BALTIMORE (KDKA/AP) – The battle for the AFC North between the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens came down to the fourth quarter Sunday night.
Troy Polamalu forced a fumble, and the loose ball was scooped up by Lamarr Woodley. Three plays later, Ben Roethlisberger threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Redman.
It was the Steelers only touchdown of the game and it came with 2:51 left to play as the Steelers rallied to beat the Ravens 13-10 in Baltimore.
The win means the Steelers have gained sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
The fierce defensive battle turned when Polamalu hit Joe Flacco’s arm on a safety blitz. The loose ball was taken 19 yards by Lamarr Woodley to the Baltimore 9, setting up Redman’s touchdown.
After throwing two incomplete passes, Roethlisberger dumped a short toss over the middle to Redman, who broke tackles by Dawan Landry and Jarret Johnson on his way to the end zone.
Baltimore’s ensuing drive ended at the Pittsburgh 31 when Flacco bounced a fourth-down pass to Ed Dickson with 33 seconds remaining.
The victory left the Steelers (9-3) a game ahead of the Ravens (8-4) in the division and gave Pittsburgh a split of the season series.
“Tough place to play, but let’s be frank, we needed to come here and even the score in this matchup,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “Thankfully we did, and we’ll push on.”
Baltimore blew a fourth-quarter lead for the sixth time this season and had its eight-game home winning streak end.
“Obviously, it was a tough loss. Basically, we gave the game away at the end,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “We should have won the football game, and that’s disappointing.”
Playing with a sprained right foot and overcoming a fierce pass rush, Roethlisberger went 22 for 38 for 253 yards. He has won six straight starts against Baltimore and is 8-2 lifetime against the Ravens.
Flacco was 17 for 33 for 266 yards, but his fumble was the most decisive play of the game.
“It was an all-out blitz. They brought everybody,” Flacco said. “I took three steps and raised my arm and was getting hit. It was pretty shocking.”
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had 1½ sacks, said, “We gave it to them. We can’t give (Polamalu) a chance to make plays, and we did. You see 43 at the line, and you know he’s coming.”
Polamalu, of course, wears No. 43. The long-haired star has done it before to the Ravens – his 40-yard interception return sealed Pittsburgh’s 23-14 victory in the 2008 AFC title game.
As is usually the case when the Steelers and Ravens meet, the trainers were kept busy tending to injured players.
Both starting tight ends were knocked out of the game. Baltimore’s Todd Heap strained a hamstring on the first play from scrimmage and did not return, and Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller suffered a concussion in the third quarter in a collision with Ravens cornerback Chris Carr.
The Steelers also lost right tackle Flozell Adams, who limped off the field in the third quarter.
The hitting was so hard that even Pittsburgh’s punter got injured. Daniel Sepulveda hurt his right knee in the second quarter, and placekicker Shaun Suisham was called upon to punt for the remainder of the game.
Blanked in the first half for the first time since Nov. 26, 2007, against Miami, Pittsburgh got a field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter to close to 7-3.
Roethlisberger hit Hines Ward for 13 yards and Mike Wallace for 23 yards before Suisham kicked a 45-yard field goal.
The Ravens responded with a 60-yard march that ended with a 24-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff.
Pittsburgh then closed to 10-6 with a 16-play, 79-yard drive that consumed more than 9 minutes and was extended by two pivotal penalties against Baltimore.
However, the Steelers had to settle for a field goal with 12:46 left after a 28-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Wallace set up a first-and-goal from the 2.
Baltimore had two sacks and an interception in the first half, and Flacco threw a touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead at the break.
The game started miserably for the Ravens. After Marcus Smith was called for holding on the opening kickoff, Flacco threw two incomplete passes and was sacked in a possession that lasted less than a minute.
Baltimore also lost Heap, who has scored five touchdowns this season.
On Pittsburgh’s first march, Roethlisberger got his nose bloodied and broken on a third-down sack by Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata.
Baltimore went up 7-0 late in the first quarter. Flacco went 6 for 6 during a 92-yard drive, completing a 61-yarder to Anquan Boldin on a third-and-15 before connecting with Boldin for a 14-yard touchdown.
On the scoring play, Flacco rolled to his right and had plenty of time to survey the field before finding Boldin in the end zone.
In the second quarter, Flacco connected with Donte’ Stallworth for a 67-yard completion – Stallworth’s longest catch since 2007. The play took Baltimore to the Pittsburgh 27, but a third-down sack took the Ravens out of field goal range.
Baltimore had 11 yards rushing on 11 attempts in the first half.
The Steelers return to Heinz Field next weekend when they’ll take on the Cincinnati Bengals at 1 p.m. on Dec. 12.