Pittsburgh rallies to clinch AFC North
BALTIMORE - The Pittsburgh Steelers are AFC North champions again, and earning the crown at the expense of the Baltimore Ravens added an extra measure of joy to the accomplishment.
Santonio Holmes caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger with 43 seconds left, and the Steelers clinched their second straight division title and earned a first-round bye by beating Baltimore, 13-9, yesterday.
In a duel between the top two defenses in the NFL, Pittsburgh did not allow a touchdown in earning its first win in Baltimore since 2002.
Pittsburgh (11-3) limited the Ravens (9-5) to a season-low 202 yards. The Steelers have gone 14 straight games without yielding 300 yards, tying the 1973 Los Angeles Rams for the longest streak to start a season since the NFL merger in 1970.
Many of the players wore hats that proclaimed Pittsburgh as AFC North champions.
Running back Willie Parker said, "This is like our biggest win. I know we won the Super Bowl, but you just can't understand the feeling of the players in this locker room right now."
Pittsburgh trailed, 9-6, before moving 92 yards in 13 plays to score the game's lone touchdown and take the lead for the first time. Roethlisberger went 7 of 11 for 89 yards on the drive.
"All game they didn't make plays," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "One drive they did."
The Steelers began the drive at their 8 with 3:36 left. Two straight completions to Hines Ward moved the ball to the 34, and a third-and-10 completion to Nate Washington for 16 yards got Pittsburgh to midfield.
Washington caught a 24-yarder to the 14, and a 10-yard pass to Ward set up first and goal at the 4. After two incompletions, Roethlisberger scrambled left, then found Holmes over the middle for the winner.
The play was reviewed because it appeared that while Holmes's feet were in the end zone, the ball was not.
Later, referee Walt Coleman said, "He had two feet down. When he gained control of the ball, the ball was breaking the plane."
Matt Stover kicked three field goals for the Ravens, who remain in the wild-card hunt despite being eliminated from the division race.
"We'll be fine," said rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, who went 11 of 28 for 115 yards and two interceptions.