Pittsburgh 31, Baltimore 27
When: 4:30 PM ET, Sunday, December 25, 2016
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown with nine seconds remaining to finish off a frantic 21-point Pittsburgh fourth quarter and the Steelers rallied to beat the Baltimore Ravens 31-27 Sunday and win the AFC North.
The Steelers (10-5) overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and a 10-yard, go-ahead touchdown run by Kyle Juszcyk with 1:25 remaining to beat the Ravens (8-7) for the first time in five games, eliminate Baltimore and win their NFL-best 22nd division title since 1970.
The Steelers looked to be in position to win their seventh AFC North title since 2002 when two Le’Veon Bell touchdowns of 7 yards each about four minutes apart, aided by a key pass interference penalty, helped them overcome a 20-10 Baltimore lead and take a 24-20 lead. Bell ran for 122 yards.
But Baltimore surged back as Joe Flacco mounted a 75-yard, go-ahead TD drive ended by Juszcyk’s run up the middle — the third time in the drive he gained key yardage — but the Ravens gave Roethlisberger (24 of 33, 279 yards) just a little too much time to put together a game-saving, 75-yard drive.
The key plays on the final drive were throws of 20 yards to Eli Rogers and 16 yards to Jesse James, and Brown stretched the ball across the goal line on his 10th and final catch — assuring the touchdown on a play on which the clock might have run down if he hadn’t scored.
The game — dominated by Baltimore since the Steelers’ initial drive — flipped suddenly on a 35-yard pass interception penalty on cornerback Tavon Young against just activated Steelers wide receiver Demarcus Ayers, who hadn’t caught a pass all season, early in the fourth quarter.
That call gave the Steelers a first down at the Ravens’ 15, and an 8-yard flip to Bell and Bell’s 7-yard power run made it 20-17 Ravens with 11:48 remaining.
After a Ravens three-and-out, Roethlisberger quickly drove the Steelers 90 yards for the go-ahead touchdown — one of three such TDs in the frantic fourth — led by Bell runs of 23 and 13 yards and throws of 21 and 26 yards to Brown on successive plays against a suddenly back-pedaling Ravens defense.
Again, Bell found the end zone from 7 yards out, on a short pass by Roethlisberger, to put the Steelers ahead with 7:27 remaining as Heinz Field — eerily quiet at times as the Ravens dominated the middle two quarters — erupted with a playoff-like burst of noise.
The Steelers won their sixth in a row after dropping four straight and now will finish the season next Sunday against the Cleveland Browns (1-14) in a meaningless game.
The Ravens, only minutes after they looked to be in position to claim the division, were eliminated from playoff contention.
Pittsburgh, which had dropped six of seven to its biggest rival, opened up a 7-0 lead on Roethlisberger’s 20-yard touchdown throw to tight end Xavier Grimble midway through the first period, only to see its offense effective shut down after that until the 21-point fourth quarter surge.
A Roethlisberger-thrown interception made by undrafted linebacker Zachary Orr in the third quarter quickly led to Joe Flacco’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith and a subsequent 2-point conversion throw to Smith.
Another Roethlisberger-thrown interception, by C.J. Mosely, led to one of four Justin Tucker field goals. But this one wasn’t over — far from it.
NOTES: As expected, Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt (knee) and TE Ladarius Green (concussion) did not play. Ravens star DB Jimmy Smith (ankle) missed a second successive game. … There were a few empty seats, but not many, at Heinz Field. … The Steelers wore their all-black Color Rush uniforms with gold trim for the first time. … Steelers WR Antonio Brown joined former Colts WR Marvin Harrison as the only NFL receivers with four consecutive 100-reception seasons. … RB Le’Veon Bell already ranks fifth in Steelers career rushing. … The Ravens had been 4-0 when Roethlisberger threw multiple interceptions against them.