offsides on a fourth-and-one attempt. Once inside the five-yard line, though, the Steelers stalled and Suisham came in to kick a 19-yard field goal to bring Pittsburgh within four. After three-consecutive three-and-outs (two by the Ravens) and a fourth short drive by the Steelers, Pittsburgh’s greatest weapon made his presence known. With just under four minutes remaining and Baltimore driving, Troy Polamalu came clean into the backfield, stripping Joe Flacco of the ball. LB LaMarr Woodley recovered the fumble and returned it to the Baltimore nine-yard line. Two plays after a beautiful last-ditch shovel pass out of bounds to prevent a sack, Big Ben hit rookie Isaac Redman, who shed tackles all the way into the endzone for a nine-yard touchdown to give Pittsburgh its first lead of the game at 13-10 with less than three minutes remaining. The Ravens drove to Pittsburgh’s 31-yard line and chose to forgo the field goal with the wind in their face. On fourth-and-two, Joe Flacco one-hopped a pass to TE Ed Dickson, securing a much-needed division victory for Pittsburgh and giving them sole control of the AFC North.

INJURIES

Ben Roethlisberger broke his nose early in the game, but played through it in addition to his already-hobbled ankle. Daniel Sepulveda and RT Flozell Adams both left the game with leg injuries. TE Heath Miller left the game with a concussion on an illegal hit that was never flagged. The NFL has since admitted that it should have been a penalty.

The Ravens lost tight end Todd Heap to a pulled hamstring on their first drive of the game.

OFFENSE

On the ground:
The losses of Flozell Adams and Heath Miller, coupled with the frequent use of pistol and shotgun formations to counter the immobility of an immobile quarterback, limited the effectiveness of the running game. Rashard Mendenhall was held to 45 yards on 19 carries. Isaac Redman netted four carries for 10 yards, but failed to convert both of his third-down opportunities on the ground.

Through the air: Roethlisberger was inaccurate early but seemed to settle down a bit when the offense moved to a no-huddle look. He finished the day with 253 yards on 22-of-38 passing with a touchdown and a deep interception. Mike Wallace led the team with five catches for 76 yards. Rookie WR Emmanuel Sanders was second with three catches for 49 yards. RB Rashard Mendenhall, TE David Johnson, and rookie WR Antonio Brown also contributed three catches. Hines Ward was held to one catch for 13 yards with a very notable drop midway through the game. RB Isaac Redman was the only receiver to score, notching a touchdown on the second of his two catches (23 yards total).

DEFENSE

True to form, the rushing defense held the Ravens to just 43 yards on the ground. Unlike the last meeting between these teams, the pass rush stepped up its effort against QB Joe Flacco, who was sacked four times. LB James Farrior, DE Ziggy Hood and CB Ike Taylor all notched sacks, but those paled in importance to the clutch sack-fumble by Troy Polamalu. LaMarr Woodley had the recovery on the defense’s only turnover. Farrior led the team with seven total tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS

With Daniel Sepulveda out after the second quarter (after three punts), Shaun Suisham performed double duty, notching three punts of his own with a 34.3 yard average (though his two best punts of the day were wiped out by penalties) and hitting both of his field goals. Rookie Antonio Brown returned two punts for a 5.5 yard average but booming kicks by opposing kicker Billy Cundiff left Pittsburgh without a kickoff return in the game.

PLAYERS OF THE GAME

Game Ball: Late in a close game, is there anybody you’d want on your team other than TROY POLAMALU? His habit of making clutch defensive plays continued as he forced a key turnover that set up the game-winning touchdown.

Helmet Stickers: Playing with a bad right foot, a broken nose and behind an injury-depleted offensive line, BEN ROETHLISBERGER turned in a tough-as-nails performance, completing 22 of 38 passes for 253 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Roethlisberger stayed in the pocket, absorbed hit after hit and continued to make plays. Kicker SHAUN SUISHAM booted two field goals, including a 45-yarder, and handled the punting duties after Daniel Sepulveda was injured. Finally, Ravens linebackers TERRELL SUGGS and RAY LEWIS get stickers for their dominating performances. Lewis was all over the field, with 13 tackles while Suggs had 5, including 3 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Suggs also had 5 QB hits.

NEXT UP

Pittsburgh returns for the first of three-straight home games as they host the 2-10 Cincinnati Bengals Sunday. The Steelers won the earlier matchup on the road. Cincinnati is coming off its ninth-straight loss thanks to a 34-30 defeat at home in which New Orleans took the lead with less than a minute remaining. The game will be broadcast on CBS at 1:00 PM.

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